Extract Junk, Inject Living
This is being written midway through May of 2020. Margaret and I have been practicing social distancing since the beginning of March, and we have both remained healthy. We're currently hunkered down in a long-term site at a small RV park just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee where we are close to our doctors and have many friends.
Most of our grocery shopping over the past couple of months has been accomplished via Walmart's online shopping App and their incredibly efficient curbside pickup. I've ventured into other grocery stores on occasion to pick up products Walmart simply doesn't carry, and we've done a couple of buys of meat, poultry and fish at Costco which seems to be doing a fantastic job of making their stores safe for both customers and employees. While the black face masks Margaret found for us on the internet always make me feel like I'm holding up a convenience store, I wear mine religiously on these forays into commerce.
Margaret uses a wash cloth soaked in a bleach and water solution to wipe down every purchase before it enters the motorhome, and she'd dip Lucy and me in the bleach as well if we didn't object. Other than a couple of folks we encountered at RV parks along our route from California to Tennessee who seemed either oblivious to the concept of "social distancing," or completely unable to judge how far six feet actually is, our interactions with other humans have been limited to casual conversations separated by six or more feet of air space and a whole lot of FaceTime and Zoom sessions. I've seriously considered buying a "Super Soaker," pump-action water gun, filling it with Lysol or Bleach, and greeting intruders regaled in camo and a pit helmet with a small tree limb attached to the top a la Bill Murray's Caddyshack character.
But I regress.
Margaret and I are incredibly blessed. While the stock market reversal hurt us, our retirement investments (thanks to our financial advisors we lovingly refer to as "the boys") have continued to support us comfortably despite the fact we have yet to tap into Social Security. Since both of us are good cooks, we eat incredibly well. Since we've determined we won't be traveling around the country any time soon, we've thrown a little cash into improvements to our RV site to make life more comfortable. I call it "feathering our nest." We purchased one of the recently-popular Blackstone griddles to supplement our trusty, propane grill, and we've been cooking some food that would frankly make a high-end restaurant proud.
And there's the booze, of course!
I just had to laugh every time I heard a governor pronounce alcohol sales as an essential business. Not kidding! They would have been strung up by their less than impressive privates and beaten severely had they limited our ability to purchase booze. Margaret and I have made local liquor stores a cornerstone of our economic support efforts. Many evenings start with cocktail hour, often accompanied by "nibbles" and enjoyed in our new screened-in gazebo. For cooler evenings, I installed a propane ring inside the fire pit the RV park provides everyone, and it adds both a physical and emotional glow to our world.
Lucy thinks the COVID shutdown in general, and this campground in particular, is fantastic because of the numerous walks she's given along the numerous paths and walking trails in the area. We go for walks at least once a day, but sometimes even more frequently since it's one of the few things we can do to separate ourselves from the metal tube with live in, for a little while at least. If for no other reason than I need something more to do every once in a while, I'm working my way through a short list of minor repairs and upgrades to the RV and its systems over time. As a result, when this thing is over, there's a chance we'll be thiner, healthier, and our motorhome will be in better shape and more comfortable.
We're on a first name basis with Amazon and Home Depot delivery people, the US Post Office has had to add capacity to handle our parcel post load, and a number of local businesses offering curb-side pickup or early senior shopping hours have begun to wonder where all this wonderful new business is coming from. Between the greater number of meals consumed at home, the outdoor furniture and appliances, and the RV repair and upgrade parts, we're doing our part in stimulating the economy.
The bottom line is: we're comfortable and life doesn't suck. What's missing, or course, is close socialization with friends and family, new sights and adventures, restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, and leisurely strolls through shopping districts. While certainly these losses pale by comparison to the sacrifices and challenges many Americans are dealing with, they nonetheless represent a material impact on our retirement.
Eventually there will be a vaccine or dependable cure for the COVID virus, and eventually the economy will re-bound and everyone's jobs and investments will be recovered, but retired folks will never be able to get the time they're losing back. The grandchildren will age, birthdays will be missed, family gatherings will be cancelled, milestones will be celebrated at a distance or passed over completely...and we will have less time in good health to travel, explore, and experience.
Therefore, Margaret and I are spending a significant amount of time thinking about and talking about ways to mitigate these problems. How do we safely see our families and friends? How and where can we build a living situation that will provide us enjoyment and give us a social structure? What can substitute for restaurant experiences and cozy bars? How can we safely visit a National Park or entertainment venue? And, ultimately, how do we make sure we get to the other end of life feeling like we weren't aced out of an opportunity to enjoy it.
If anybody out there has any good ideas about any of the above, we'd love to hear from you. Until then, stay safe and choose happy.