When Pretty, the gay boys basketball buddies and I were making the trip from Greenville home to Columbia after watching our Gamecock women’s basketball team win the SEC tournament on Sunday, March 8th. we all were happy, thrilled, excited, chatty, laughing – exhausted after making the trip three days in a row to watch every game our team played in the tournament – but totally jazzed for the NCAA post season play scheduled to start at our own Colonial Life Arena on the 20th. of March.
Daylight savings time had “sprung” ahead at 2:00 a.m. that Sunday morning which was always welcome at our house every year. Seven hours later the basketball boys picked us up at our house to drive back to Greenville where on the day before we met three other friends for brunch at the Lazy Goat, a restaurant close to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, the venue for the tournament. The seven of us had a delicious brunch that Saturday in a small bistro packed with people having fun, talking loudly about basketball or the gorgeous day, ordering cocktails, a typical festive atmosphere before a major sporting event in the Palmetto State.
Bon Secours has a seating capacity of 16,000 and while the final game wasn’t totally a full house, the crowd was huge and noisy. Our opponents, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, brought a large following from Starksville but the Gamecocks were in home territory with thousands of fans to cheer them on since the University of South Carolina in Columbia was fewer than two hours from Greenville. Both schools brought bands, cheerleaders, mascots and tons of enthusiasm reserved for major college athletic championships in the south. We had a fabulous time – my mother would have called it a memory maker.
I had no way of knowing that was the last time I would leave my house for any social experience for 40 days, no way of knowing the NCAA post season play I was looking forward to would be cancelled, no way of knowing a pandemic called the coronavirus or Covid-19 was about to change not only my life but the lives of everyone I knew, indeed, the lives of everyone around the world. I almost added statistics here but they were edited out because I am too horrified to put them in. When the number of cases rises above 2 million in 210 countries, well, I’d rather not go there this early in the morning.
I vaguely recalled from my Bible School days in Miss Mary Foster’s class at the First Baptist Church of Richards, Texas a few stories that referenced the number 40: a great flood was caused by rain for 40 days and nights, the Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before reaching the promised land, Jesus fasted 40 days and nights in the desert. Beyond the scope of my Bible class and through the omniscience of the great storyteller Wiki, I discovered the number 40 has significance in many traditions without any universal explanation. “In Jewish, Christian, Islamic and other Middle Eastern religious traditions it is taken to represent a large approximate number similar to ‘umpteen.'” Umpteen? Come on, man.
Wiki went on to remind me of other “40s” I’d forgotten. For example, the number 40 is important in tennis, also. I knew that. It’s the third point of a game – don’t get me started on tennis scoring – again, too early in the morning. Life begins at 40, right? Not exactly but that’s what at least one person believed. Forty is everywhere: The number of thieves running with Ali Baba, the number of acres (plus a mule) freed slaves were supposed to be given after the Civil War, the number of quarters of work required to qualify for Social Security benefits in the US. Across the pond forty-shilling freeholders was a nickname given to those who had the right to vote based on their interest in land or property with an annual rental of 40 shillings, or something like that. I’ll leave that to my friend Ellen to explain properly in her blog on facts about the U.K.
Regardless, I can tell you the past 40 days have both flown by and stood still. I have learned how to navigate my relatively new Brilliant TV between Netflix and Amazon Prime with a swiftness in my click which surprises Pretty who knows the TV is far smarter than I am. I take showers every day, well, almost every day. I have washed my hands more in the past 40 days than when I used to eat at my grandmother’s who was a stickler for washing hands before meals, after meals, and random times in between meals. I now think of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as my new BFF although I wouldn’t want to sit next to him at a dinner party for fear of nodding off. My worst fears about Agent Orange and his administration have been realized. Remember in November.
Since Pretty’s antique empire is considered nonessential, she has been our hunter-gatherer for food and the inspiration for our fun. I’ve loved having Pretty here with me – yes, she’s been busy with projects around the house, but I can almost always persuade her to take a break to watch something onTV with me or to take a joint nap in the afternoon. We now have Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on speed dial at night. Antiques Road Show on PBS is a must.
I miss my friends and family, though. Pretty continues our babysitting duties alone for two days every week and sends me videos of our granddaughter’s ever-changing accomplishments. She brought her to our house for the first time ever in her baby life of six months this past Monday, and we had the best time sitting outside with her on the screened porch. But I miss Ella’s parents, her Aunt Chloe and her dogs, too. We haven’t been able to have lunch with them or Pretty’s father or sister for 40 days.
I miss going out to restaurants with friends, playing cards with friends, playing dominoes with friends, going to movies in real theaters with friends, going to basketball games with friends – things I had just started enjoying after my knee surgeries last year. Mostly I miss visiting with my friends. I love having a good visit with people who have something to say, and I can assure you all our friends have plenty to say. Texting or phone chats are poor substitutes for sharing a cocktail and meal together. I miss that.
I am consoled by my playlist on Alexa and my friends in cyberspace who, although we aren’t physically visiting on my screened porch, do visit regularly to share our reflections on the mad world we inhabit. I am grateful to my readers for allowing me to share my feelings, to express my angst, to add to our universal hope for better days. Bless your hearts.
Pretty and I send wishes for your strength to endure and courage to overcome this weekend and beyond.
Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like any man I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now…God’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know today that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, today, I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.