Dean woke up startled. Grudgingly he rolled over and looked at the clock. This was the third morning in a row that he had woken up at 4:30. He considered it the curse of old age not being able to sleep. It seemed to have gotten worse during the coronavirus pandemic.

While Dean did not consider himself invincible, he always felt he was in control of his life. Even though he was no longer young, he did not think of himself as old and at great risk of dying if he caught the virus.

Dean had continued doing most things as he had always done. The crops were planted in a timely fashion and his daily chores were completed like clockwork. But things were different.

Previously, Dean would occasionally go downtown and meet with other farmers for morning talk. That came to a stop. While he enjoyed the time seeing others, not being able to talk wasn’t a big deal in his mind.

He did find the news to be particularly annoying. It seemed like every day and every night there was a constant chant of the virus, the death count, and how everyone should isolate. Like most farmers, he considered himself a bit of a loner. So not having as much contact with other people had not been a difficult adjustment.

Every summer, Dean and his wife traveled to visit children scattered across the country. This year a few of the kids came to visit them. They also made one trip to visit a son who lived 12 hours away. But the visit was short and they were careful not to interact with people at gas stations and rest stops on their trip. The experience was a bit different but he told himself it was still enjoyable.

Waking up early the last few mornings caused Dean to feel restless. It seemed there was something in his life that just wasn’t right. But he couldn’t seem to identify what the problem was as he laid in bed. It wasn’t until the middle of the day that the answer came to him.

Much as he hated to admit it, he was lonely. The only person he saw regularly was his wife. They got along fine but he had not changed his routine from what it was before the virus hit. He would get up in the morning and start working outside, usually returning back to the house about 5:00 o’clock. After supper, there were always projects to do out in the shop and around the farm buildings. It wasn’t really farm work but things he enjoyed doing.

Evenings passed quickly and Dean would come back into the house at 8:30 or 9:00 to shower and call it a day. It seemed that his wife grew more and more distant as the months went by.

He never felt his short conversations at the farm store or co-op to be particularly important for his own well being. But now he realized that he went day after day without having any significant conversations with anyone other than his wife. Church had stopped, school activities had all been canceled, and many people that they used to associate with looked upon any visitors as if they were bringing death into their home.

While he considered himself better than average at using the computer, Dean found internet meetings less than adequate. He also realized it’s difficult to interpret people’s feelings when they wear masks and you cannot see their mouths. Individually none of these things were a big deal, but collectively over six months they were starting to have an effect on him and his life.

As he considered the situation, Dean realized that his wife, who was really quite social before the virus, was now home almost all of the time. While she filled her time with projects and regular household things, most days she had very little interaction with anyone including him. He realized that he was part of the problem and resolved to make concerted efforts to improve things.

Instead of going outside early, Dean stayed inside or came back inside to have breakfast with his wife. They started talking about things that were going on and also their children. Dean also resolved to make sure the kitchen was clean each morning and their bed was made before he left. These weren’t difficult tasks, but he realized doing them everyday would show kindness to his wife.

Dean also resolved that the two of them would try to leave the farm several evenings a week. Sometimes they just went for a drive. Some nights they drove to a nearby park and walked. Occasionally they visited friends and people they knew. It was a bit of a pain to socially distance but with a little practice and bringing their own chairs, they sat outside and visited. Over the course of the next few weeks he felt a marked improvement in their home life.

Dean also tried to spend more time with his children. He quickly found out that although the coronavirus had seemed to slow things down for him, his children were still as stressed and busy as before.

Some of their children lived close by and as long as they were healthy they could get together and visit. Most of the visits were outside but occasionally they were inside. His children did not want to take the chance of giving the virus to their “elderly parents.” At first this was a humbling realization, but he understood what they were concerned about. And so the visits continued, with Dean and his wife following the rules so their children felt safe and comfortable.

Dean also tried to do some new things. He and his wife were never big on eating out and now it wasn’t really an acceptable activity for the most part. On occasion they brought home pizza or sometimes Chinese food. Dean thought it would be a good time for him to expand his personal barbecuing and smoking skills. On one Friday night he even cooked some shrimp.

Over the next six months as the pandemic continued, Dean and his wife grew closer as time went by. They were safe with each other and with a little planning and determination were able to do some things that they never considered. So there was an upside to the virus for each of them. They were not able to see some of their friends because of the risk involved, but there would be time for that after the virus was over.

Dean’s barbecuing skills never became legendary but his ability to find good in the circumstances surrounding him improved exponentially. He found renewed happiness spending time with his wife and children. Although he still woke up early some mornings, Dean felt happy with his life.


Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at plans@bobdunaway.com.