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Darrell Berkheimer: Battling pandemic homebound boredom

Darrell Berkheimer
Columnist

You might think that us “older folks” are more accustomed to dealing with lots of stay-at-home time when every day is a bit like a Saturday for us. But we also settle into various routines that take us outside the home almost daily. And we do things at a slower pace.

We’re usually not in a hurry when we go to the gym, take walks, or grocery shop more often. We also attend meetings with other retirees and commit to volunteer activities. And we love to schedule coffee, tea, brunch or lunch with friends, or to meet someone new.

So a stay-at-home order also upsets our routines — which prompted me to ask some friends how they are dealing with the situation. Because we can only spend so much time reading, binge-watching TV, or walking the neighborhood.

Friend Gary Emmanuel reported he’s already doing those things. But he also reported that he is rediscovering his enjoyment of water-color painting.

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It made me wonder if this stay-home situation is creating a need for online divorces.

Kern Hildebrand said, “I’ve sorted through my home library and set aside books to donate to the library.” He also noted he turns off his TV or radio when the coronavirus is being discussed. “One hour a day from the PBS Newshour is plenty,” he added. Another fellow observed that since his wife is no longer “running all over town to meetings and stuff,” he’s finally getting her “to go through all the stuff” they don’t need anymore. “Yippee,” he added.

I suspect others also are sifting through their extraneous belongings. So the used books and thrift stores might be inundated with donations sometime soon.

The same fellow noted he’s playing chess again, and that washing his hands takes up a good portion of his day. He added he now has “time to go through all the Great Courses DVDs and course outlines that have been sitting in my office closet for a couple years. After all that is done I can begin drinking heavily,” he wrote.

I miss attending two different men’s group meetings each week, and our twice-monthly writers group. Some are trying an internet Zoom program that I haven’t attempted to tackle yet. But I might be forced to do so if this situation continues for too long. I miss being able to look around the table to see the various reactions to different topics.

I’ve told some folks that we meet to solve the world’s problems. Then I add, “But we haven’t been doing so well lately, have we?”

And how did we ever make do before there was email? The email messages — and especially the humor — that we send and receive are major aids to helping us maintain our sanity.

I read where one person remarked that “we need to bring some kind of silliness to this as best we can.”

The same story reported one woman says she goes through all of the emotions by the end of the day. She said it’s been a reminder of what’s important to her — “like hanging out with my husband. He’s a nice guy. We get along. We are all taking a step back from how fast we were moving.”

As I read that, I got the impression that she seemed surprised that she and her husband could get along so well all day long. It made me wonder if this stay-home situation is creating a need for online divorces.

Another woman, who reported she’s a “puzzle enthusiast” noted she also has turned to Rosetta Stone to improve her Italian and learn Japanese.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for parents who have a 7- or 8-year-old boy in the house. I can only sympathize and wish them the best — especially any parents who have more than one elementary student at home. Maybe it will help for them to know that Google Earth provides online virtual tours of 31 U.S. national parks. And I suspect the youngsters already have been watching YouTube.

Joe D’Andrea reported he’s fixing his generator in preparation for the next power outage, and checking his wildfire evacuation materials. Then he pondered how you shelter in place if you’re told to evacuate.

Another fellow, who is somewhat mobility limited, reported a friend volunteered to shop for him and get his medicine and mail. I’m hearing similar stories from other sources. And our local Save Mart announced special early morning hours to accommodate older citizens.

At our house, I’m doing more cooking. Mary tells others that I love to cook. But that’s not quite true. I just love to eat my type of cooking. But I don’t like cleaning the pots and pans afterward; so I try to make as little mess as possible.

That’s one of the reasons I like to make big, single pot meals — like chili, various soups and spaghetti sauce — meals that might last us for three or four days.

Of course Mary likes it when I cook. It provides even more time for her to play online checkers with her internet friends. Her checkers friends are located in Alberta and Prince Edward Island in Canada; Omaha, New Orleans and Chicago; plus North Carolina, Pennsylvania and southern California.

I told Mary we could also take car rides during the nice weather, and we wouldn’t need to stop anywhere. But she observed our rides would need to stay within her pee-time radius.

Meanwhile, I’ve been tapping into Mary’s library. I just finished reading “Women of the Sierra” by Anne Seagraves, and “Pioneer Doctor,” a biography of Dr. Mary Moore Atwater. Dr. “Mollie” Atwater moved from Iowa to serve mining communities in Montana, where she spent 40 years pushing for health-care reforms and women’s suffrage.

Perhaps by the time this column in published, I will have completed the book “Westward Journeys.” It chronicles the mid-1800s cross-country moves from the Midwest to southern Oregon by Applegate family relatives of Mary’s great-grandparents. Mary’s maiden name is Applegate.

Located west of Medford, you can find the Applegate River and the tiny village of Applegate.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of six books available through Amazon. His latest, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” also is available at Book Seller in Grass Valley. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.


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