It’s Been a While

“Would you like to bike to Lakes Park with me?” Rich asked.

On the surface it was a simple question. It’s a nice park about six miles from our AirBnB in Ft. Myers. The route is totally flat, with bike trail all the way. The afternoon was sunny and warm, inviting for an outdoor activity.

For eight years we bike toured at least once a year, usually for up to a month at a time, covering around 1,000 miles. Hopping on our bikes together was ingrained in our retirement lifestyle. When we weren’t touring, we were still out there training or just staying in shape. We took it for granted.

But yesterday’s question was not simple. It carried a depth of meaning that was not lost on me. Since Rich’s open-heart surgery over a year ago, he has been fighting his way back to health and persistently pushing to increase his endurance. He no longer takes anything for granted. Nor do I.

I couldn’t remember the last time we biked together. I looked it up in my sports tracking app. The answer – August 31, 2020. That was just over a month before his heart took him down on the trail. Back when there were signs that we missed, when workouts were harder for him but we had no idea why. When we blamed it on getting older. Yet he persevered, and we went on a nice ride in Grand Marais. I didn’t know it would be our last for so long.

Throughout his recovery, Rich insisted he had to fight his own battles. Overcome his demons on his own. He doggedly went out trail running and passed the spot where he went down, his recovering heart pounding as hard as it could as the haunting memory swept over him. He got back on his bike when the weather warmed, walking the hills when he didn’t have the stamina to pedal up them. “Slow and steady” was his mantra. Each time I offered to go with him, I got the same response. “I have to conquer this on my own.” Admittedly, sometimes I set out for my own ride on the same route a little later, just to reassure myself he was still upright, on his way home.

Rich was told that the mental game would be just as hard as the physical side of his recovery. Not knowing how much his body has left to give and the extent of his long-term prospects for active sports has been hard.

Facing all this has clouded my horizon as well. Rich’s uncertainties leave me feeling adrift. What does all this mean for our future? Our mutual love of outdoor active pursuits hangs in limbo. It used to be a no-brainer to dream up vacations that revolved around cross-country skiing, canoeing, kayaking, cycling and hiking. How much of that remains within our reach? It’s understandable that Rich’s interest may wane with his abilities. The gulf between our abilities has plunged us into uncharted territory.

And the big question still looms: Will we ever be able to resume bike touring? I still long for those days in the saddle, grappling with weather conditions, the incredible views from the seats of our bikes, the wonderful people we meet along the way, and the sense of empowerment from traveling under own own steam. I can’t accept that it’s the end just yet. Only time will tell.

Rich’s question really marked a milestone. For the first time, he was willing to share his ride. Which really meant sharing his new reality. Riding with him would allow me to personally witness his capabilities.

Cycling down the driveway, I settled into place behind him, allowing him to set the pace and curbing my urge to forge ahead – an issue even in normal times. The sense of familiarity and normalcy was overwhelming, yet I recognized it as a gift. I was also impressed. Rich kept up a good pace, better than I anticipated. Clearly his efforts were paying off.

When Google misled us on the distance to the park, and the round-trip turned out to be closer to 16 miles than 12, I could see Rich tiring on the way home. He doggedly pushed his pedals to complete the ride, and still carried his bike up the 16 steps to our 2nd floor abode. But not without a cost. I witnessed the weakness imposed by his heart. A good lesson, grounding me.

But the ride held more significance. It was a measure of just how far he’s come. More and more often, I hear Rich utter “I never could have done that a few months ago.” Which I take as a good omen for the future. For our future. He’s fighting a good fight and winning. I’m already looking forward to our next bike ride. This time I don’t expect it to be such a long while.

Back by Popular Demand

“Did you make Grammy Jammies this year?” 

Ben in the first Jammies 2010

The frequency of the question came as a surprise.  Apparently my annual sewing spree has spawned a following. It’s nice to know that a simple, homespun and creative work of love can capture an audience. Amidst the stress and anxiety surrounding our Covid-laden lives, it’s heartwarming to be able to contribute some whimsy to the world.

The answer is “Of course!”

What started with a single pair of slipper jammies 11 years ago has blossomed into seven pairs of Grammie Jammies and six Grammie Jammies for special friends this year. Thinking that a newborn was a bit young to have adopted a favorite friend yet, I added a matching stuffed animal to the assembly for him.

With each passing year, the kids get older, the Jammies bigger and I hold my breath as I check with the oldest ones to see if they are still “in.” Now topping out at 11 and 9, I realize this ritual may be nearing the end of its lifespan for them. But this year they came up with their own creative solution. “Can we have them without feet?”

“Yes! I can certainly do that!” and the tradition lives on.

I admit that I let this venture consume my fall. Once the Jammies are all cut and ready to sew, my obsessive side comes out. I develop tunnel vision, waking only to ponder how many Jammies I can complete by the end of the day. I feed material through the machine, clip threads, insert zippers, zigzag seams, top stitch, stretch ribbing, wind the bobbin and start new spools of thread all the day long. Admittedly, I still do my share of ripping out stitches and do-overs as well. Practice doesn’t always make perfect.

To date, I’ve made 51 pairs of Grammy Jammies, out of 16 different patterns of fleece. Expanding into friend Jammies four years ago adds another 20 miniature Jammies. Taking the numbers game even farther, here’s what it took to produce this year’s Grammy Jammies:

  • 13 zippers
  • 9 yards of fleece fabric
  • 5/8 yard ribbing fabric
  • Gripper foot fabric
  • 1 snap
  • 3 large spools of thread
  • 3 old Kwik Sew patterns, sizes newborn to kids XL
  • 1 44 year old sewing machine

By now the kids all know what comes in fabric bags, and I’m always as excited as they are when the latest creations are unveiled. And the best part is snuggling in together, surrounded by soft fleece clad bodies and a whole lot of love. Just like what went into the Jammies.

I can only hope that they will be back by popular demand again next year!

Trapped!

The wind howled all night long, whipping around the 5+ inches of new snow dropped by the storm. I tossed and turned, hearing our windows rattle and the moan of the gale. What I didn’t hear was the crack of falling trees.

It wasn’t until I ventured out in the still-dark morning, backing out of our unplowed driveway and inching down our remote road that I noticed the downed power line and a shadowy hulk that loomed beyond my headlights. A tall pine tree claimed the road from edge to edge. My trip to the pool at the Y was scuttled. Our little strip of 4 houses have only one way out and it was blocked.

The power company was on it right away, severing the line and carting it away. But the tree remained. There was only one thing to do. Ditch the swimsuit for my snowshoes.

At 6-degrees with a fierce wind still raging, I had to dig for all my warm layers, find my gaiters, heat up some hand and toe warmers. The minutes fled as I wriggled into my stack of insulation and struggled to bend over far enough to lace my boots. Did I really want to do this?

As soon as I crossed the street and headed down the multipurpose mountain bike trails, I knew the answer was Yes. In the silence of the woods, the only sound was the wind in the trees and the creak of my left snowshoe. Surprisingly, someone had beaten me out there and I followed boot tracks down the narrow path. I mentally thanked COGGS for creating these twisty, curvy and playful trails with short bridges over deep gaps.

I lost the footprints about a mile into my trek when they disappeared down a steep embankment. Hmmm, really? Continuing on, I relished the unmarked snow even if it was more of a challenge to discern its route. My favorite bits were the hairpin curves, steeply banked for the cyclists and carving a luge-like chute still discernable through the drifts. The sun was high enough to lay shadows across the snow, and I admired the snow’s artwork on pine branches. It was a morning for taking in my surroundings, letting my whirring brain slow and being in the present.

My nose reminded me that it was exposed to this cold and wind, requiring periodic warmups from my bare hand. But my hand and toe warmers blazed, keeping my other most vulnerable body parts toasty. I trudged on, warming my core with the effort even while breathing in the crisp cold air. I was in no hurry to finish and let my footsteps lead me on down the trail.

Why did I think this was a good morning for swimming? Because it was cold and windy? Nature knew better. This outdoor fix beats chlorine any day. I didn’t mind being trapped one little bit.

Sunrise Cycling

With the onset of fall, the days seem to shorten at an alarming speed. At this northern latitude, by the fall equinox we tip the balance to more darkness than light each day. By now we are already down to just 9 1/2 hours with the sun above the horizon.

I mourn the dim mornings which push out my morning workout routine. On cycling days, I wait impatiently until I have just barely enough light to see in front of my bicycle – typically about a half hour before sunrise.

Absent the sun, there is a definite chill in the air. I layer on warm clothes, pull booties over my cycling shoes and don my Happy Hat under my helmet. Ski lobster gloves and a buff complete the ensemble. I shiver as I coast downhill, absent the heat-generating pedaling I need to stay warm. But soon that all fades into the background.

By the time I reach Superior Street, I get my first glimpse. The sky begins to widen, and color radiates above the trees. I can’t wait to get to the shore to see the full effect, and I’m richly rewarded by the time I reach London Road. The sun is still low enough to generate rich colors that bounce off the clouds, paint their undersides and send reflections across Lake Superior.

My favorite stretch is from the Lakewalk tunnel through the newly completed path through Brighton Beach. Despite the cold, I have to stop, straddle my bike and pull off one glove to take pictures. I am compelled to record this majesty.

But the real impact is more personal. I can’t help but be thankful for the beauty of Nature. The sense of wonder fills me with gratitude. How lucky I am to be out here, fit enough to be cycling, able to witness God’s handiwork, healthy enough to do this day after day, and to live in close proximity to Lake Superior’s many moods. A day that starts like this just has to be good.

No two mornings are the same. As I flick through my photos, the words that come to mind are Fire and Ice. The brilliant red-orange mornings are balanced by more subtle blues and purples turning the lake a cold steely gray.

When the sun finally makes its fiery entrance, the show moves quickly. It doesn’t take long before its radiance overpowers the scene. Dawn has arrived, colors fade and light begins to bathe the world.

The warmth of those powerful rays eases my way up the shore, reviving my fingers and toes, glowing on my face. I’m not sure how long I can keep up this fall routine. But for now, each day I make it out for sunrise cycling is a gift.

Where has it gone?

Shrieks of laughter emanate from Rich’s office. High pitched voices interrupt one another vying for attention. I hear splashing, squealing, complaining and taunting. The sounds of children playing. Our children. Long, long ago. A smile travels across my face.

Rich is finally tackling the long avoided task of converting all our old family video tapes to digital format. Just finding the equipment to do it was a challenge. He searched hard before finding an outdated working VCR player on eBay, and installed a conversion software kit on his PC. He then hauled in the huge box of tapes that has been hibernating in our garage. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

This conversion requires playing each tape, one by one. The drama is displayed in a small square on his computer screen complete with sound, while the software creates a digital file. Miniature Karens, Carls and Eriks parade across the screen – playing, blowing out birthday candles, building forts in the woods at the cabin, throwing sand out of the sandbox, and singing. The stuff that makes up a young family’s life.

We didn’t own a video camera for years. Instead, we’d rent a massive camcorder from the video store and let it roll all weekend long just capturing ordinary life with kids. The bad as well as the good, the tantrums along with the tender moments. Sometimes there were guest appearances. “Oh look whose here now!” Rich yells from his office, and I go in to see my parents or his – looking young and lively, poignant as they have long since passed. Or our beloved long-term day care provider, the kids’ cousins, our Czech daughter. It’s a treasure-trove of memories.

Day after day these scenes play as Rich works his way through the box. The cheery voices get older and younger again as he grabs tapes in random order. But that’s not all that strikes me.

Rich usually did the filming with an animated running commentary throughout the action. I’d appear on camera with the kids, or as a voice in the background. And occasionally I’d take over to capture Rich with the kids. Our voices sound younger too. And there is an element of playfulness, of engagement with the kids, of a lively family life. One I’d forgotten existed.

We’ve been on our own for years now, having launched our three grown children and adopting the good life as retirees. We’ve become accustomed to our well ordered life, with plenty of time to indulge our own passions, often out and about individually all day long and reconnecting over dinner.

And then came Covid, topped by Rich’s heart condition. Life narrowed. Social contact shriveled. Travel ceased.

As Covid drones on and Rich slowly recovers, I have begun to feel that the joy of life has been sucked out of me. That hunkering down and withdrawing from the world has dampened my lust for life. That I may even be getting accustomed to the small circle we have drawn around our sphere of activity. The quiet nights at home, drawn into the lives of British or Australian TV series.

Spending time with my kids and grandkids only seems to reinforce this feeling. Their vibrant family lives feel in such contrast to my own. I do my best to soak up the giggles and the snuggles. To relish playing games, building with Legos, concocting Paw Patrol rescues and reading aloud. To find time to connect one-on-one with my kids and let their resourcefulness inspire me.

Hearing Rich and me on those tapes brings it all back. We too were fun-loving parents at one time. We played with our kids, engaged with them on their level and had great adventures together. I am heartened by this evidence. And I hear its message reinforced with each tape that plays through Rich’s computer, sending its voices out to find me.

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I can’t help but wonder where the playfulness has gone? When did we get so serious? Is this what happens when you grow old? My spirit rebels, knowing it doesn’t have to be this way. I will fight back.

Surrounded by Love

It seemed a simple request. Our whole family planned to gather in the Twin Cities for the wedding of a dear family friend. Pulling from Milwaukee, Seattle and Duluth as well as the Cities, it has become increasingly rare that we can assemble our numbers in one place. So it was the perfect opportunity to get a family photo for our Christmas card. Too many times I leave thinking, “Oh shoot! We forgot to get a family picture!” I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

My daughter, Karen, whose bedrooms would fill hosting most of us, had it covered. “Mom, leave it to me. I have a friend who does fabulous family photography. I’ll arrange it all with her.”

“I don’t want fancy. Not in our wedding clothes, I want to do this beforehand, just informal, outside.”

“You got it,” Karen said.

Karen sent out clothing photos ahead of time. “Here’s a palate of colors to work with,” she told family members. She followed with “I don’t want this to be stressful for anyone, so if you don’t have quite the these colors – bring something close and we’ll roll with it.”

We all assembled in French Park at noon, and looked remarkably color coordinated without appearing to have done so. As we trooped down the path and crossed the bridge over a small creek, I looked back to see the stream of family members happily ambling along. My heart swelled, just seeing my family stretch into the distance. Nobody was chafing at having to dress up. Kids were being kids. Grown-ups loosely herded them along.

Katherine, the photographer, met us in the picnic area by the lake. Straight away she began engaging the kids, at the same time scouting good locations to shoot in the brilliant noonday sun. We had asked for a variety of family groupings, and she mustered the troops to mix and match the pairings and keep things going.

Instead of being a tedious exercise in gaining cooperation, of teasing out smiles, of cajoling kids to come sit still, we were in constant motion. We giggled and teased. We tickled and chased. We squeezed, climbed trees, held kids upside down and played together. Laughter reigned.

It felt SOOOO good!

All the while, Katherine captured the moments. Lots of them. The traditional and the silly. The poignant and the unexpected. The cute and the lovely. Not surprisingly, the kids stole the show, but I still got my Christmas card photo – if only I can decide which one to use!

It turned out to be the highlight of my weekend, despite all the other moments spent together. And I have all the photos to bring back the joy of that sunny Saturday gathering.

You needn’t take my word for it. You be the judge.

Thank you Kate Dawn Photography, for surrounding me with love!

For more of her work, visit her Facebook page.

Sunrise, Sunset

Being a volunteer lighthouse keeper has its perks, particularly in the off-duty hours. Fortunately, no matter what month I am at Crisp Point Lighthouse, sunrise and sunset fall squarely within my free time. And I make sure I am at the ready to witness and photograph both. Highlights of each day.

Being keepers in September this year means a more sociable hour for sunrise. Scrambling out of the tent by 6:45am still nets me a front row seat to an inspiring light show. I start on the west side of the lighthouse, watching the oranges infiltrate the clouds and silhouette the tower.

Making my way past the lighthouse to the opposite side, I turn back to watch the sun crawl its way down the lighthouse, illuminating it with the glow of the low morning sun and reflect on the water.

Another morning delivers fiery red hues that mutate into pink cotton candy in the clouds overhead, just 13 minutes later. I never tire of this scene. It’s worth the brisk morning chill, the sleep still in my eyes and the fact that I haven’t had a chance to brush my teeth yet.

At the other end of the day, sunsets provide lingering entertainment that only starts with the sun dipping below the clouds.

The real show begins five minutes later when the sun drops below the horizon and shoots its brilliance into the clouds above, and intensifies with the accompaniment of crashing waves.

The variety is never ending. Some mornings and evenings are duds, scuttled by clouds blanketing the horizon. Others lack clouds completely, robbing the sun of targets to reflect its brilliant rays. But when the conditions are right, it’s downright magic and never the same twice. God’s majesty at work.

Photographing these scenes is half the fun, the game of seeing if I can replicate the image. In the past, I’d point my Canon Powershot SX40 camera at these displays, struggling to get the settings right, focus carefully, keep the camera still and hope for a good photo. Usually with mixed results. This time the camera stays in the car. Instead, I whip out my iPhone 12 Pro Max and hold it up for the shot. Click, I got it. Click, another for good measure. Click, catch the changing light. It certainly lowers my stress level, enhancing my appreciation for these solar events. And I have to say, that phone does a credible job and is always at the ready in my pocket. It’s my new standard to ensure I capture those sunrise, sunset moments.

Sharing the Light

The incessant wind drives tumbling waves onto the shore, cresting in white foaminess that contrasts the water’s deep blue. The morning chill on the beach is mitigated by the warm sun on my back. In my peripheral vision the tall tower stands guard over this sacred spot. Good morning, Lake Superior. Hello, Crisp Point Lighthouse. I’m back!

It’s been two years since I was last here. Our streak of 7 annual stints as lighthouse keepers was interrupted by Covid, like so many aspects of our lives. Even this year’s trip was a leap of faith as the virus continues to rage. But armed with vaccines, masking and distancing protocols in place, we felt willing to answer the call.

With the long slow drive down the infamous 18 miles of rough dirt road, the world began to recede. Shaded by towering pines and leaves rimmed with a touch of color, weaving through forest regrowth, I anxiously awaited that first sight of the lighthouse. The early morning calm and solitude of the site reminded me how much I love this place.

And yet it’s different this year. With extra duties imposed by Covid, we invited our friends Jon and Beth to join us. They were willing and eager participants, even knowing the rustic camping conditions – or perhaps even because of them. We erected our tents in unison before the onslaught of visitors – ours on the sand, theirs on the bed of their truck. A quick climb up the lighthouse clenched the sale as we gazed out over the miles of sand and rock beach stretching to the horizon in both directions, and took in the endless blue expanse of Lake Superior. Welcome, Jon and Beth, to our little slice of heaven.

The “Keeper’s Residence” below the lighthouse
View from the catwalk

The arrival of visitors plunged us into our duties, manning the Visitor Center, dispensing information about the lighthouse, selling souvenirs and cleaning jobs. Jon and Beth quickly became ambassadors, greeting folks, learning where they were from and how they found the lighthouse. It was a novel experience to be able to trade off and spell one another for bursts of freedom to walk the beach, climb the tower or read on a bench overlooking the beach. And the constant companionship was especially welcome in the evenings when we’d share dinner and linger by the bonfire. I knew the invitation had been a success when Jon and I manned the campstove cooking breakfast under an awning in the rain, and Jon leaned over to say, “Even this is fun!”

Jon restocking the bathrooms
Molly and Rich tending the shop
Ladies walking the beach
Dinner together
Campfire time

I admit it took a bit of adjusting. I had always equated our off-hours at the lighthouse with solitude. Morning walks and reflection, followed by time spent writing by the water. Evenings mesmerized by the flickering flames and glowing coals after Rich retreated to the tent. Reading while crunched down in the catwalk high above the lapping waves. Rare quite time I intentionally allowed myself in this retreat.

But after over a year of forced seclusion, having company was a treat. We ribbed Jon over his raging battle against the sand on the boardwalks and lighthouse steps. I relished Beth’s company on my morning beach walk, opening our hearts and sharing common woes. They taught me how to be an engaging host. We lent them our LED black light to find Yooperlites (which they did), and Rich gave them tips on seeing the Northern Lights (which failed to show). Laughter reigned. It felt so good.

I meant to consult Rich, but forged ahead without it. “Do you want to come again next year?” The answer came out in unison, “Yes!” It’s settled. We’ll be back next year, sharing the light with good company.

She’s still my Mom

It was 10 years ago today, but I remember the moment vividly. It was a crisp summer morning, with blue sky and fluffy clouds drifting over the back yard of our church where we were attending an outdoor service. Rich’s phone vibrated in his pocket. It stopped, then came to life again, so he surreptitiously glanced at the screen. “It’s your mom’s caregiver.” She never called Rich, but my phone was silenced. Our eyes met.

Slipping inside, I dialed her number.  Sue was one of our precious caregivers.  The small dedicated group of women who took Mom into their hearts and adopted her as family.  Who saw that she was dressed exquisitely each morning, and lovingly quaffed her silver-gray hair.  Who enabled Mom to stay in her own home as Alzheimer’s ravaged her memory and 91 years weakened her body.  I’ve forgotten Sue’s words, but the message was clear.  Mom was leaving us. 

We didn’t make it in time.  We hadn’t even reached the edge of the Twin Cities when the next call came from Duluth to tell us she was gone.  As we drove, I made tearful calls to each of the kids to tell them Grandma had died.  Although we had lost her years earlier to dementia, this moment added the burden of finality.

Ten years later I continue to sift through the memories.  Those from my childhood play like an old video in my mind, scenes on a screen that I watch as a smile creeps across my face. High school stirs images of Mom’s unwavering support and high expectations.  College evokes the sense of growing wings, of taking Mom’s life lessons and using them to make my own way in the world.

But it is the adult connections that remain the most vivid.  The years when she was a vibrant senior, independent and actively engaged in life.  When we could plan outings together, share common perspectives, even travel to England together.  If I’m honest, it’s probably when she was in my current stage of life.  She was long past raising her four children, and still had miles to go before it would be our turn to be caretakers for her.  When I think of Mom, I don’t picture her as a lithe young mother, nor as a dependent octogenarian.  I recall her grace, style and spirit as she navigated the world on her own terms in her golden years.

It is a startling realization as I reflect on my own station in life.  Am I making the most of these years?  Is this how my children will remember me, with my own silver-gray hair?  For certain I have inherited that trait from Mom.  I can only hope I carry on more than that.

I still think of Mom each time I pass her house.  I still seek her approval when making decisions.  Still yearn for her presence and knowing smile in the big moments of my life.  I can’t help myself when I wonder what Mom would think, what words of advice she might offer.  Ten years later, she’s still my Mom.

Re-emerging is Hard to Do

My Covid cocoon had become a comfortable, familiar place. While chafing at my restrictions, I also learned to embrace my quieter existence.

I felt safe in my bubble, secure in the control I had acquired over my life. My time was my own to indulge in hours of writing, confident that my plans would not be interrupted. The outside world was held at bay, unable to intrude. While some writers felt crushed by the pandemic, my retirement status allowed me the freedom to forge onward working on my book.

The outdoors was my playground. My running shoes, bike, trail shoes, skis and snowshoes my constant – and virus-free – companions. The opportunities to share those activities with friends, to see others outside, let in a little normalcy that helped balance the isolation.

Family became my only source of close personal contact. The decision to extend our circle to our children and grandchildren was not without its risks, but held overwhelming benefits. Those visits fed my heart and nurtured my need for social interaction.

In the course a year I had adapted to my revised lifestyle. Then suddenly everything changed. Again.

Getting the vaccine was only a baby step. Although I was protected, it was still early in the process, and many people around me – including Rich – were still awaiting vaccination. Those early days didn’t feel much different. Still social distancing, wearing masks and seeing others only outdoors.

Our first fully-vaccinated outing was returning to church. Spread out in every other pew, masked, with small numbers in our little church it felt safe. No coffee fellowship downstairs afterwards, but it was enough to see our friends and fellow church members and worship together in person.

Having friends over for dinner has long been a favorite social activity. We decided we would be comfortable with having one fully vaccinated couple over for dinner at a time. The first evening, sitting down to wine and appetizers at the kitchen island followed by gathering around the dinner table felt like a gift. So did the hugs we felt we could now afford.

The day the governor lifted all the major restrictions came as a shock. I was used to the slow pace of recovery, the gradual loosening of constraints. The idea of flipping a switch and returning full speed felt like too much too soon. In fact, it put a damper on our willingness to venture forth into normalcy. If we were still unwilling to eat in socially distanced restaurant space, we certainly weren’t about to sit in the close proximity of full capacity.

And yet, we developed chinks in our armor. Trying to work out the logistics of a road trip to Seattle to visit our son Erik and his wife Katie in their new home, the specter of air travel began dancing in my head. Justifying arguments followed. “We’re going to have to start sometime.” I pleaded my case, leaving Rich to ponder the idea. “I’ll only go if I can sit up front, have extra leg room and priority boarding,” Rich said. We bought tickets. And flew.

I feel like everything is a test. In the absence of government mandates, I am left to define my own rules. Is it okay to go into the grocery store without a mask? I haven’t yet. Should I get a massage? I did and it worked wonders on both my mind and body. Might I return to the pool at the Y? Maybe, but I have enough summer alternatives for now.

Behaviors I once took for granted now cause me to hesitate. My favorite table in the coffee shop has returned, and beckons each time I stop in for take-out latte. After months of self-protection, it’s hard to know when to relax and where to hold the line.

I’m inclined to cling to some of the life simplifying aspects of the Covid era. My makeup sits untouched in its pouch in the bathroom drawer. Who needs makeup behind a mask? now becomes Who needs makeup? Why would I run to Target to stock up on household supplies when they will deliver to my door for free? I appreciate the time saving travel-free option of attending meetings on Zoom, and wonder how many of those need to resume in person.

There is no returning to normal. Not the old normal, anyway. The new is bound to be a hybrid, hopefully mixing the best of our Covid innovations with good old in-person, face-to-face life. Re-emerging step by step. As best I can.