This is the fifth week of this series as we enter our second month of sheltering in place. I have again shifted the focus to another voice within our community. It’s a voice from an essential worker who until recently didn’t have to stay at home. As always, I hope these stories from a diversity of views demonstrates our commonality.
I interviewed a Rohnert Park resident working at the Coast Guard Training Center. He reported training is still happening, with modifications for safety and social distancing. For example, the base and most facilities are limited to permanent party. Retirees can’t access the base without an essential reason. The gym, playgrounds, and other recreational indoor facilities are closed. New students arriving must quarantine for two weeks before starting training. The mess hall is set up for social distancing with reduced tables, extra sanitation procedures, six foot spacing for entry. The on-base exchange has reduced hours. It’s open for essentials for those living in housing and barracks on the base. The Coast Guard and other military functions remain essential to the national security of our nation.
Married with two children, he’s in his mid-to-late fifties. Retired from active duty, he has almost 40 years with the Coast Guard. A training specialist, he is responsible for maintaining and updating their courses. His retirement accounts have taken a hit, but he is financially secure. He has his pension check and hasn’t been furloughed from his job at the base. He just started working from home on-line during this week. So, he doesn’t have to commute to his job now. It’s a little more difficult in that the design process for training materials and other updates takes a bit more time. He must rely on information from his subject matter experts instead of being able to watch them demonstrate steps and procedures in person.
His wife’s life hasn’t changed much. She left the work force a few years ago so impacts on her are minimal. She goes shopping less and her book club now meets on-line. She still can work in the yard, clean and cook for the family, read and watch her programs as before. His children both in their twenties are currently living at home. His son is continuing his education on-line at SRJC. His daughter closed her business. It wasn’t essential. She worries about paying her rent with no income coming in.
Musically inclined, he plays multiple instruments and performs with local bands. The money earned from his gigs was his little bit extra for dining out, going to the casinos or area concerts. That’s gone! Both the gigs and events have been cancelled. He misses them most. Music and his gigs were a passion and part of his social circle, even the weekly practices with his band mates. He also misses his workouts whether in the gym or on a run with his co-workers. Walking around his neighborhood on flat surfaces just doesn’t provide him the same physical workouts. However, what he is losing in muscle strength is offset by his body not hurting. Perhaps the pause is good for it.
He does see a few silver linings in his life. He enjoys reconnecting with his daughter. Both have time for each other instead of being busy and on-the-go. He is also enjoying the time with his son. He now is teaching his son to play the guitar. He also has more time to practice on his piano, an instrument that had given way to other instruments. Over and above appreciating his own gains during this time, he likes the reduced traffic and resulting help for the environment. He hopes when this is over, we can all see we don’t have to live excessive life’s, that this pause will help us understand what’s important; that we won’t take for granted what we have already. Some things he is eagerly awaiting are the restaurants opening; being able to play with his bandmates and bring back music to wine country and other venues; and being able to work and be with his other family and friends again.
Once more, I want to thank him for sharing his story with us. It’s not easy to share your story. However, if you’re interested in sharing your story with me for Part Six of this series, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, stay safe and be well.