I remember when I was younger that my weekends always bore something to look forward to. I was a competitive soccer player on a travel team for many years and spent many weekends playing soccer or otherwise spending time with my friends. My parents took me to all of my games and I am very grateful that even through high school and college, they were almost always on the sidelines of soccer games, wrestling meets, baseball games, and track meets.
We would joke then (and even today) about how much simpler my parents’ lives were by contrast. If you were to ask my dad what he would do on a normal Sunday, it would consist of reading the newspaper, clicking coupons out of the newspaper, buying groceries with said coupons, taking trash to the dump, and not much else. There was a running joke in the family about my dad eagerly looking forward to his trips to the dump.
My parents have a house in Cape Cod, and sometimes when I go to visit them there, it stands out to me that I seem a lot busier on my vacation than they are on theirs. They have a vacation house in a beach town and yet they do not enjoy the beach. I spend my time running and going to the gym, going to the beach, using the grill, and hanging out with my friends at the house or at the local bar. My parents, on the other hand, are content to watch TV, read the newspaper, run the errands, and do some of the cooking.
I have tried and failed at getting my parents into new hobbies. For a wedding anniversary, I bought them golf lessons. After all, their house in Cape Cod is on a golf course. They did one lesson and decided it was not for them. I have gone on some trips with them – including a week-long cruise my brother and I sponsored for a milestone wedding anniversary – and those have gone pretty well. But they do not otherwise travel on their own. It’s not that they are boring; in fact, quite the opposite. They are both very interesting people with educated opinions on politics, theater, books, and the goings-on of the world. They are just low-key.
Living in New York City has been anything but low-key for me. I work at a quickly growing tech startup with a very demanding travel, speaking, and writing schedule. It seems I am constantly on my game when it comes to my career. I work out in a gym that has a live DJ and SoHo models prancing around. I often go out to eat and take advantage of the social scene that New York City has to offer. My life – up until now – has been anything but low-key.
As most people are well aware, New York City is the epicenter of coronavirus. I made the decision to leave about two and a half weeks ago right before things started to get pretty intense there. I decided to go to my parents’ house in Cape Cod. It seemed like a logical choice since it was not in use, it is a lot more spacious than my New York City apartment, and I will decrease my risk of contributing to the problem by being here.
The moment I decided to leave was a bit helter-skelter. It was a Sunday afternoon. I had nowhere I needed to be. Wait, that’s not true. I wanted to watch the debate between two grumpy old white men in the Democratic primary. Cannot miss that. And then of course there was no idea about how much traffic I would face leaving the city. Traffic, my father’s worst nightmare, is responsible for many trips to Cape Cod ending early as a child, and leaving many a sporting event in the bottom of the ninth inning. For those who are curious, I made it from New York City to Chatham, Massachusetts in four hours and twenty minutes, including a rest stop, with Zoe the Cat in tow.
Being largely confined and remote now, I think my desire to avoid traffic and watch the presidential debate was only the beginning of my metamorphosis into becoming my parents. There is nothing I look forward to more every morning then taking out the trash, bringing it to the dump, and then going to the post office to see if I have any mail. Usually, I do not have any mail, but the thrill of the possibility of there being mail for me is second to none. All the while, I track packages that are coming to my house several times a day, waiting for my opportunity to open a new package or better yet, go to the post office to pick it up (after a trip to the dump, of course – nothing better than killing two birds with one stone).
In the evenings, I plot all of the things that I need for the house and when I will go pick them up. This is mostly a grocery/CVS list for meals I will be cooking and the requisite cleaning supplies needed to clean up after myself. At the grocery store, I find that despite my best attempts to socially distance from others, we are still in Massachusetts after all, and these people are armed with small vehicles known as grocery carts. Suffice it to say, they do not socially distance from me all the time, and I mutter under my breath about their driving, a la Larry David calling someone a “Schmoe-Hawk” on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Normally, when people tell me about new shows they are watching on Netflix or the myriad of other streaming services which seem to exist today, I feign interest and purposefully try not to watch whatever show they told me to watch. Candidly, I am too busy, and if I watched everything people told me to watch, I would not have a career. I also have an addictive personality, so I tend to binge-watch anything I actually get into. This is why it’s best to not even bother to take the plunge.
Not any more. When I am done plotting my next moves to the grocery store and CVS, I am watching all the shows my parents recommend. As you can see, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is on the list (already halfway through season 7), and I have just now begun “Tiger King.” With all of the free time on my hands, there is endless possibility to all of the shows and Dateline episodes I can catch up on.
Without friends to see or places to go, I beg my family members to FaceTime with me. This is, of course, in between shifts of doing laundry and writing blogs like this one. But it is safe to say that my grandmother has received more FaceTime requests from me than the other way around. In an empty nest, that is the way of life.
Joy is found in the little things. An extra bottle of Softsoap in the back of a cupboard that saves me a trip to CVS. The weather being warm enough to go for a walk or a bike ride. Reveling in becoming the best chicken parmesan chef on the planet.
They say that you should not mix younger people with older people amidst this pandemic. My mother’s birthday is tomorrow, and I was originally going to be there to surprise her. I will say this: if coronavirus has kept me apart from my parents while simultaneously turning me into them, then maybe it is not the absolute worst thing. If I could be half of what they are, I will have lived a good life. But even so, her birthday will not be the same without the surprise. Maybe there is a gift in a blog out there on the internet that says that being present in the little things is a blessing.