Last summer, despite being fully vaccinated, I was a long way from feeling “normal.” The constant advice from medical and government officials urging people – especially those of us in our late 60s and older – to “remain vigilant” in the face of the continued threat from the COVID-19 pandemic was enough to limit my socializing.
Then came a couple weeks of optimism that the virus was subsiding – indeed, President Joe Biden even urged Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July in person.
But this was quickly followed by the rise of the Delta variant, which compelled the medical experts and many government officials to resume their non-stop warnings – and which acted like an emotional blockade on any desire that I might have had to return to my pre-COVID activities.
So I took baby steps back into society. My wife and I avoided concerts and movie theaters, and as much as I wanted to, I didn’t go to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox. What I felt comfortable doing was meeting a few friends in restaurants for lunch, as opposed to at a park or my backyard picnic table, and I marked my birthday in a restaurant. I also ran three in-person races.
Fast forward to this summer, when we’re still being bombarded by warnings about variants – this time from Omicron. But one thing is different: I’m no longer content to hide from the world, or to follow COVID-era policies such as social distancing, which encourages isolation, sadness and, in some cases, depression.
Now, fortified by two COVID-19 boosters – and fully expecting to get whatever variant-related booster becomes available in the fall – I’ve become a bit more adventurous. That’s not to say I’m feeling “normal.” I still mask up in stores and other inside spaces and I refuse to fly or travel long distances, but I’m otherwise slowly rejoining the human race.
One of the reasons I want to return to more of my pre-COVID life is that later this month I’ll mark one of those dreaded milestone birthdays – it’s neither “the big 60” nor “the big 80,” so you do the math. Facing this milestone convinced me that I can no longer afford to live my life in fear.
Why? Because even though I believe the many doctors and other experts who issue warnings that the pandemic isn’t over, those of us who got vaccinated and boosted can’t put our lives on hold indefinitely or stop living every time a variant is on the rise.
What I’ve come to realize, as this pandemic drags on, is that for those of us who are piling up the years, COVID will probably never go away, with new variants regularly cropping up.
Given that reality, it’s time to move on – within reason. I’m tired of my psyche being scarred by the pandemic, which is now well into its third year. It would be unacceptable to live the rest of my life like a virtual hermit, and that’s why I’ve resumed a few more activities. Here are three highlights:
• Back to the ballpark. I hadn’t been to a baseball game since 2019. Since that time, the 2020 Pawtucket Red Sox season – its final one in Rhode Island – was canceled, along with all of minor league baseball that year due to the pandemic. And last year, I simply didn’t feel comfortable going to the ballpark.
But I jumped at a chance to attend PawSox Heritage Day, at Polar Park, in Worcester, which is now home to what became the WooSox (Worcester Red Sox).
I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit there, in July, and I’ll be back, although it was a bittersweet day watching the Red Sox’ top minor-league team play in a ballpark other than Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium. That venue had spoiled me because it was only a short 15-minute drive from my home in North Attleboro, while it’s at least a 45-minute ride on Route 146 to Worcester.
• Reconnecting with friends. The best remedy for my down-in-the-dumps pandemic hangover has been seeing old friends. I was fortunate to meet several of them for lunches in July – including many I hadn’t seen since well before the pandemic began. This was important to me because the truth is that our friends, and not our bank accounts, are what make us rich.
People who were satisfied with virtual connections during the worst of the pandemic were way off base, because the truth is that there’s absolutely no substitute for spending time with loved ones in person.
• On the road again. For the second year in a row, my younger daughter and I ran the Arnold Mills Four Miler, in Cumberland, on the Fourth of July. It was a big lift to again have spectators lining the streets to cheer us on.
After the pandemic shut down the course in 2020, I vowed to relish each in-person race that I was able to run. But this year, I felt especially fortunate to participate in the Arnold Mills race after learning later that day of the tragic shootings at the holiday parade in Highland Park, Illinois. The fact that both the Cumberland race and the parade that followed went off incident-free was a blessing, and it’s something that we sadly can no longer take for granted.
LARRY KESSLER (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.