Three years of COVID

Only remotely interested in “remote”

Back in January, fillyjonk wrote about three years of COVID. The first case of COVID in the United States occurred in that month. But it didn’t really affect me until March 13.

I’ll back up to when I retired on June 30, 2019. my wife and daughter were home from school, but come fall, I had the run of the house. I’d read and write in the morning, exercise and clean in the afternoon. It was glorious. And after Christmas break, more wonderfulness.

My wife and I went to the cinema often. I saw Cheap Trick at the Palace Theater in February 2022.

The church production of Once on This Island occurred on Sunday, March 8th, with the afterparty the following evening. Choir met as usual on Thursday, March 12.

But the buzz was out that everything was going to shut down after Friday the 13th. At 4:30 pm, I rushed to the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library with my daughter. I WANTED to take out ten videos for me, but she wanted to get a few, so I checked out seven Marvel Cinematic Universe films I had not seen. Sure enough, the library was closed on Saturday and for months after that.

The annual hearts game at my abode occurred as scheduled for March 14; some people came, but others begged off, which I understood intellectually, if not emotionally.

School at home

After a week of figuring out what to do, school districts made laptops available to students, and remote learning began. My wife specifically was disappointed (too weak a word) when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that the spring break be canceled. The rest of that semester was a slog.

One thing I insisted on is that my wife teach in the old guest room. Otherwise, every time I went downstairs, I was in her classroom. In hindsight, it was a great decision, as she held her church session meetings and other private conversations there.

My daughter was engaged in school for about a month, then not so much.

Starting March 22, my church began having services online on Facebook, a feature that continues to this day. Early on, it was okay; better than nothing.

I was feeling very isolated. Starting in April, I started calling, on the telephone, people who I hadn’t spoken with for a while, some of them for years, even though they live in my metropolitan area. It was a worthwhile project. I completed two calls daily until Memorial Day, then one per day until August. By this point, I was also phoning people I used to see weekly at church.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law, Richard, was dying from lymphoma and passed on April 22; his funeral was 13 months later. His death led to weekly family Zoom meetings, which ended abruptly over political differences at the end of June.

I did start having regular ZOOM meetings with my sisters, which have continued.

New job

I had expressed interest in working on the 2020 Census in mid-2019. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that I learned I’d be trained to work, as I wrote about here. It was more difficult than it was 30 years earlier because it started later in the year. COVID did a number on this enumeration.

My wife, despite her trepidations, had to return to school in person and teach both online and classroom, which was way more work for her. My daughter opted to stay home to do school, which was probably a suboptimal decision.

Church was still remote, though some section leaders recorded music in an empty church on a Monday, and it was shown during the service. Specifically, some previous choir recordings were shared, especially on Christmas Eve. Watching myself sing instead of actually performing brought me to tears.

We watched a few events online. Frankly, though, way more offerings were available than I wanted to consume. I watched a few movies and plays, but most didn’t capture me.

2021: the vaccine!

When the vaccine became available, I wanted it yesterday. There were priority lists. My wife got her first shot in February 2021. I kept checking places for availability but found none that didn’t involve traveling hundreds of miles.

Finally, I logged onto the CVS website again on March 1 at 6 a.m., and Pfizer vaccines were available the next day! I got my first shot, then my second three weeks later. Minimal reactions other than a sore arm for a day.

So on April 6, my kindergarten friends Bill, Carol, Karen, and our friend Michael went to an outdoor restaurant. A sign of normalcy!

I went to a few movies in person, and maybe a half dozen people were there.

The library was quasi-open, and the FFAPL offered remote book reviews online or in the Bach branch garden. It was hard to hear outside because of the wind and, sometimes, the neighbors.

The church is back!

Finally, in June, the church began meeting again, masked, distanced, but in person! We had a coffee hour in the parking lot. Then in October, the choir started rehearsing, though we didn’t sing at service until late November. We did sing on Christmas Eve. I was so happy I probably wept.

But after the holidays, the surge put us back to red/orange, and the church went back to remote. I thought I’d be okay, knowing intellectually it wouldn’t last long, and it didn’t. But I did end up in my sad place for a time.

Since then, and possibly before that, I’ve been checking the COVID status of Albany County and nearby Rensselaer County, which have been in lockstep. I’ve also been obsessively reading related medical news, such as this: RSV Vaccine Succeeds in Phase III Trial of Older Adults.

Fortunately, we sang again in person by February 2022, though Black History Month adult education, which I was in charge of, was primarily remote.


In August 2022, my daughter, my wife, and I all got COVID, probably the Omicron variant. It wasn’t awful, but it was inconvenient.

That’s essentially it. I’m seeking to get past it all. I still refer to events as before or after COVID, and I usually have no idea what happened when after March 2020 unless I look it up. Heck, I probably forgot several things.

Still hate ZOOM, and I use the term generically, for meetings, especially events. My ability to focus in front of a screen with 13 or more rectangles is diminished.

Mom was born with a veil?

Ten Commandments

Trudy.Green_dressAmong the tales I heard about my mother was that she was born with a veil in November 1927. What’s that? According to this article: An en caul birth — or veiled birth, “as they’re also referred to -… [are] incredibly rare… where the baby is born encased in their amniotic sac.” It is a medical anomaly, estimated to occur “in less than one out of 80,000 live births.”

That’s somewhat interesting but nearly as much as the other part. “As is the case with many rare events, en caul births are thought to be a sign of good fortune…

“Susan B. Martinez, author and paranormal researcher with a doctorate in anthropology, writes: ‘The veil, it was believed…, protects its bearer against danger; thus was it superstitiously gathered and preserved as a valuable charm against malevolent spirits. The caul… made one ‘special,’ even destined for greatness.'”

Apparently, the veil was broken, and my mother was happy and relieved about this. She did not want the power.

Her mother, Gert, was very much into fortune-telling and the occult. Yet Gert sent her daughter to the Oak Street Methodist Church. My sisters and I were musing on why. Maybe it was socialization, or perhaps it was to keep the child occupied for a few hours while the mother delved into the dark arts. Of course, we have no way of knowing.

The power

Yet there were at least a couple of times when my mother experienced unexplainable phenomena. One was when a voice told her to stop the car, which avoided an accident.

Another time, I wrote in 2015 about the house my mother grew up in. “I DID need the space heater… and the colorful quilt that kept me from freezing.

“One night in February [1975], I woke up with a start. The quilt had caught fire, having fallen on the space heater. It generated an acrid stretch, which might have killed me if the fire, which I could somehow smother, hadn’t.

“A day or two later, I called my mom in North Carolina and told her this story. And she told me that she knew this had happened. She woke up from a dream or a vision, she called me mentally to wake up, and I did. This is NOT the type of tale my mother generally told, so I believed her, believe her still.”

The church

For someone who attended church for decades, my mom had an odd lack of theological curiosity about her faith. When sister Leslie asked her what she thought “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” meant to her, she really didn’t seem to have an idea. My more pointed questions about her declaration that she just “followed the Ten Commandments” were without much context. Yet she attended Bible study reasonably often.

Moreover, she was highly active in the church both in Binghamton, NY, and later in Charlotte, NC. She was very sociable and sought responsible positions in the congregation.

My mom passed away a dozen years ago today, and yet she as much an enigma to me as she was the day she died.

The year is ending at Sunday Stealing

human contact

the year is ending
not quite this soon, but close enough

This Sunday Stealing is The year is ending. I have a ritual closer to New Year’s Day. But it doesn’t preclude trying these on for size.

1. Wintertime comfort foods, habits, hobbies 

At least once a year, I make lasagna. At least two of them because it’s less labor-intensive. I’ll do that for sure. I hate turning on the oven when it’s warm, but I LOVE doing so when it’s cold. Using the same Betty Crocker recipe, I have to adjust the quantities. It’s because of what has been annoying-labeled shrinkflation, though it’s been happening for decades. Thus, my 32-ounce cans of tomatoes are only 28 ounces.

2. Favorite seasonal/holiday music and songs 

This List from four years ago will do.

3. The people I want to spend more time with next year 

I hope that some folks who stopped attending church because of the pandemic – the service is on Facebook – will feel comfortable enough to return to in-person services.

4. How much I could change my life in 1 year if I focused 

One can always pick one thing to do; I might pick working more on genealogy. But this would inevitably mean NOT doing something else, and I’m unwilling to unbalance myself in that way.

5. The valuable lessons I learned this year 

I need human contact! One example: we had been doing church remotely from March 2020 to June 2021. Getting back together was a joyous occasion, and I never attended remote church again if I were in town unless I was sick.

Then in January 2022, because of a local surge of COVID, we went back to remote only. I HATED, HATED, HATED it. I couldn’t focus on the sermon. When we were back in person about a month later, it was such a relief.

This year

6. How I’d describe 2022 in 10 words 

Daughter’s College; wife’s leg infection; COVID for three; Wordle streak.

7. My favorite Reads of 2022 

I have an online subscription to the New York Times. It’s currently $4 a month. I’m enjoying it immensely. I used to read the newspaper daily in the late 1970s and 1980s but shifted to just the Sunday paper. Then it fell off the list.

8. Best movies I saw in 2022 

I’m still contemplating this. But the two films I most enjoyed in a movie theater in 2022 were The Wizard of Oz, which I’d seen many times on TV; and Cabaret, which I had not watched in a half-century.

9. Favorite TV shows/episodes of 2022 

This will sound snarky, but it is not intended as such. Watching the game show JEOPARDY, I always root for the so-called “super champions,” who have won ten or more games, to lose. To paraphrase Hawkeye Pierce on an episode of M*A*S*H, “I want someone else!”


10. Memorable experiences from 2022 

Going to Carnegie Hall with my daughter. Lots of live theater in the summer. Seeing, at different times, two of my oldest friends, who I first met in kindergarten. My sister’s high school reunion, with such a gracious host putting us up.

11. Three people I enjoyed spending time with this year 

Uthaclena; Lee; Bruce.

12. How I handled challenges this year 

With aplomb, of course.

Actually, new stuff usually makes me initially grumpy. Then, eventually, I discovered it’s not so bad, and I’m pretty good at it.

13. What I’m leaving behind in 2022 

COVID. (From my lips to God’s ears.) I did receive the bivalent shot targeted at Omicron last week. I’ve never had any reaction to the vaccines other than a sore arm at the injection site.

14. How I changed most from the beginning to the end of the year 

Perhaps a soupçon more optimistic

15. What I want to tell myself before the New Year

There are no federal or statewide elections this year. My email box should be far less crowded.

Also, when in doubt, eat applesauce.

Back to the Parlor City

The “new” Route 17

Binghamton, NY, was called the Parlor City. From here: The name “goes back to the 19th century. Binghamton had massive mansions with huge parlors where people would gather and spend time together. There were so many fancy parlors that people started calling Binghamton the ‘Parlor City.'” There was a Parlor City Shoe Store that I recall.

Thursday, October 5: Sister Leslie drove us from Albany. The last time she was in Albany, there were toll booths on the New York State Thruway. The tolls are still applied, but electronically.

There was a lot of road construction. In both directions, one exit was straight ahead while the road continued to the left, and though it was well-marked, the brain was slow to make the translation.

I was going to stay at the spare home of my friend C, while Leslie was going to stay with her friend MJ. However, when Leslie was flying, she got a text from MJ saying she had to go to the hospital. The day we arrived, MJ had surgery. So Leslie stayed at C’s place as well. More Plan B.

Friday, October 6: Leslie drove us all over downtown Binghamton, then to a part of Binghamton I hadn’t been to in over a half-century. Above is a map of the eastern portion of the First Ward in Binghamton. In the lower part of the faded portion, you may see Route 17. This was the “new” 17, which involved tearing down many houses on the north half of Prospect Street, the minor league baseball stadium Johnson Field in nearby Johnson City, and much more.

Lost Horizon

Intellectually, I knew houses were still north of Prospect, as Mygatt Street goes under Route 17. My maternal grandmother’s brother Ed lived up there, somewhere. I’m uncertain where, though he was less than a mile away. Grandma Williams forbade us, and even her adult daughter, my mom, from having anything to do with Ed because he was “living in sin” with a woman named Edna. Also, Leslie had a friend move up there. Though only a mile away, it was like a different world.

So, I haven’t gone up Mygatt and turned right since the walkway to Ely Park entryway came down in the late 1960s.In addition to a golf course, there were some nice houses. What’s most fascinating, though, is that a good chunk feels as though you’re in an undeveloped rural area.
Turning left at the top of Mygatt Street, I had only done once ever, attending a burial at a private cemetery in 2012.


BCHS nametag 1972-2022My sister’s reunion was in two parts. The Friday evening “Ice-Breaker” was at The American Legion on Robinson St. I spent a good deal of time talking to the younger siblings of the friends of mine. Though I didn’t know any of them well, I knew them for a very long time and was some connective tissue. Incidentally, the hors-d’oeuvres were great and plentiful; we were encouraged to take food home.

Saturday, October 7

The “Main Event” was at The Relief Pitcher, on Conklin Ave., Binghamton. I had a surprisingly good time at my sister’s reunion, arguably more than my own the year before. The 1972 class badges were much better than the 1971 ones.

Sunday, October 8

Leslie and I went to our old church, Trinity A.M.E. Zion on the corner of Oak and Lydia. I recognized the keyboardist as someone I grew up with. She recognized my sister but not me, probably because of my vitiligo. My father’s cousin Ruth was there too. The in-person congregation was small, fewer than 10. But there were 13 or 14 tuning in on ZOOM, and two of them participated, reading scripture and giving a prayer.

That evening, we took C and her husband out to dinner as thanks for providing us with accommodations plus plenty of food.

Monday, October 9

Leslie and I returned to Albany, and we had the pleasure of seeing my daughter, who had been taking good care of her mother.

Being panhandled and Lazarus

the Gospel according to Luke

being panhandledI read about fillyjonk being panhandled INSIDE of her local Walmart, and it reminded me of something.

My wife and I had to take a fairly large piece of art to be reframed. It was raining, so I had two large plastic bags over it, which was awkward. This guy comes up and asks for a dollar.

To tell the truth, I tend to be a reasonably easy touch for people who need money. But I had both hands full, and my wife was holding an umbrella, trying to keep me and the art dry. So I said, “Sorry.” And I was. But, dude, don’t you recognize situational panhandling? People with full hands are not likely to stop, especially in the rain.

But on the way back to the car, with my hands empty, I actually looked for the guy to give him some money. I didn’t see him.

That week’s sermon was about Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man from Luke 16: 19-31. It is the scripture that inspired the theological leanings of Albert Schweitzer. You try to help the poor.

The kicker

Oh, the piece of art being reframed was the picture of Jesus that our daughter created. About a month earlier, it was at the church, being moved so that it would not be damaged either by the film crew making The Gilded Age or by the folks running the August election primary.

Almost as soon as it was carried onto the small stage, everyone heard a loud CRASH. I knew instantly that it had been the glass protecting the piece. Also, the frame got bent. The guy who dropped it felt absolutely terrible, as he told my wife and me several times. Stuff happens, even to representations of the Lord.

I found it amusingly ironic that I couldn’t help the poor because I was carrying an image of Jesus.

Oh, and to those of you who might suggest that I shouldn’t give money because I should refer them to the appropriate social service entity, two things. 1) I do give to such entities, but 2) saying to someone to go somewhere else, if it’s a small ask, just doesn’t feel right.

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