By Mike Steely

My family and I have been fairly isolated for the past several weeks. The longer we stay cocooned, except for outings for prescription refills and food—which is seldom, the more interesting life becomes.

We have worked on yard and home projects as we’ve got lots to do inside and out. I’ve suffered a bit with a pulled lower back but that’s better and both my wife, Lettie, and I are keeping up activity in and around the house.

It’s always a struggle to keep up two acres of lawn and repair or clean a large four-bedroom house but we do. I admit Lettie does most of it and cooks and vacuums, etc. She’s younger than I am and has a lot more persistence and drive than I do. She’s managed to put in a small garden during the pandemic and I fenced it in to discourage rabbits.

Getting out for medicine refills is getting scary. Most people are out without masks. By far and away the largest number of younger people are shopping with no protection at all and not keeping a distance between themselves and others.

Most store clerks are wearing masks and a few wear gloves.

I follow the COVID-19 local count each day and the number of deaths locally is declining. The number of cases continues to climb although it seems to have slowed.

The most vulnerable portion of the population is the elderly and that includes my wife and I. Our adult boys come and go, hopefully, always wearing their masks. My wife put a sign on our back door that says “Use Hand Cleaner before Entering” and a bottle of it sits on the banister on the back porch.

Lettie has designed and sewed some masks with a wire over the nose and we both wear those when out. We worry about our sons when they visit and hope they are protecting themselves and others when they are away.

Covering meetings on the internet or on CTV Knoxville is a lot different than being in a live meeting. Interviewing people for stories on the phone or internet is awkward and time consuming. I’ve learned to voice or video record meetings and interviews.

Working with the staff of The Knoxville Focus is pretty much business as usual and they have been great. I always write my stories from my home and email them to the paper. I’ve noticed that being home doesn’t provide many photo opportunities for stories and I’ve gone to my photo library for a few.

Research is a bit limited to the internet and my own library and my “Day Away” columns are pretty limited to places a family can drive to without getting into a crowd. I am so fortunate to have a position where I can continue to work.

The Zoom meetings of commission, council, and others take longer than usual because every item must be voted on in a roll call vote. I’ve noticed that the public forums, if held at all, always involve the same citizens who want to speak. Some of those are interesting and some are just attacks on whatever body is meeting.

I have elected officials calling me or emailing me with comments or story ideas and some of those play out. I also have public officials that simply want to check on me to see how I am doing.

As frustrating as living at home during the pandemic has been, it could be a lot worse. I’ve been following the trials and fears of a family whose relative has been in the hospital for weeks. They were not, for many days, allowed to visit him and he’s elderly and confused.

A simple fall and a broken hip have taken him from a fairly healthy older man to a man at the edge of death. Waiting and wondering how someone is doing when you can’t see them is awful.  Not knowing is worse sometimes than knowing.

I’ve been in touch with my brother and sister, one in Louisiana and one in California, and they are both staying home and are safe.  My grandson, who lives with us, is safe as well. My wife has been in touch with her sisters and their families and, so far, they are safe also.

I’m sure that once public meetings are held again I’ll attend with a mask and gloves. I’m not fond of wearing the mask and my glasses often fog up but I’d like to be around a few more years for my family, my profession, and my own sake.