I’ve noticed recently that my slip-on Merrell® jungle mocs slip-off easily from my right foot with the assistance of a nudge from my left big toe, whereas my left shoe’s removal requires right hand intervention. I balance precariously on my planted right foot, raise my left foot high enough to reach my dangling right hand, and teeteringly palm the heel and peel away the shoe, in one or two attempts, sometimes three, deeming it far better to make several failed attempts than to fall over onto my head and lie in a pool of blood until…whenever.
But the pandemic has exposed and eroded me, along with the world I live in.
Either my left foot has expanded disproportionately during the pandemic, or my right big toe has lost its nudging powers, likely yielding ground to the encroachment of arthritis in the toe joint. I am advised—taking into account family history, x-rays, and two hip replacement surgeries—that arthritis in my joints is and will be endemic to my aging process. As with the rising ocean in front of my beach house, it is just a matter of time; no surgery to my protective sand dune, up to and including tons of concrete and steel, will stem the inevitable tide.
The good news, and this is in the category of relatively good news, is that I likely—assuming the reliability of current scientific and anecdotal observations, including mortality and tidal charts—will not live long enough to see the waves crest over my dune and wash away my house, or live long enough for my arthritis to entomb all my joints in its unforgiving grip (possibly exempting one index finger with which I can control the television button).
So, you ask, what has the pandemic meant to me?
The pandemic exposes and erodes the soft tissue that protects the bones of democratic civility, advancing the causes of irrationality, tribalism, and autocracy (as if they needed this helping hand), like a tidal wave does to a beach, and a shore community, and unsuspecting lowlands within. They may not recover. Wild-eyed anti-vaxxers will hang the scientists.
If I were younger, and courageous, I might adopt a battle cry against implacable foes. But the pandemic has exposed and eroded me, along with the world I live in. I wring my hands, and try to shut out the grim forecasts from the only life I will ever have, with my tentative (but sweet, to date) grasp on serenity and harmony, and my creeping (but gradual, to date) degradation.
Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):
"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."
The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.