The term payback has recently taken on an entirely different meaning. Most of the time, when we use that term, it is in a negative sense. If a person does something wrong, the act often comes back to him and causes unhappiness. This is known as payback.
At this time, payback, which is a single word, is being conflated with a three-word term known as “paying it forward.” Currently, my offspring and their children are paying it forward, and I am the happy recipient.
When my children were young and went to sleepaway camp each summer, Hubby and I trudged up to the Catskills to be with them on Visiting Day. It was unheard of for parents not to visit their children on that all-important day. Fast-forward to the years when my offspring married and sent their children to camp, and things changed dramatically for Hubby and me.
By that time my husband was suffering with what many people refer to as a “bad back.” The pain that he suffered was real but the term remains laughable since nobody ever says he has a “good back.” Whenever I complained of a bad headache, he would playfully ask if I ever had a good headache. Because of what he called his “bad back,” Hubby was unable to make the trip. Yours truly, who had some back issues as well, was determined to give it a try and so I did — once! My one and only trip up to the campgrounds to visit my three young grandsons is legendary.
It was an unbearably hot and humid day and I was never certain which was worse: the drive to the camp or the day that I spent there. Suffice it to say that there was no second visit for me. Without a shred of embarrassment, I made it abundantly clear that from then on I would eschew camp visiting day. That event was not my thing and I would not be making a return trip that summer or any future summer.
We are now in the summer of 2020, and it is one of the saddest summers in recent memory. It’s important not to confuse sadness with depression. While most of us are not depressed, we are sad. If we aren’t worrying about COVID-19, we’re worrying about the ruthless, rioting mobs that roam the streets of some of our most beautiful cities. But thus far, it is due to fear of the virus that made its way from China that has many of us in lockdown. We don’t allow others into our homes and we do not enter their homes. Some of us do food shopping online but others march directly into their favorite supermarket. Gloves are optional. While some people wear them and others do not, everyone must wear a mask. Some are decked out in stylish and colorful masks, and others stick with wearing a plain white or blue mask. Those who choose not to go into a store and are unable or unwilling to shop online rely on adult children and grandchildren to do their food shopping. We also prevail upon younger friends and neighbors to help us.
Initially, I did all of my shopping online, and if certain items that I had ordered were not delivered, I asked my daughters or neighbors to get them for me. By late May, having been isolated for two months, I revised my thinking. Caution is still first and foremost with me, but I did make an adjustment. On three occasions, I arose at the crack of dawn, got dressed, and headed to the supermarket. The first time I went, I was there when it opened, which was the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. On all subsequent forays into that same store, I was forced to get a somewhat later start, as the place now opens at 7:00. This is not an hour when one wants to be up and about, but, as they say, “We gotta do what we gotta do.”
I still refuse to go to a restaurant. Certainly outdoor dining is considered safer than going inside an eatery. Nevertheless, still driven by caution, I have not done even that. All of my dining is done at home. It doesn’t qualify as fine dining, but it’s the best that I can do. Social distancing is difficult when eating at a restaurant. Some people do go and choose to sit six feet apart, but with the diminished hearing that afflicts the elderly, conversation is difficult at best. And intermingling with servers and busboys is inevitable and possibly a questionable position to be in. Additionally, it is not possible to eat while wearing a mask, unless one opts for a liquid meal and gets to it by slipping a straw under the mask. But that holds no appeal for most.
Since dining out does not work for me, and because isolation is unpleasant, the only solution is to have backyard visits with family and friends. Sometimes we visit at my place and other times at theirs. The days continue to run together, but those of us who opt to remain indoors and socially distant have learned to deal with it. During the week, I go to friends as often as they come to me. But as regards the visits that I get from family, each Shabbos I have one hope. That hope is that my kids think of this as paying it forward. Even my grandchildren, who received only that one camp visit from me, should think of it that way because that one day when I went to visit them at camp was so miserably hot and humid — and long — that it should qualify as multiple visits! In my opinion, that’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.