Checking the Website

We are developing a new routine at our house. Every Friday, at noon or very close to it, we check a web site that advises us on whether or not there will be any vaccine available for us to receive our Covid-19 shots. So far the web site has advised “No First-Dose Appointments Currently Available.” Although we qualify for the “Phase 1-B, Tier 1” vaccinations our county has not been able to obtain the amount of vaccine needed to meet the demand. It could be a month or more before we are able to get our first dose. In the meantime, we are relatively safe. We keep to our bubble of family, are careful with face masks when we need to go out in public to the grocery store or post office, wear our masks when walking where there are others in sight, and do a lot more business by telephone and video conference than ever before in our lives. Yesterday we completed our Social Security interviews over the telephone - a ritual that used to involve a trip to the Social Security office, but now involves an Internet sign-up and a follow-up phone call.

We are delighted to hear from friends that they have received their first, and in many cases, now, second doses of the vaccine. We know that the country is making progress in getting people vaccinated and we understand that we have no reason to expect special treatment while we wait. We are at a phase in our lives where we can afford patience.

I was wondering, yesterday, how the process is going for some who are older than us. I have friends who are in their eighties who don’t use a computer. I suspect that they use the telephone to check on the availability of vaccine in their areas, and I suspect that using the phone involves several skills, including getting through a series of automated messages and keypad choices, that weren’t required when they were in their working years. I suspect that there are some who aren’t succeeding in getting on the list. When your priority is vaccinating the elderly, requiring a specific set of computer skills might not be the best way to reach your target audience.

Meanwhile, we have a friend who I suspect is doing just fine. We first met Ethel back in 1985, as we prepared to move to Boise, Idaho from Hettinger, North Dakota. She was a member of the church we had been called to serve and the wife of the realtor with whom we were working to purchase our first house. They had invited us over to their house, which was fairly new and built all on one level with a delightful sun room and a swimming pool in the back yard. Ethel’s husband, Ken, called the house his garage sale special. They went to an estate sale that was being held at a garage on a lot in town where there was no house. They ended up buying the garage and the lot and building their house next to the garage. Ethel put her home economics education to work helping a national super market chain set up their in-store delis and conducting baking demonstrations for a frozen bread dough company out of a motorhome. We have stayed in touch with Ethel, mostly by mail, since those days. We followed her through her retirement and the loss of her husband. It turns out that our first grandchild was born on Ethel’s birthday, so it is easy for us to remember her at this time of the year. Their shared birthday is next Tuesday. Our grandson will turn 10. Ethel will turn 101. She still lives in her beloved house, independent and happy. Her children check in on her from time to time and have helped her with home maintenance chores and some of her shopping, but she remains capable, active and involved.

Last week we received a letter from Ethel, handwritten with a school teacher’s neat penmanship. At least school teachers prided themselves with neat penmanship back in the day when she was a school teacher. I don’t know if that skill is as necessary in today’s world of Zoom classes and Internet-based education. The letter has prompted me to work at my own penmanship. I have been practicing my printing as we help with home school for our grandchildren. Although they have regular keyboarding drills, cursive writing doesn’t seem to be part of the curriculum at this point. So I try to be very precise and neat with my printing when working with the children.

I don’t know if I will make it to 101, but I’m trying to keep myself physically and mentally fit just in case I do. That means getting exercise every day. It also means keeping my mind sharp and alert. The library is a good partner in the mental exercise department and my wife is a great partner in the physical exercise department. When I’m feeling a bit lazy and tempted to skip a day, she gets me going and keeps me fit. Now I’m adding a bit of hand writing to the routine. I still do most of my correspondence on the computer, typing letters and emails to friends, but I’ve taken to adding hand-written notes to my letters and making sure that I write cards to family and friends. I want to keep my handwriting legible as long as possible. If I make it to 101, I sure wish I could be like Ethel, writing letters that are received and treasured by those blessed to be the recipients. By then, I suspect, a hand-written letter will be a rare flash back to an earlier time - a kind of antique. Still, I’d like the skill to last for the rest of my life at least.

My computer and the next generations of computers are, however, a part of my life. I’ll keep doing the majority of my writing at the keyboard. After all I have to keep up my computer skills in order to make appointments. A pandemic seems to be a good time to practice new skills.

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