Regularly And Diligently

As the daily COVID-19 case count continues to spike upwards in this country, now to levels not seen since May, it has becomes abundantly clear that we all need to do more to stop the spread of this virus.
   A blanket email I received yesterday from a local politician reminded me of the basic steps to try and, at least, keep this coronavirus at bay.
   “These are the same steps we can all be taking to better protect each other, and ourselves,” reads the message with WASH YOUR HANDS at the top of the list.
   There is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, but there is soap and water.
   I’ve been washing my hands with greater intensity since late January when I posted a graphic right here, as much a reminder to myself as to anyone who reads this space. I also, then, advocated the use of hand sanitizer.
   This was well before the lockdown that took place in Ontario in March, and I’ve been using soap and water and sanitizer regularly and diligently ever since.
   I’m tired of washing my hands, but I still do it.
   For more than seven months it has become a frequent habit, just short of obsession. It’s not that I didn’t before (I’d like to think I’ve always had solid and sustaining personal hygiene) but now it is top of mind, especially as regulations have been relaxed and more stores and spaces have reopened to the public.
   I wash my hands each time I enter or exit my home.
   Then there is the hand sanitizing process. I keep a small squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer in each of my bags or backpacks. The large sanitizer bottle on the hall credenza has been a fixture since March, as has the dispenser of disinfectant wipes.
   Keeping clean and virus free has become the new reality we all must deal with. Besides washing and sanitizing, we must also wear a mask and be cautious of how close we get to others, both strangers and friends.
   I went into a mall a few weeks back because I needed shoes. I took all precautions; wore a mask, paid attention to physical distancing, and sanitized my hands at each and every stop. As a seasoned shopper, I checked for product, price and availability at four stores in total.
   Each store required that your hands be sprayed or rubbed with sanitizer. It was but one of the guidelines established by the government as a condition of reopening. There was also vigorous hand washing during a trip to the washroom.
   At the end of it all, I bought the right shoes and headed home.
   Within days, my hands were feeling the effects of the alcohol-based liquid or gel used that day. Perhaps a chemical reaction to the various concoctions used at each store, my skin was dry and scaly despite the hand lotion I had been applying, and reapplying, since the shopping trip.
   Even now, weeks later, I can still feel the cracks that have almost healed (and may have done so more quickly had it not been for all the hand washing). I’ve tried several brands of lotion and continue to apply the stuff at intervals throughout the day, especially after entering or exiting my own personal space.
   I always wash my hands. COVID-19 continues to escalate, and not just in this country. Hand washing continues to be the first line of defense against this deadly virus.
   I take all precautions; still there are those who do not. It is obvious.
   You can see it, particularly those who do not wear a mask when required. They cannot even hide their ignorance, and those who do not wash and sanitize their hands continue to put us all at risk.
   Did you ever think washing your hands would be a matter of life or death?

More Than Just Meals

It’s one of those places you pass by as you walk or drive down the street, a neighbourhood restaurant like so many others.
   Now, I’ve never been inside the Morning Glory — it’s on one of those streets where I rarely travel, and really not that close to my neighbourhood — but it was one of those places I intended on getting to someday.
   Unfortunately, I will not have the opportunity.
   The Morning Glory closed down at some point during these past pandemic months. It is like so many other neighbourhood restaurants or stores we pass by each day in our daily lives.
   The past six months have been tough on business, particularly those small and family-owned. Some have managed to hold through the lockdown on by offering takeout and delivery; others have not been as fortunate, even after regulations began to loosen as COVID-19 cases seemed to drop.
   The restaurant industry is not the only sector of the economy hard hit by this coronavirus in Toronto and all cities and towns across this country.
   You now see the signs everywhere on the streets — “Store Closing”, “Closed”, “For Sale” or “For Lease” — just as you see the empty spaces through the streaky glass windows; places where people used to congregate for lunch on the run, or pick up a coffee to go.
   For 17 years, the Morning Glory was that sort of place.
   What struck me, as I stopped to read a letter posted inside the restaurant’s door, was the honesty and appreciation the owner had for the Morning Glory’s former customers.
   “We have seen our fair share of ups and downs but one thing has remained constant, our community. Our beautiful customers, neighbours, friends and family have stuck with us on this journey. You let us into your lives. Together we shared so much more than just meals,” reads the open letter.
   It is devastatingly sad how something unexpected, like this deadly virus, impacts the lives of so many people more than we may ever understand.
   It is difficult knowing the Morning Glory will not be the only place in this city, or so many others, which will lose contact with people who became friends over a morning cup of coffee, or light banter over a late lunch.
   These were people who were, at first, little more than strangers. They were nameless faces, as the former owner writes in this letter
   “I don’t even know all your names. I will know how you all like your coffee and what you eat for breakfast though,” reads the letter.
   It is so often said that small business is the lifeblood of this country. Judging by the number of shuttered mom and pop restaurants and corner stores I see now on my daily walks, the pulse of this fragile economy is on life support.
   Despite the money being poured into stopgap measures designed by multiple levels of governments to stop the bleeding, we are still unsure of the prognosis.
   Nobody has any idea of how long this will last, or the true impact of this pandemic on the global economy.
   But we can look locally and see what it has done to our neighbourhoods.
   And we can feel for neighbours we might never have known, and maybe make an extra effort to support those operations that are still in business, when we can and if we can.
   Look around. This is your community.




A Loss Of Connection

I was saddened yesterday by news of the sudden passing of a cousin.
   I am still unclear of the details, but was appreciative of being included on an email chain sent to family members and relatives spread out across this planet.
   He was one of those cousins you looked up to.
   While we were not close in age, and lived in separate cities for many years, he was one of those cousins who had an impact on my life.
   When I was a kid, he would always take the time to play football, or roughhouse, with a much younger cousin. As I grew up, he was one of those people you admired not only for his career achievements, but also for who he was as a person.
   A dutiful son and loving uncle, he was a wonderful man who took a real interest in people. He had one of those smiles that would brighten any room, and one of those laughs that would fill it.
   I mentioned his laugh in an email with another cousin yesterday — again we were not close in age, and are distanced geographically — but she too fondly remembered his endearing laughter from a very young age.
   It was as genuine as he was. My cousin was the type of person who would listen intently to whomever he was talking with.
   I will also remember how he was always there for his mother. Having lost his father very early in life, he was raised by a strong woman who cared deeply for two young sons. As a young adult, I marveled at the relationship this man maintained with his mother, particularly after his younger brother passed away far too early.
   We would occasionally bump into each other when we lived in the same city; often he was out with his mother. It was my pleasure to invite the two of them over for our family’s Christmas dinner.
   I remember the sadness in his voice when he called to inform me his mother had passed on.
   I thought of his mother, again, yesterday as I looked at the email chain and reflected on how we, my family, are all spread out now and how little contact we have with each other. We all lead separate lives and somehow any connection we once had has slowly dissolved.
   I was fortunate, this time, to be told of the death. Often it has not been the case. You find out months, or years, later.
   It’s sad, really.
   I thought of how we, I, need to try an make a more substantial connection with the people who shared coffee with me at my mother’s funeral, Kool-Aid or tea at yet another birthday, wedding or anniversary celebration and people who, somehow, share my bloodline.
   Right now, I seem to know so little of them or their whereabouts. I, honestly, had to sit down and think of names, and relationships, and ages. Both my father and mother were the youngest of many children, so there are decades and generations to account for.
   I lost track, or heard less news of relatives, after my mother passed on; even less after my father’s death.
   And now, with the passing of another cousin, I feel even less of a connection.
   I know, and understand, death is part of the life cycle; we are born and grow up knowing we will die.
   What matters is what happens between the two dates that bracket your life and not only your experiences, but your connection to others.
   It is not only if, but also how, you will be remembered.

©2020 j.g. lewis