Pappy, what did you do …

Randy Riley Contributing columnist

Randy Riley Contributing columnist

Stories and tall tales have been told to children by their grandparents for generations. The child simply needs to ask the question, “Pappy, what did you do during the ____?” (Fill in the blank.) Then, the bits and pieces of stories will roll out and the tales will flow.

It might be a simple question about our history. “Pappy, do you remember when President Kennedy was shot?” “Pappy, where were you when we landed on the moon?” “Pappy, what do you remember about 9/11?”

Our kids and grandkids tend to ask some great questions. We should always be prepared to give them good, solid answers that will explain things in an honest, straightforward manner.

Eventually, I always tell them the truth, but my grandkids also know that Pappy likes to start off by telling them a whopper of a story, a tall tale, something that will make them laugh and something that will remind them that Pappy can tell a real wacky story. Then, but after a little joshing, storytelling and laughing, they know that I’ll be honest with them.

At least, that is the way it’s always worked in our family, but I’m getting worried about the kinds of answers I might give them when they ask, “Pappy, what did you do during the pandemic?”

It is going to be hard for me to come up with a good answer to that question.

For over 20 years, I worked closely with the local emergency management agency (EMA) to keep Clinton County prepared for any disaster that might befall us. One of the frequently discussed concepts of the EMA is called shelter-in-place. That simply means stay home, shut the doors and windows, and wait until the all-clear sounds. Since the pandemic hit us in March, Debbie and I have basically sheltered-in-place.

I always go to Myrtle Beach the first week in March for a program called Seminar by the Sea. Our mornings are filled with discussions about church, religion and how to strengthen local churches. The afternoons are filled with golf. In the evening we find a nice place to eat, then it is back to the hotel for some poker and a few adult beverages. About 20 to 30 people are involved. It’s a great time.

This year, as were preparing to leave for South Carolina, there were hints and whispers coming from China and the Center for Disease Control about a novel coronavirus that might cause us some problems in the future. By the time we left South Carolina and headed home, there was serious conversation from the government about restricting travel within the United States. We weren’t sure whether Ohio would let us back in the state. Within just one week, we went from whispered concerns to a whirlwind of fear.

Our church services have been cancelled since then. We are getting used to church services being live streamed on Facebook and the adult Sunday School program being a Zoom-meeting, but it is certainly not the same. Seeing people walking around wearing face masks went from rare to everywhere.

We have frequently ordered take-out meals from our favorite local restaurants, but it’s just not the same. I miss the wait-staff, the smiles, the banter with fellow customers. It’s just not the same.

Our new idea of “going out to eat” means we are driving somewhere out of the county, to get something we can’t get locally. The White Castle drive-thru near Lebanon and the Sonics (with the old-fashion carhops) down near Landon have gotten some of our business. A few weeks ago, we drove to Urbana to get a bag-o-burgers from Crabill’s Hamburger Shoppe. If you haven’t been there, it an interesting place.

Besides worrying about where and what we were going to eat, we have sat around watching TV. I think we have binge-watched everything that anyone has ever recommended. This past week, I started watching Star Wars again. Beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, I binged my way through all nine movies. Then, I switch to the spin-off movies Rogue One and Solo. By the time I was finished, the Wookie was really starting to get on my nerves.

Almost every morning in April, I would walk downstairs to find Debbie already up, watching the news. I would ask, “Well, what new hell had this day brought us?” Her answer was usually, “More of the same. We’re still grounded.” I haven’t been grounded this long since I raided the farmer’s hen house with Steve Whitney in the fifth grade.

But, until this pandemic is over, we’ll continue to try more new recipes. We’ll get more carry-out and we will continue to stay home and watch television

What did Memaw and Pappy do during the pandemic? Almost nothing.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and a former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley Contributing columnist Riley Contributing columnist