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The hidden beauty of Covid infects my home

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Isolation, disease and fiscal insolvency with little chance of improvement may be why the Irish developed such wit and humor. Alcohol may also play a role.

In my life, I find the Covid pandemic brings its own brand of magical realism — my own “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

Simply put, Covid has brought my family together on every front — it has also helped my tennis game.

 

Academia and debauchery on the rocks

When the epidemic hit, my son was living the full joy of college — he had his shared apartment, a girlfriend and fun roommates and could walk to and from campus. It represented that perfect freshman blend of academia intertwined with just enough debauchery. He loved college.

All of that ended last February. Classes turned ‘virtual,’ which means students earn full credit for 1/3rd the work and parents pay full cost. But what it also meant was my 19-year-old moved back home.

I feel for him. The Covid crisis is stealing the university experience from a generation for at least a year or two. But for me, the father who for five years looked forward to playing tennis with Alex as much as anything in this world, I cannot mask my joy.

Every Sunday, when Alex was 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 we would play tennis for hours at Bayfront Park on Longboat Key.

Alex kept getting better and then he started lessons at The Oaks on his way home from Pineview School. They taught him big topspin shots and proper backhand technique and footwork. I would have to play and practice during the week to keep up with his evolving game.

As we played, I would log the calories I burned into Fitness Pal and that was my justification for the cheeseburgers and fries we devoured after our match.

So thanks to Covid, my favorite tennis partner is back. Alex keeps me sharp — he is fast on the court, every drop shot he scrambles and reaches.  On Longboat, the older folks hit a dropshot and everyone stands still and says “nice shot.” With Alex, he tears like a puppy chasing a cat and reaches everything. My knees hurt watching him run.

 

What are you thinking?

Life is a strange circle. Life is fleeting. The older you get it just keeps accelerating. Days are now moments. Yet as we age we have one thing — a fountain of memory that connects and transcends time. We are like a buoy floating in a sea of images, feelings and narratives.

My father would wake me up every weekend at 7 a.m. in our Sag Harbor home and we would walk with dew still on the grass to the neighbor’s fenced in field.

He would whack grounders at me. He wanted a baseball star. He taught me to get down on the ball, catch every kind of hop, how to throw off-balance, how to face batters from third base no matter how hard the ball comes.

My father had feisty New Yorker blood in him. He hated the Red Sox, he was liberal, he had a lot to say.

I can still hear him at my high school games, “Get down on that fuckin’ ball Stephen!” or, “What are you thinking swinging at that?”

And then after the game we would go to the il Cappuccino restaurant and over baskets of garlic knots analyze the game and all the mistakes, strategies what went wrong and what went right. Life with my father was intense, but it was all I knew and it was normal for me.

 

My crazy chef

My father taught me fishing off of Montauk where he kept his old Chris Craft.

We would troll for stripers along the huge rocks of Shagwong about three miles from Montauk Point. Then we would fish The Rip where the currents from the Atlantic hit the Long Island Sound.

Sometimes in the fall, storms would pound the sea. I would hope and pray it would be too rough to fish. That would mean eating out at Luigi’s in Montauk and soft serve ice cream.

Unfortunately, my father was a fishing maniac. He was like one of the captains on Deadliest Catch. He would drive to the jetty and we would watch waves smashing violently and swells pushing against the entrance to Montauk Harbor. My indefatigable father would say, “Well, let’s head out; we can always turn around.”

And we never turned around. Wind, rain, rolling waves never stopped him. Only lightning storms drove him back to his slip.

My job was to listen for the raspy click of the reel when a fish hit the line and listen for father who would shout directions. I would leap to the cabin, put the boat in neutral or follow whatever engine instruction my father yelled from the back of the boat.

My dad would work the fish, which he caught using wire and umbrella rigs and lures he made himself in our basement with rubber tubes he bought from hospital supply stores. He would dye the tubes like a crazy chef and then bend the hooks that he inserted to create a unique motion in each lure. He had his favorites. He always used Penn reels and spun and varnished his own rods.

After we caught a half dozen or more stripers, we would gut them and put them on ice and ship them to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. He taught me every nuance of scraping the boat and caulking the wood in the spring and how to work on the twin Palmer engines.

That time he spent with me, the way he intrinsically took his lifetime of fishing Long Island from when he was a boy to fully grown and impart that was something that stays with me every day. He did that in so many things in life.

 

The hoax of ‘virtual school’

So this fanatical sharing of life continues in some unchartered way. My life with Alex and my five other children continue this drive to spend time with each other. And tennis has been the ultimate venue.

My children are often looking to play Monopoly late at night and there I sit praying to land on Park Place and Broadway.

The joy of children is when they beat me at tennis or Monopoly, I can still feel like I won. With everyone else I am out for blood.

My three youngest children spent the spring home from school due to Covid. They go to Pineview, which is rigorous program. But do not be fooled by the sausage grinding necessity of pushing education forward. Teachers and the administration conspire to call virtual school an equivalent to in-person learning and all the children passed their classes with less than six hours a week effort. Teachers would show up for zoom meetings for a brief appearance in the living room and minimal engagement is the rule.

 

College, a husband and a baby…

Then to add to my surreal life is my second-oldest daughter, Ariana, moved home from Poland. She attended college in Krakow to study international relations, geopolitics and language. The irony is we paid for Ariana to go to Poland and she came back not only with a degree, but also with baby and a husband.

But instead of panic, I am overjoyed.

As any Longboater with grandchildren will attest — the joy of seeing your children and grandchildren at the same time is a feeling beyond words.

And my daughter came back so smart and well poised and full of political awareness. She reads constantly and is the one we sent to Poland to study language and piano when she was 14 and 15. And now she keeps playing.

She has all that new mom energy. She cooks organic food for her son — he is one year old — and lectures me and my wife, Melissa, about over-processed diets and the political and health havoc that rib eye steaks and cheeseburgers exact on our body and the planet.

And so Covid has driven my daughter and grandchild home. My son, Alex is back in the house. My wife baby-sits while Ariana job-hunts and contemplates her next life move.

And then we have three younger children who I cannot say enough on these pages to tell you about.

Having my children close by is a dream. I sell ads and write stories from home. That allows a seamless movement between family and work and back again.

 

Waves of eternity

All of this life swirls around me. And meanwhile the Covid crisis is barking and howling through society. Publix tells me while buying a turkey there will be more food shortages coming and supply chains are breaking down again.

We are trying to live and embrace life with this threat that puts fear into so many for so many reasons.

Ands while we all wish this pandemic would simply go away and I am sure we all wish we could take these claustrophobic and asinine masks off, we know that we must keep trudging along in this strange new world.

I hope all of you through the holidays, in the face of the pandemic, can enjoy the life that constantly swirls around us.

Even though I know my children will soon move out and move on, I do have consolation.

In my heart and in my mind I have those ground balls my father cracked at me in my early childhood mornings. And I have the rolling waves in the hours before dawn alone in a boat.

The rise and fall of the swells are in me. The feeling of the ocean rising and falling beneath me at night is my eternity.

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1 Response for “The hidden beauty of Covid infects my home”

  1. Edery Josh says:

    As a practicing doctor I appreciate your positive swing on making lemons with lemon aid. This article should be shared all over as it answered many questions about where is the light in all of this. I think a book should be published soon regarding this. Josh Edery

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