This weekend I opened my wallet to hand a $10 bill to Barb and discovered a few folded-up receipts--receipts I had jammed into the wallet as I left each of the last 3 restaurants we had dined in. Each brought back memories of the life that was just beginning to change.
The oldest receipt, dated March 6th, was from Once Upon a Grill, a local deli-grill, where we had a headed for some Friday night chicken soup to ease Barb's post-strep sore throat. The parking lot was devoid of its usual kamikaze drivers; the older patrons who made every visit to the undersized parking lot a challenge had started staying home.
Next was a March 10th receipt from Cooper's Hawk. The parking lot was only half-filled and the usual crowd of singles at the winebar was notably thinner than usual as people missed out on an almost-last-chance to connect.
The last reminder was a March 14th receipt from Wildfire, our favorite go-to restaurant. That night we had no trouble getting last-minute reservations for a spur-of-the-moment night out with neighbors. The restaurant, rather than being packed Saturday night solid, was at least 2/3 empty. Barb shuddered when a passing waitress coughed into her hand and didn't disagree when I predicted that this would be our last meal sitting in a restaurant for a long, long, time.
It is now seven weeks since I savored my last Wildfire Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned. We all know how Chicago, how America, how the world, has turned upside down since then. In comparison, Barb and I have been pretty much spared. None of our family or close friends have been afflicted with COVID-19. The losses I hear about are second or third hand or read about in the digital newspapers I subscribe to.
My medical group and my lab continue to function, and new challenges arrive to keep my mind occupied. Barb may be an Occupational Therapist without a current occupation, but the house has never been cleaner. And we are fortunate to have both kids and their families close enough for both drive-by and driveway visits. Birthday parties and Seders may have been reduced to Zooming, but we have all been healthy as we sing Happy Birthday or Let My People Go.
The restaurant dinners have been primarily replaced by home-prepared meals (we still grocery shop in person) though we have been treating ourselves to carry-out once a week. Lou Malnati's Pizza is till the best, even in a pandemic. A drive downtown, picking dinner up from a Michelin-starred restaurant, makes a nice weekend outing. And we donate and offer assistance where we can.
Now states are beginning to loosen restrictions. Old medications and historic vaccines are being investigated as a potential bridge to a new generation of therapeutics and immunizations. Curves are being bent, if not fully flattened. In the midst of fear, there is hope. And I hope that the day will come soon when I sit in my favorite booth at Wildfire and raise my Old Fashioned in a toast to each of you who have made it with me through to the other side, and remembering those who have not.
And to the day when I am happy to see my wallet filled with more receipts and joyous memories.
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