Sunday, May 17
I was at the Arnold home of old friends for a spaced-out walk around their lake and a distanced dinner.
And as we enjoyed coffee and dessert at the far ends of a long table, the phone rang. Dick rose to pick it up.
“If it’s Laura, don’t tell her Chris is here!” said his wife, Mary. “Don’t let her hear his voice.”
Me? I shut up quick. I don’t want to get my friends in trouble with their daughter, who lives in Santa Cruz and is a Conora hardliner. Just like my own millennial kids.
Laura doesn’t want her mom and dad to get sick, and neither do my grown children. And they at times question their boomer parents’ judgment.
I got on my kids’ fighting side back in March, regular Geezer’s Diary readers might remember.
I drove from Sonora to Sacramento for a batch of pizza at Zelda’s. On the way out, I stopped for a milkshake in San Andreas. And on the way back I ventured into the CVS store in Angels for toothpaste. I was masked up, gloved and armed with disinfectant wipes.
But my three kids read me the riot act after reading the almost self-congratulatory piece I wrote about my solo trip. Their bottom line: As I’m in the elderly demographic most vulnerable to Covid, why would I take such risks? It was like I had gone down the Ebola River in a leaky inner tube.
Mary and I were whispering as Dick talked to Laura. Here we were, trying to sneak something past our own kids.
“It’s role reversal,” I told her. “It’s like we’re teenagers back in the 60s, trying to hide the fact we’re at a beer party or smoking weed from our own parents.”
Of course those things couldn’t kill us back then, but today blowing off stay-at-home guidelines just might. If we oldsters get infected, our chances of succumbing are way higher than those of our kids.
But are we boomers really rash, headstrong, stupid or even a touch daffy? Well, I don’t think I am.
I’m a careful driver. I look both ways before walking across streets. I clear my property as fire season approaches. I apply sunscreen and wear a helmet while bike riding. When hiking, I bring a locator beam so I can summon help if I fall.
I get a flu shot every year. I religiously go to appointments with my urologist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, oncologist, cardiologist and GP. I’m regularly probed, scoped, X-rayed and scanned. I exercise plenty and eat sort of right.
Do I have some Covid blind spots? Probably.
That Sacramento trip violated California’s stay-at-home guidelines. So was a planned six-hour round-trip drive I was going to take in April – so I could hike and have a distanced, outdoor picnic with two friends in Marin. I cancelled that one, partially at my daughter’s urging.
The idea, I think, is not to carry the virus elsewhere. Or bring it back here to the boondocks.
And my 9:30 p.m. Sunday-night grocery-store trips, when there’s almost nobody there? Well, sure, Instacart or a delivery service would be safer. But, prowling empty aisles for granola and bananas, I do not feel exposed.
Still, this millennial-boomer thing is real. My kids say their friends have reported parental misbehavior when it comes to Corona safeguards. And contemporaries of mine say their grown children have labeled them reckless.
“It’s like they think we’ve become incompetent in our dotage,” said one friend. “Either that or they want our lives to be miserable,” joked another.
Part of the friction, according to a Wall Street Journal piece on the generational divide, is language. When we boomers hear our kids say, “You left home and went where??!!” we almost reflexively get defensive. But the message behind our kids’ words is this: “We’re worried about your safety. We want you to live.”
Dick and Mary’s daughter, Laura, sent me that WSJ story. She added this note: “I hope we kids aren’t being too overbearing, insensitive or disrespectful. If so, it’s because we care.”
And my son Ben: “I want to ride bikes with you again. I want you to be around to meet your grandchildren.”
So what else might contribute to the persistent divide?
Age? Perhaps: Every month of Covid confinement that goes by is a much greater fraction of my remaining life than it is of my kids’. Forgoing opportunities to see friends, given our uncertain future, can be difficult.
Plus, if you know your friends have been serious about confinement, they can be part of your “quaranteam” (I learned that word just yesterday!) of folks you can safely hang with.
And geography? Certainly: My older son and his fiancé live in New York (Population 8.4 million, 200,000 Covid cases, 28,000 deaths). My daughter and her husband live in Los Angeles (Population 10 million, 38,500 cases, 1,830 deaths).
Then comes Tuolumne County (Population 54,500, two Covid cases (none caught or spread locally), zero deaths. And, at nearly 2,300 square miles, this county is nearly eight times larger than New York and five times larger than the City of Los Angeles. It’s almost empty.
So, sure, we hill folks are in a much safer place. In fact if I were in some weird science-fiction movie and I somehow had to infect myself with Corona within 24 hours to survive, I’d have no idea where to find someone to cough virus at me.
That said, a recent Time Magazine story said rural America may be Covid’s next target. And even now, I realize, I am only one errant, random contact away from contracting the disease.
So, even though some Sonora-area restaurants are now opening because of our low case numbers, I’ll stick with takeout for a while longer.
Which my kids, I hope, will appreciate.