As more of us are vaccinated, we’re noting reports that people are nervous about reentry into something resembling our former lives. Have we forgotten how to socialize? Are we so used to cocooning that we won’t want to go out? Will we back away from people who get close?
Today, my fully vaccinated day one, I can’t answer. I’ve never been easy about group conversation so may not notice a change. There were times over the last year when introverted me enjoyed hibernating, but the feeling came and went. Lately I’ve itched to get out more.
Compared with some friends, I’ve been less cautious all through the pandemic. Most people I know haven’t taken the el or a bus for more than a year. One friend hasn’t been to the grocery store, let alone the dentist or the doctor. Another wouldn’t let anyone into her car or walk through my building to sit on my balcony. One gets the mail at night when few neighbors are about.
We all have different risk tolerance. Some might call it recklessness or irresponsibility instead of greater risk tolerance that I took public transportation and saw a few friends in our respective homes. But mental health was on my mind from the start of isolation — my mother’s as well as my own. I decided it was important for Mom’s mental health to have Thanksgiving and Christmas with the immediate family, with testing beforehand to ensure that we weren’t a risk.
It’s too soon to let down all guard, but I welcome the return of some activities. Chicago Greeter recently restarted and asked us volunteers back; I’ve missed giving tours as much as any activity. I’d like to sit and be served at a restaurant table, outdoors or indoors. I didn’t realize that I had an urge to get out of town until it popped into my head to plan a national park trip. I made reservations on Amtrak and in hotels for a Glacier National Park trip in mid-August. If just a few of the summertime events Mayor Lightfoot is holding out hope for happen, it will be a better summer than last year.
Ushering for Steppenwolf and the Goodman waits on their reopening. A lunchtime book group with my former Northwestern coworkers will likely continue to meet on Zoom until they return to the office.
The arrival of warm weather coaxes us out of our homes as much as the vaccine. I won’t predict how much my friends will choose to do, but I expect to want to be outdoors as much as possible. I’m always eager to break out of the nest when spring comes. The release is sweeter than usual this year.
JUST SHORT OF THE GOAL
Since my dad died at age 99, Prince Philip’s death just short of 100 affected me. When people live such a long time, it’s silly to think that they didn’t quite make it to the finish line, but I did regret that my dad didn’t get to 100. He was so healthy, the family had discussed how to celebrate his centennial. Complications following pneumonia stopped him six months short of the goal.
As people live longer, maybe 100 won’t be such an achievement. Today not even 1 percent of the population of the developed world reaches the milestone, and men are four times less likely than women to get there. Unlike Philip, my dad didn’t spend his life in exclusive company, but his longevity put him in a rare group.