Yearning for more exciting days

This ‘Life In Quarantine’ column originally ran on Sunday, May 3, 2020.

“I just want to do something fun.”

That’s the last thing my Mom said to me before we hung up the phone the other night. I pressed further.

“Like what?” I asked. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She said she didn’t know – just something fun.

My mom is 73. I can probably tell you all the fun things she isn’t wanting to do. She’s not itching to fly to Vegas to play the slots. She’s probably not researching skydiving opportunities within 20 miles from her current location. I also highly doubt she’s wanting to take the Richard Petty Driving Experience and drive 143 mph around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

My mom is not a thrillseeker, but she enjoys doing fun things like any other person. Fun might not be the right word she was thinking of. What I think she was saying more than anything is that she’s missing how things were before all of this.

I think she’s missing watching her little grandsons run amok in her backyard while she supervises from the deck. She’s missing church, book club and being able to go to the gym. She’s missing all of the gatherings – the planned ones and the unplanned ones. Ultimately, I think she’s missing something to look forward to.

The two words I hated most from my mom as a little kid were “we’ll see.”

Can we go out to eat tonight? “We’ll see.”

Can I have a friend stay over tonight? “We’ll see.”

Can we go to the store so I can buy a new toy? “We’ll see.”

“We’ll see” is not quite a hard and fast ‘no’, but it’s definitely not a clear ‘yes’ either. “We’ll see” was vague and ambiguous. And while it should have given me hope, like there was still a small chance I might be getting my way in the end, I still didn’t like to hear it.

I feel like we’re all living under a parental “we’ll see” order right now. Will we be able to gather for Mother’s Day? We’ll see. Will we be able to have a big family cookout on Memorial Day? We’ll see.

That’s the thing, no one knows. And that’s the hard part – you can’t really plan anything when you don’t have any clear answers. If you can’t plan anything, you certainly can’t look forward to anything either.

That’s what we’re all missing – something to look forward to. We are all missing something. Some of us are missing coworkers we don’t see anymore. Others of us are missing quality time with family and friends. We are missing milestone-like celebrations like birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.

We are missing the life we once knew.

I can relate. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for over a month now. I miss my Friday morning visits to Spruced Goose Station in McAdenville to order coffee from Tommy. I miss his smile and being greeted with a “Hello” in his finest Mrs. Doubtfire impression.

I miss eating breakfast for lunch at Waffle House. I miss sitting in that cozy booth and being taken care of by a waitress that keeps my coffee cup full and calls me sugar or lovebug the whole time I’m there.

I miss Thursday date nights with my girlfriend, Jillian. I miss eating dinner out at different restaurants around town. Takeout Thursdays are better than nothing, but it’s not the same.

More than anything, I miss handshakes, hugs and high fives. Elbow bumps just don’t cut it. But they have to. For now.

I think author John Green sums it up best when it comes to choosing hope in dark times. He said, ‘The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy. … Obviously not all stories end happily. We don’t always have good fortune, but hope gives us, as a species and as individuals, what we otherwise wouldn’t have: A chance.’

Until then, the days will continue to blur into each other, as we yearn for better, more exciting days. Is fun right around the corner? We’ll see.

Am I holding on to the hope that it is? You bet.

Columnist Ben Dungan has been writing about life has changed since the outbreak of the COVID-19. His column appears in the Spartanburg Hearld-Journal, The Gaston Gazette; The Shelby Star; and the Hendersonville Times-News.