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John Smithwick

My elderly mother lived the last few years of her life in the Florida Keys. Despite being in her eighties, she was in reasonably good health. She walked her two dogs every day, played bridge once a week and was still a relatively safe driver, except at night. At her last eye examination for her drivers license, the doctor yielded to her pleas and passed her but asked that she stay out of his neighborhood. I thought it was funny but she never did see the humor in it.

When we talked on the phone, I would ask her how she was doing. She would tell me she was fine and keeping busy. Today, she was going to Wal Mart. Tomorrow, maybe the Publix grocery store while the next day she had to get gas. She said her life revolved around these short trips. She said that they gave her something to do every day.

Fast forward twenty years and I’m sitting in my house, under a stay-at-home order because of the virus. I think about my mother and her short trips to stay busy and find myself in a similar situation. Yesterday I went to Sam’s. Tomorrow, Publix. In a couple of days Ace Hardware. That will be a special trip for my wife and me. There’s a Wawa a couple blocks further and we will stop and get a coffee and maybe a pastry. In today’s world, Wawa is our substitute for dinner out.

Coming home from Wawa, we will take the long way through the downtown of an old central Florida town trying to remake itself as a chic restaurant and boutique destination. Stores will be closed and traffic light. But I will still drive slowly down the town’s main street and remember the busy farmers market and sidewalk cafes of just a few weeks ago.

Tonight, my wife will walk our two dogs, just as my mother did. I may join her. But while my mother walked a mile or more along the ocean, we will walk a residential sidewalk. Maybe we will see other couples also walking, and wave. Maybe the boy around the corner will be shooting baskets at his portable net. Maybe a car will pass us. As we near our home, we will pass the small children’s playground with its metal gate wired shut. One day the wire will be gone, the gate opened and children playing. Maybe. Just maybe because nothing is certain any more.

John Smithwick is a writer living in Florida.

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