‘People went crazy, I tell you. Plum crazy. It was one of the weirdest times in my life. But in the end, I think it was for a reason. I believe we’d all gotten just a little bit too big for our britches’.

The old man sat on the front patio of the nursing home, enjoying the bright sunshine and talking to his granddaughter who had come for a visit and brought him a piece of pecan pie. He always enjoyed her visits because she was spunky. Always had been. She made him laugh. When he was with her, he didn’t feel like he was 88. He felt younger again; he felt like when he kept her when she was a baby and he wasn’t as fragile as he is now. He would run and pull her around the house in a cardboard Amazon box and they both laughed.

‘I’ve been sitting out here watching the traffic go by and thinking. This morning, I sat over there and did some thinking’ as he pointed to the other side of the patio and laughed.

‘But I’ve been remembering some things and I have a story to tell you because I believe it’s important to be told and remembered.

You were a toddler when The Virus came out back in the 20s. It started overseas and made it’s way over here. As expected, a lot of people got sick with it. Most, well most, people just had like a cold. But it spread like wildfire. Restaurants and bars closed. Heck, your mother’s day out closed. But that part was ok with me. It just meant I got to keep you all day.’

They both smiled and she touched his now-wrinkled hand.

‘But it was unpredictable. A time when we all felt threatened. Everywhere. All around the world. Many were mandated to stay home by the government to prevent the spread. It was called a “shelter in place” order. And to be honest, I’d never even heard of that before The Virus.

It was a time of uncertainty. See, an important thing to know is that when 911 happened, we became a different country and you would have thought we’d learned our lessons.

That day I stood in my front yard while your mother was playing in her room. She was around 8 years old then. Your grandmother and uncle were across town at his preschool when it all happened. I was off work from the hospital and keeping your mother at home. The planes crashing were on live TV that I was watching and the world just suddenly stopped turning, it seemed like. I went outside to get myself together. The sun was out like it is right now and it was a crisp, beautiful fall day. I stood in the front yard just wondering if it’d be the last day we all saw. Thousands of people were dying as I stood there. Innocent people. I’d never felt that vulnerable. And when it eventually passed, we all came together as a nation and as a world.

People were closer after 911. We were concerned about others even if we didn’t know them. We thought we had learned a lesson, a better way to appreciate life and people. The loss of freedom was there but we had empathy and love in a new way.

But… somehow, in between 911 and The Virus of 2020, we became, I don’t know, we became ‘hardened’ again; self-absorbed. We were going through the motions to be good people, but we were still all about ourselves. We were way too confident. Many would jump at the chance to be a victim and complain about the loss of their ‘freedoms’. We had angry riots. The police were even hated. Can you imagine? The people that protect the country were hated?

But then suddenly, early in 2020, The Virus came. And the world forever changed.

Greed showed up and showed out which was just another reflection of the selfish people we had become again. We were buying up and hoarding everything. People became panicked over what could happen. And not sharing in the stocks that we had for the public.

I tell you that store shelves were cleaned out. People were actually fighting over toilet paper in stores.

It was dire, to say the least. We were having to practice ‘social distancing’ which was to stay out of crowds and stay 6 feet apart to stop the spread of The Virus. That was a new challenge for those of us who are huggers.’

He laughed a little, rearranged himself in his wheelchair a little and straightened the bill on his ballcap.

‘But in all of the craziness, suddenly, I began to see some light back in humanity.’

Part II coming soon.