TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Live Smart But Keep Living

I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to arrange a flight home from West Virginia University for India. As I write, West Virginia is the only state in the union without a documented case of the Coronavirus, still things feel a little safer out here in our prairie isolation.

It feels a little like it did in the days after 9/11 — the uncertainty — but we’re nothing if not resilient, and we got through that, too. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with Dylan and India and we’ve developed a couple of mantras we think will hold us in good stead as we deal with this surreal reality.

We’re trying to “live smart but keep living” with “no unforced errors.” The kids are young and healthy but understand that they have a responsibility to the rest of the herd to practice “social distancing,” the new catchphrase in these times. Introverts and anti-social people, this is your time.

After India runs the gauntlet of several airports, she’ll isolate in the old church I moved to our property about 10 years ago. I can’t say I restored the church for any other reason other than a love for old churches, but it seems prescient now, and with a kitchen, bedrooms, shower, television and WiFi, she’ll be comfortable for the time she’ll be there. With WVU shut down, classes will be conducted online.

She hopes to work as a CNA again at the nursing home this summer. The duties of medical professionals and law enforcement won’t go away as this pandemic comes and goes, and it will go. Seasonal allergies are kicking in and will fuel hypochondria, but call the clinic first if you have symptoms that concern you. Don’t just go in.

It’s a bit of a challenge to change bad habits. Don’t touch your face. Be more diligent about washing your hands. And for me, it’s about learning to be more efficient with my trips to the store, to be more organized, to do in one trip what I lazily might do in two or three. Across the country shelves have been emptied because when everyone gets an extra this or that, the supply chain can’t catch up. In Ashley, N.D., I’ve seen no signs of panic. Yes, there was a small run on bathroom tissue and disinfectant wipes, but only the sale items. So if you’re willing to pay regular price, you’re good. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the character of North Dakotans? We’ll panic but only at sale price. The supply of kuchen seems adequate.

There are hints of green in the places where the snow has melted away, and soon enough the farmers will be in the fields and in the barn bringing calves into the world. The promise of spring. Funny thing, too, the sun keeps coming up. Weirdly, I can’t wait to plant something in the yard and mow the grass.

I’m betting like me, a lot of you have stacks of unread books. It might be a good time to tackle them. Call an old friend. Practice self-care. After filling my head to the brim with Coronavirus news the other day, I settled in for a comedy.

I also watched “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” recently. It’s directed by John Ford, features John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles, Andy Devine and Lee Marvin, and they’re all wonderful. Spoiler alert: Liberty Valance gets shot.

In time, we’ll have a better idea of the scope of this pandemic, and knowledge is power. That said, Facebook is not your friend unless you’re restricting your news feed to credible news sources — and that’s not a meme or a post from a “friend of a friend of a friend.” Gargling with saltwater or vinegar won’t help you, but I’m not against gargling.

Let’s set the conspiracy theories aside for the moment. As always, newspapers will be the backbone of credible reporting. Your local paper will let you know what city, school and county government is doing. Avoid rumors. I can tell you that almost always the rumors that come through my door turn out to be false. Last week on Facebook people were sharing condolences about the death of a local man who hadn’t died. Paul McCartney’s doing fine, too.

Live smart but keep living. No unforced errors.

Let’s talk again next week.

Editor’s note: India is home safe and cooking gourmet meals for herself for a couple of weeks. Tony writes two weekly columns; this one appears in weeklies in North Dakota and South Dakota and in some dailies. Bender owns two newspapers in Ashley and Wishek, N.D. www.mcintosh-star-tribune.com. He also writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum Communications.

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