Taking shots in a winter of discontent

Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette: 3/4/2021

Spring is on the horizon and, dare I say, a majority of us are looking toward the end of this dark winter.

  The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine is a miracle by any definition. What in the past has taken up to 10 years is here in under one! Equally, all of we seniors under a death threat for the past year are thankful.

In his wild youth, Saint Augustine prayed to his Lord for “the gift of chastity, but not yet.” Similarly, we oldies that generally enjoy living would, like Oliver Twist, ask for some more. To have survived a 100-year pandemic is something to tell our grandchildren, when we can see and hug them again. No doubt they have grown.

Sadly, masks and social distancing are still in effect.

Williamsburg’s Meekins Library is but one of our town’s bright spots during this long shutdown. Behind its closed doors the staff has been busy answering our requests via email. In no time there’s a message saying your books are in and ready on the doorway shelf.

Note: Meekins’ homepage has an interesting request. All of us in our own way are facing down a 100-year pandemic. It’s not over but I see light. Thinking ahead, Meekins asks us to first take a bow and then to share: “your own real-world experiences of living through the Covid-19 Pandemic. Please contribute your daily life stories to help Meekins create an historical record of this moment in the life of our town.” Two thumbs up for our librarians’ brainstorm.

Usually, our days revolve around making a living or caring for others, too busy to appreciate history being made right here in town. Friends, family and neighbors are become the architects, the builders. A lovely “Burgy” will mark its 250th anniversary when it’s safe. Our town founders and pioneers were likely too busy to think much about making history. Today we have that luxury. One way to contribute is writing down notes about how we are coping with COVID-19’s challenges. Submit your experiences via email.

My dad was mayor during Northampton’s 300th in 1954. Fifty years later I wrote a book about that celebration in time for its 2004 event. We bore witness to mark an important time in that city’s history. Meekins idea is for town citizens to write it down as it’s happening. It’s like tomorrow’s Burgyites calling in a debt from todays. This article might turn out to be my submission. If so, I should praise our local Market for its offer of free home-delivery so seniors could avoid crowds.

The four-season beauty of our town center reminds me of a quote by former UMass President Billy Bulger when he visited the renowned Arthur F. Kinney Center for Renaissance Studies. Praising its fine English Cottage surrounded by Shakespeare-era plantings, Bulger quoted the philosopher Cicero’s ideal home as being “a library set in a garden.” Bulger competed for and won a place at Boston Latin High School.

During his UMass years (1996-2003) Bulger raised the university’s visibility in Boston, increasing its funding. Sen. “Billy” Bulger was the commonwealths’ longest-serving Senate president from 1978 to 1996. I think fondly of “Billy” for handing over my sheepskin, late though it was.

My “final” opinion column for the Gazette ran in December 2019. I’d enjoyed the challenge for 26 years, but was unwell. Mark Twain’s comment that writing was “no harder than digging ditches,” was on my mind. Healing takes time, and writing at all well is work.

In March 2020, COVID-19 hit the United States and its people like a ton of bricks. On the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation our nation was put into lockdown. Businesses cut back or were forced to close.

Schools shut. Seniors came under threat with new words to worry about — coronavirus cormorbidities! The latter was even new to spellcheck, requiring research: it’s defined as two or more diseases in the same patient. Those diseases could be physiological or psychological — i.e., body or mind. An inspired cartoon caption says: “The psychiatrist will see you all now!

April arrived and I was back to a keyboard recalling the time we visited the Plague Village in England. COVID-19 was scaring U.S. doctors into writing their wills. Last May I asked whether Trump had been raised by wolves? Now we know the answer. In June, I related dark experiences with white privilege during my Air Force years. August saw me recommending a TV biography about Frank Sinatra. It was harshly critiqued by a reader who must have skipped my June anti-racism piece. Remember September? I railed about dastardly Russians and their good friend in the White House?

In October I wished for responsible citizens to vote Trump out, which they did. Late December saw me celebrating the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I headlined Abe Lincoln’s appeal to our better angels in his battle for the soul of America. 2020 was a seven-column year that ended in great hope. I was alive and as Twain retorted: “Reports of my (writing) death were greatly exaggerated.”

Stay safe, stay healthy in the promise of a much better year.

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