Hello from lockdown! Can you hear me? Is this thing on? Hello? Okay, good. I’m writing to you from what started out in March as our third-floor library, where I write, but now feels a little like Alcatraz, circa 1940. I’ve spent nearly every day since the lockdown working in this library. It’s a serene sanctuary. But even surrounded by the books I’ve collected and cherished over the years, a change of scene would not be unwelcome, as long as it doesn’t involve large crowds. I’m thinking maybe the dining room.
With all of my public library readings, book club talks, writing workshops, and literary festivals cancelled for the foreseeable future, I’ve had some extra time on my hands to write. My editor at McClelland & Stewart will be very pleased with me as I’m about four months ahead of schedule on my next novel. In fact, the manuscript is finished. It still needs lots of editing and polishing in the coming month or two before I let anyone see it, but it feels like the heavy lifting is already done, partly thanks to the pandemic.
Our two sons are back home isolating with us. When they moved out a year or so ago and we were empty nesters for the first time, it was quite a change. The fridge, for instance, had food in it but no beer. I’d no longer stub my toe on an ill-placed bass guitar. When I turned on the TV, I no longer had to remember how to switch from the video game console back to good old cable television. When I couldn’t remember, I just played whatever video game was up and running. I’ve actually become quite good at Assassin’s Creed. But the house did feel quiet and empty without them. I found, after a while, that I missed having them around, not quite as much as my wife, Nancy. Often, they’d still be home on the weekends and sometimes even during the week. So, they weren’t that far away. They weren’t really gone. But since March, they’re not gone at all. They’re back. Now I kind of miss how the fridge used to be after they’d moved out. But it’s nice being all together, in close quarters. It really is.
Personally, the lockdown has affected me in other ways. I’ve gained weight. Not a lot, but enough that I’ve taken to running most mornings. And no, I don’t mean running from the family room to the kitchen for more snacks, though that’s how it started. I’m awake quite early so I run around our quiet neighbourhood just on the edge of Leaside for about 30 agonizing, painful, excruciating, ‘I’m never doing this again,’ minutes. Then, when I finish, I’m too tired and lazy to stretch as everyone insists is so important. So, by the next morning, my legs protest even more, and the cycle begins anew.
And there’s my hair. It’s grown so much, I now sport quite a free-flowing cranial corona (no pun intended) of silvery-gray locks (except on the very top where my thinning hair continues to, well, thin.). On the sides, it’s getting so long, my great hair-cutting guy, David, to whom I’ve been going now for 30 years, could probably trim the really unruly parts while still maintaining social distance. And then there’s the great unspoken (until now) bane of many a man. At least I hope I’m not the only one. But my eyebrows grow at a pace that seems to outstrip the growth rate of the hair on my head. And let’s not even talk about the soft and manageable tresses in our ears. Am I right, guys? But back to eyebrows, or as the lockdown continues, eyebrow. If Netflix ever announces a biopic on Leonid Brezhnev, I’ll be auditioning.
Sure, these times are strange and cause us to look for humour to relieve the seriousness and downright danger of it all. But in the end, we’ll make it through this, with a few laughs along the way, by being the responsible grownups we’re all supposed to be. So even as the restrictions start to ease, keep doing the right thing. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Be glad your kids are home with you. And stay safe.