All Joking Aside

This is a lot to process.

Universities started moving online early last week. Penn State followed suit. I’ll be teaching my classes remotely for the next three weeks. Probably for the rest of the semester. My students are about to learn too much about my cat Yara. She can’t keep away from Zoom meetings. They’re like heroin to her. Will I wear pants during these virtual classes? The jury is still out, kind reader. I’ll pray on it.

State College Area School District extended Spring Break soon after Penn State’s announcement. Katie groaned. The boys missed most of February with sickness. And now this. A day later, the governor of Pennsylvania closed all schools in the state for two weeks. Katie groaned loader. I groaned too. Staying home with our boys all day is like moving mountains. So I groaned even loader than Katie groaned. My groan sounded something like this:

“Groan.”

“What are you groaning about, my father?” Solomon asked.

“The plague, my son.”

Solomon shrugged. Walked away to find some reason to yell at Samson. Or Katie. Or me. The kid has got chutzpah, alright.

I went to the grocery store last Saturday. I wanted to grill. Chicken kabobs. Our family friend Natalie visited us last week. Braved the pandemic. So grilling made sense. It’s the kind of thing you do when you have guests. And when the temperature rises above 50 degrees. It was sunny and we had guests, so I drove to Wegmans. The grocery Mecca in State College. There were two chicken breasts left in the whole store. I grabbed them both. They were organic. The store was crowded. It was tense. Solomon was with me.

“Don’t lick the cart, Solomon.”

“Why, my father?”

“The plague, my son.”

Solomon shrugged. Walked away to lick everything he could in the store. The kid is fearless, alright.

The woman in front of me spent over $1,000 on groceries. She had lots of chicken breasts. I was caught up in the frenzy, too. Sort of. I bought three boxes of goldfish crackers. The lifeblood of Solomon and Samson. We went home and washed our hands.

“How was that?” Katie asked when I got home.

“Intense.”

Donald Trump went from calling this Covid-19 thing a liberal hoax early last week to declaring a national emergency by Friday. First it was no worse than the flu. Then the the stock market crashed. Then it was a national emergency. Then all flights from Europe were shut down. Italy is on lockdown. Spain and France, too.

Whew, baby.

***

I checked my fantasy basketball score last week. It was the playoffs. My scrappy team was fighting for a trip to the finals. I was hoping for some grocery money.

I saw that one of my players, Rudy Gobert, wasn’t playing. I opened Twitter to find out why. Five minutes later, the NBA season was cancelled.

I think that’s what made me think this Covid-19 stuff was serious. No more NBA? People don’t lose that much money unless something serious is happening. See: The NCAA Tournament, MLB, and every other sporting event in the world. The airlines. Retail. Something serious is happening, kind reader.

The NBA story is something else. Gobert brazenly mocked the Covid-19 scare early in the week. Licked reporter’s microphones. Touched his teammates. Hubris is a hell of a drug. And then Rudy tested positive for the virus. A doctor was filmed sprinting onto the court before tip-off. The arena was full. The Jazz were about to play. A group of powerful people huddled near one of the benches. Then the season was cancelled. One of Gobert’s teammates tested positive the next day. One of the Piston players who was guarding him, too. Lots of droplets in basketball, I guess. Sweat. Phlegm. Germs.

My fantasy basketball team won’t be making the finals this year. Neither will any other basketball team.

Again, for good measure: This is a lot to process.

***

I’m thankful Natalie braved the virus to make her annual pilgrimage to State College. I’m wondering if domestic flights will be cancelled next. I’m glad she was able to come when she came. The boys love her. Katie and I enjoy having her with us, too. She’s family.

Samson woke up early the morning she left. I’d returned from driving her to the airport. I heard Samson crying in his bedroom.

“I miss Natalie,” he wept.

“I know, bud,” I held him.

What a week.

All joking aside, I’ve got an enormous amount of work to do. I need to move my classes online. Teach virtually. For three weeks, but probably for a semester. The boys will be home indefinitely. Katie and I need to keep them occupied. Meaningfully. With none of the usual public outlets available to us. Take them some place to kill some time? Probably not.

I’m convinced this will get worse before it gets better. But what do I know. I’ve spent most of the last week checking BBC.com or Twitter to gather information about what is happening. Here’s the curse of this present age. One of the curses. Social Media provides real time access to anybody’s opinion about anything. Some of what is there is real information. And yes, that information spreads quickly. That’s probably a good thing. People didn’t know about the Spanish Flu until they were dead from the Spanish Flu. But much of the information on the internet is questionable. People with very little knowledge about things like pandemics make very loud claims about things like pandemics. Twitter is a mixed bag.

So far as I can tell, if you trust the surgeon general or the CDC, many people are going to get sick from Covid-19. Many people are going to die. Social distancing is a cute phrase, but it seems like places like China or Italy are managing this situation by shutting things down. I suspect things in the United States will continue to shut down. So be it. The introvert in me doesn’t mind. The human in me does. I don’t feel the need to buy a million rolls of toilet paper. I do feel the responsibility to make sure my family has food.

So, all joking aside, I don’t have any profound advice regarding how to weather a pandemic. Jesus showed radical love for all people and didn’t fear any disease or harm that might come His way. Even in the worst of situations. Especially in the worst of situations. Told others to do the same. That seems like one way to think about the distance we create around ourselves during scary times like this. The walls we build or don’t build. Something like that.

I do have one thought about how to cope with Covid-19. I’ve wanted to buy Dragon Quest 11 for awhile now. On the Switch. I think I’ll brave the virus. Make trip to Target to get me some Dragon Quest. Fight some slime. I don’t think Dragon Quest is like toilet paper. I bet there’s plenty of copies left.

Playing video games helps me process stuff. And this is a lot to process.

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