Today is the last Tuesday of February, and I came perilously close—like 24 hours—to blowing the deadline for this month’s column. These 28-day months can sneak up on you, and the next thing you know you’re checking outside for lions or lambs. But I got a year older recently, and I’m still here, so I know I didn’t miss February.
I wrote my first “Looking Back” column in April of 2006. Month after month I’ve made it into these pages, 201 columns in all up to this month. I hit number 200 at the end of last year and didn’t know it. No one else seems to have noticed either..
This month’s birthday sent me off to the life expectancy tables, just out of curiosity. They give me between 6.2 and 6.9 years more, which has nothing to do with me, of course, but is some sort of actuarial calculation that insurance companies use to figure out how much you’re worth. I don’t believe in them, or in astrology either.
My daughter claims I’ll live to be a hundred, which is somewhere between possible and unlikely. But worrying about mortality is foolishness, which of course often shows up in one’s senior years. The same is true about longing for the “old days,” which may have been “good” but weren’t perfect either. I usually agree with Ecclesiastes, who was wise in most things and said, “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’” It’s not necessarily that they weren’t, just that we shouldn’t say it.
One thing I know for sure is that if someone has the good fortune to reach a certain age and can still get around, then he (or she) is incredibly lucky and should take full advantage of the opportunity. Sooner or later, it won’t be there.
I didn’t almost miss writing this month’s column because I was too busy celebrating. The real reason is that I couldn’t think of anything to write about. The thing about being a worrier is that you can always think of something which, in my case is a monthly recurrence of worrying about not being able to think of something to write.
So, here I am with about half a column to go and still having a loss for words. The only thing I can come up with is to think out loud and write down whatever comes to mind.
It’s the pandemic, a subject which is somewhere in most people’s consciousness. To paraphrase something Mark Twain didn’t exactly say, reports of its (the pandemic’s) death are greatly exaggerated. If anyone thinks otherwise, let me introduce you to our almost-28-year-old American/Icelandic granddaughter, who got it a week ago and had several miserable days.
The next thought that comes to me is that things have changed for the better. If you are a daily chart-watcher like me, you know that the number of new cases is in free fall, down to a daily average as of my birthday last week of “only” 106,696 cases and “only” 2,253 deaths. Those numbers are way below what they were a month ago, but you will notice that I put the word “only” in quotes. (Cheshire County, by the way, reported 843 cases during the two-week period ending February 19). Besides, we’ve been here before.
My third and last thought is that this is a classic good news-bad news situation. Much as I prefer to look at the glass of life as “half full,” I understand as I write these spur-of-the-last moment words that the disease glass containing the Covid-19 risk is far from empty for healthy people and even fuller for anyone who is immunocompromised.
I doubt that Ecclesiastes was in the middle of a pandemic hundreds of years BCE when he advised his listeners not to bring up the good old days. I’m not old enough to be “looking back” at the 1918 pandemic, but I’m looking forward to looking back on this one. According to the life expectancy tables, I’ve got a pretty good shot. Who knows, I may even hit column number 300.