In war, a foxhole is a space in the ground that troops use as a shelter against enemy fire. When you’re on the line, leaving that foxhole is a dangerous and potentially fatal action. The COVID-19 Pandemic isn’t war – but I feel the risk when I leave the house. I have to have a purpose, I have to be careful. It may not matter how careful I am, I could get hit anyway. My chances are never zero. I now know many people that have been infected and several that have died. It’s a rough time.
Life has to go on, of course. Working from home helps a lot – and we’ve been eating takeout as we can to help support our local eateries. Mom used to say, “None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.” So it’s good medicine to take some joy where we can find it; I find quite a bit of joy behind the steering wheel. The controlled bubble of my automobile and limited outdoor interactions feel somewhat safe. Here’s a bit of what’s been going on lately.
Mom’s grave marker was, indeed, finally installed. It was put into the ground a few days shy of what would’ve been her 66th birthday. It does help now to have a physical place to go and visit, though I still have raw moments where the loss hits me anew. I’m thankful that I have a partner that sees that fragility and provides the support I need. I don’t know where I’d be otherwise.
Speaking of Samantha: in October, we celebrated five years married (seven years together)! With the state of the world, we stayed close to home and drove the Talimena Scenic Byway. It was nice to see something new together for a change. Samantha always makes up a Road Trip Song on our journeys and this was not an exception. She chirped cheerfully from the passenger seat as we wove along State Highway 1 in Le Flore County. If you run into her, ask her about Queen Wilhelmina State Park.
One positive that came out of my mother’s passing earlier this year: meeting my half-sister. Almost a decade before I came along, Mom gave birth to a little girl and was forced to give her up for adoption. Mom had filled out the paperwork to try and find her a few years back but hesitated to finish the process out of fear of rejection. I found that paperwork and took those last steps. In October, I drove up to Shawnee, Kansas to meet Kim. It was an amazing experience – one that is still in the early stages. It has been a real bright spot in a year devoid of them.
On that trip to Kansas, I took the opportunity to drive to Topeka and show Sam where I lived from 1999-2001. I hadn’t been back in about 15 years and had to use my GPS to find my way around. We drove by the old house, the Blockbuster Video I worked at, Dad’s old office. I saw the city with new eyes; I didn’t even own a camera back then. It was bitterly cold but we took a few minutes to walk around the state capitol building and the old train station. I was frankly shocked; it’s like my years as a resident had been a dream.
Back in Tulsa, The Brookshire Motel I long advocated for preservation was finally razed. Last I wrote, it had suffered from yet another fire – it’s a long, sad saga (the history of which I captured here) and I hated to see it end in such a fashion. But at the end of the day you can only do so much if the necessary parties cannot be convinced. Such a shame.
I had the week of Thanksgiving off and it didn’t feel right to just sit at home the whole time, so I took a day trip to Southern Missouri to see some bridges and small-town sights. The weather was perfect – not too cold, partly cloudy. It almost felt like old times. A small restored D-X Service Station in Cassville, Missouri was my main destination and it didn’t disappoint. It was restored a few years ago as a passion project of a local builder. 100% worth the drive!
If you’re reading this from Tulsa, then you know about the rare and beautiful snow we had in the middle of December. I seriously cannot remember the last time we had such big, beautiful flakes descend from the heavens and blanket the city. I was able to get out and capture some of my favorite local landmarks while the snow was still falling. It didn’t stick around very long, but I sure loved it while it was here.
Christmas was different. It was just Samantha, her mother, and me here at the house. We had a video chat with my brother down in Ada and with Sam’s family in New York. Honestly, all of that was lovely. There was sadness and grief, of course – but those moments were embraced with love and support. Not to mention a ton of delicious food!
Every year, Samantha pleads with me to save bows and boxes as we can reuse them in the future. Because of her insistence, she presented me with a handwritten gift tag from Mom that I otherwise would’ve discarded when it wasn’t as important. It means so much to me. Yet another example of how she has made this year bearable.
Finally, how about a photo from a quick day-trip to Chickasha? They set up a giant, inflatable leg lamp from the 1983 film ‘A Christmas Story’ right on Main Street. It’s not totally random, either: the lamp was inspired by an original creation from town native Noland James. Noland passed away earlier in 2020 and the general public became aware of the connection. The city is hoping to raise enough money to build a permanent installation.
Those are my short forays into the world; the rest of my time has been spent at home, keeping my head down and being patient as a resolution unfolds. We’re still a ways off from Normal, yes…but every new day is one day closer. Here’s to 2021 and the promise of another new beginning.