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Chuck's World | Fading colors, sudden waves, surprising hope


Last updated 4/3/2020 at 11:10am

I honestly can't remember my marriage vows. It was a quick wedding, impromptu even, although as I recall it was conventional. I don't think I agreed to anything untoward. There could have been some fine print in there about taking out the trash.

I'm also certain that the friend performing this short ceremony at least mentioned the concept of "in sickness and in health." I was barely 25 and couldn't conceive of illness, of course, and almost certainly didn't have a handle on the intimacy acquired in a long-term relationship.

I would have been spared some grief had I understood our mutual dependence a little better, but time helps.

Over 37 years of marriage, my wife and I have both had to play the supportive spouse in health crises at different times, and it turned out that love has a way of teaching us what we’re capable of. Familiarity breeds a certain competence when it comes to being supportive, and I’m grateful to have a loving partner.

Which is why I didn’t hesitate to let my wife know what’s coming. “You know that at some point, you’re going to have to cut my hair,” I said a couple of weeks ago. She knows.

Of all the funny notions rocketing around the online world during this pandemic, one of the earliest felt the most accurate as we looked ahead – in about four weeks, the story goes, we’re all going to know what everybody’s real hair color is.

It’s a comfortable joke for an uncomfortable time, although I don’t blame barbers and stylists for nding it not particularly funny. Our minor inconvenience has left them adrift in a storm of scaled-back capitalism, and I can only imagine their fear and desperation.

We’re going to have to be big tippers in the future, people.

But there’s a sweet analogy lurking in the shadows there, one that’s been on my mind recently.

I suspect we’re all flailing a little (at least a little), off-balance and uncertain, but priorities have a way of shifting. Eventually we’ll be able to have nice things again, but in the meantime some true colors are showing and it’s been remarkable.

While movie mogul David Geffen got some grief on Twitter after he posted a picture of his ginormous yacht oating in the Caribbean as he suffered through social distancing (“Just keep it away from my Corolla,” actor Josh Molina tweeted back), there are multiple stories of some of our one-percenters giving back in a big way.

Bill and Melinda Gates are donating millions toward coronavirus research. Mark Cuban is covering salaries of furloughed employees. Michael Bloomberg is also pouring lots of zeroes into COVID-19 matters. Dozens of others have made similar philanthropic efforts, putting their money where their hearts are, apparently.

I’m pretty sure I know how to wash my hands now, but it’s still been fun to watch celebrities doing their best to entertain and inform at the same time (James Taylor made a fun video, and

if you haven’t seen Gloria Gaynor wash up while belting “I Will Survive,” you need to remedy that).

And now that the clock has stopped and sets have shuttered, performers of all stripes have taken to the internet to keep us entertained. This is self-serving, obviously, and still there’s something awfully human about doing what you can with what you have to offer that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

There’s more here, though, than money and fame. People wave now; have you noticed? Walking around my neighborhood, observing careful physical distancing, I’ve encountered quite

a few hearty greetings from across the street, and plenty of vigorous waving.

I walked by a used car lot on Highway 99, deserted and quiet, and an employee suddenly exited the front door as I passed. He also waved, and shouted a happy greeting, as if I were leaning toward new wheels and he was reeling me in. Maybe he was just practicing, but it felt neighborly, and nice.

Creativity, too, seems to have been unleashed by isolation. People are painting, baking, designing, and sharing this all with the rest of the world. I have enough new recipes to last me the rest of my life, and enough new music to explore for several lifetimes.

Libraries, physically closed but digitally open, have gained

a new and welcome luster. I just saw that Powell’s Books in Portland has rehired 100 workers to keep up with online orders. People seem to be reading more, learning more, creating more, and maybe drinking more (no judging! Be careful!).

And the overdue canonization of health-care workers is here, and one hopes it’ll never recede. I’m just sitting on my sofa, wondering if I need to watch that Net ix show about the tigers. These people are risking their lives, every day and in every way.

When this is over, medical professionals should get something free forever. Maybe coffee. Maybe cars. I’m spitballing here, but no one is asking me to put my life on the line to start an IV. I think free coffee isn’t nearly enough.

I’m an optimist, not a Pollyanna, but I’ve got a feeling our true colors are pretty vibrant, all in all. We’ll see what the other side looks like, but I’m very interested.

And if you wave to me, know that I’ll wave back. I’m glad to see you, even from a distance.


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