Filling in your family tree is like a viral infection, growing exponentially over time. I use this analogy during these shut-in times of self quarantine, affording the opportunity to work on my genealogy hobby. What initially started with my birth name, Jerry Lee Bannister, has now grown to over 23,000 connections on multiple branches. It’s all part of my search for answers based on genetic data linking me to thousands of strangers that have have each somehow had a role in my life. Some of them I’ve actually met face-to-face, while communicating with others by phone or through message centers. On 23andMe, for example, I’ve identified 39 close cousins and marked each on my tree with a green DNA Match label. With Ancestry.com, I’ve done the same with 183 more relatives, including a half-sister connection.
On Ancestry there are over 86,000 confirmed DNA matches for me, but most are very distant cousin connections. 23andMe offers nearly 1,400 more, but includes duplicates like me that submitted samples to both companies. There are hundreds of other websites that offer genetic analysis, but I don’t have the financial resources or motivation to do more comparative testing. Besides, even in retirement, I wouldn’t have time to figure out exactly how each relates to me. Every match requires a considerable amount of detective work, utilizing public records, newspaper articles, obituaries, social media sites, and other family trees that are often based on speculation. In some cases, only initials are provided to identify the sample, while others openly include a picture, birth date, sex, family names, and locations. As a result, my tree contains lots of arguable connections, but my goal is to find patterns of DNA matches as they relate to my birth parents – close is good enough!
I have yet to make contact with my birth mother, but she is still alive and approaching her 87th birthday. My birth father died 9 years ago, but at least I have met his family. They were, of course, surprised that I existed but could see the strong resemblance. It was a surreal experience! I know that my birth mother and her family were equally shocked by my inquiries, but have elected not to respond. I don’t see any point in pushing it, even though I have many questions. I’ve discovered many answers through adoption records and DNA patterns to confirm that my information is correct. Without their help, I will continue to investigate new matches that pop-up every day on these websites. For example, Ancestry shows over 700 new connections, as more and more people submit saliva samples every day.
The past few days of our governor-initiated-stay-at-home-order here in Oregon have included many hours of family tree trimming. I’ve uncovered connections with several close cousins including Elsa Stigdon-Schneider and her daughter Bethany Jurs, Ronald Barnes, Steve A. (Alexander), Marie Hamilton, and Pat Barnard. I also sent a message to a woman named Rayne Hubbard in nearby Canby to see if she could help clarify a mutual relationship with Terry Grimshaw. Terry was very helpful in providing birth records and census identification on my bio mom as I began my search years ago, but we’ve yet to find a common relative despite sharing DNA. Unfortunately, only about half the messages I send get any response, as people are often reluctant to get involved with a stranger, despite our common genetic backgrounds. In the process, I’ve spent a lot of time in a chair in front of the computer expanding the Jerry Banister Family Tree. Predictably, I’m once again developing all the familiar symptoms of what I call Banister Butt! (See Post #619).
If it weren’t for my morning exercises and run, I would be a total slug in these stay-at-home times. Even my computer was acting sluggish in pulling up the image for today’s feature. The days pass slowly even though retirement has given me a head start on being a couch potato. The biggest decision is often choosing which TV program to watch, as many times I’ll lazily repeat the same episode over-and-over to add some comforting background noise. I did see the sun this morning and the Dow Jones index somehow continues to rise. It just seems odd that we have to print more money and offer stimulus packages to keep the economy afloat. It could all soon backfire if these measures don’t take hold, driving our nation’s deficit into an even deeper hole.
I knew this election year would be crazy but never anticipated anything like this. It was why we decided to sell our house, worried that market prices might fall. I’m still hoping that we can capitalize on low interest rates and buy a retirement home in Florida, especially considering the flexibility it gave us to move. Instead, we’re confined to to a very small apartment with orders from the Governor to stay home. As if, this was really a home! At least we have access to plenty of carry-out options. In fact, last night would normally had been “Date Night,” but was changed to “Carry-Out Night.” There are also no longer “Matinee Mondays,” more like 24-hour Netflix, and “Leadership Meetings” have evolved into simply phone calls. “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” so right Mr. Dylan.
I’m at the low end of my typical daily step count, averaging in the neighborhood of 12,000 with too many of those between my desk and the refrigerator. I’m also eating a lot of comfort foods like meatloaf, toasted cheese, and pizza that’s causing some weight gain. I’m feeling pudgy and sluggish, up about five pounds, unlike the overall direction of the stock market. Life is moving slowly without the prospect of travel. It takes the fun out of retirement, not to mention dealing with the constant threat of sickness that we’re all facing. In fact, I saw a disturbing post on Facebook about a friend that many have some of the flu-like symptoms. It’s not someone I’m particularly close to, but still brings the possibility closer. The virus probably feasts on the softness of a slug, as I sit here waiting for a potential, invisible strike!
Britain’s Prince Charles has tested positive for the virus. It adds some reality to the whole situation, although fortunately Corona has yet to strike close to home for me. Does this mean it has evolved into the Crownonavirus? Sad, but you have to admit, it’s at least better than another toilet paper joke. It is important to maintain a sense of humor in these tough times, but too many times it can come back to haunt the source. For example, Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, mockingly touched all the microphones and tape recorders just before being tested positive. More recently, a Spring Break beach-goer defied social distancing guidelines and commented, “if I get corona, I get corona.” Well, he did, and now he’s apologizing for his cavalier statements.
We all feel a sense of invulnerability when it comes to health issues. “That would never happen to me,” is the common thought process. With athletes, movie stars, politicians, and now even royalty being affected, obviously no one is safe. It’s really a simple request to stay away from others – “six feet away rather than six feet deep” is my recommended campaign slogan. As reports on viral spread first started coming out, I was already fighting a bad cough & cold with thoughts for sure I was a victim. However, I don’t believe I ever had a fever, and it turned out to be allergies. In the process, I was guilty of jumping on a plane while others took a more responsible approach and stayed home. In my defense, it was right on the fringe of the outbreak and Spring Training games had yet to be canceled. Everything changed in the two-hour span of that flight to Phoenix. I now apologize for my selfish attitude.
I was one to never miss a day of work or school, just as now I never skip a single day of running. I’m sure I carried many a cold or worse to the office with my selfish need to simply be there. It was just part of my personal discipline, without concern for others. I honestly looked down on those who stayed home because they didn’t feel well. By the same token, I was at first determined not to let the Coronavirus change my life. Just in the last two weeks, I’ve become a bit of a germaphobe, scared of the invisible enemy. I now wash my hands incessantly, keep my distance from others, and use the apartment-building-supplied wipes to open doors. In fact, my body is so saturated with sanitizers and soap that peeing actually cleans the toilet. If it weren’t for running and dog walking, I wouldn’t even go outside. However, I’m not ready for gloves and a mask yet. Travel plans over the next few months have been reluctantly canceled. This disease threat is definitely no joke!
A big surge in the Dow Jones Index this morning is a pleasant greeting, once again topping the 20,000 mark. As the economic roller coaster continues, it will undoubtedly be a different story this afternoon. Is there consolation in knowing that you only lost half of what you thought? A call to my financial adviser yesterday brought this temporary relief, but still a big chuck on savings have disappeared. Today I’ll make some more cancellation calls for upcoming travel plans. The good news is that someday I’ll get the thrill of re-booking these dream adventures. Even the Olympics have now been postponed for a year so that will eliminate the Trials date on my shrinking calendar of things to anticipate. Tomorrow, I will have a new episode of Curse of Oak Island to watch and then Ozark starts a new season. Watching TV is about the only thing left to do.
Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, issued the “stay at home order” yesterday as expected. Traffic on the streets this morning workday was spotty, making my run less of a challenge. The blossoming cherry trees lining the Willamette River at the half-way point are a welcome sight after avoiding the growing number of homeless camps surrounded by trash. Other than a couple of quick outings with our schnauzer Tally, it will be my only exposure to the outdoors today, with the expectation of rain. To ease the not-so-unpleasant boredom, I’ll do some work on my Ancestry.com tree, as I continue to look for DNA connections with the Ban(n)ister family that brought me into the world. With the current COVID-19 situation, that’s not such a good thing!
My son has managed to hold on to his restaurant job despite the difficulties in that industry, but his wife has lost some crucial paycheck hours. It’s a reminder of how lucky I am to no longer be in the workforce. I can’t imagine trying to sell advertising to businesses that are being discouraged from generating traffic. Although, it has been proven that maintaining a presence will help them recover quicker once things get back to normal. By the opposite extreme, my wife’s youngest daughter in healthcare is overwhelmed by the demands of her job. The money we planned to spend on travel this year will probably go to support our struggling families.
It’s hard to maintain the sense of humor that was my initial goal in writing this blog every day. Toilet paper jokes have already lost their appeal. Facebook posts show the desperation of those stuck at home. Watching the news and political upheaval only adds to the depression, so many have turned to music, uninterrupted by Coronavirus updates. Fortunately, I’m not yet aware of a single person in my circles that has been affected by the virus, although several have reported being exposed. This just makes the whole situation seem unrealistic, as we stay home and wait for the invisible enemy to show itself.
By the end of the day, the Oregon governor will have issued a “stay at home” order that will realistically have little effect on my retirement plans. Under normal circumstances, I would have been in Dallas this morning for a Spring Training game between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers. Instead, I’ll spend most of the day watching TV, starting with a fresh new episode of Outlander. Fortunately, I can still continue my outdoor running as long as I maintain a wide berth from others. Otherwise, my days tend to be even more sedate than retirement. It’s frustrating to sit here and watch my dreams go down the toilet because of an invisible bug.
On the positive side, my cough is finally going away after weeks of irritation. The Arizona climate actually acerbated my allergies rather than bringing the warm weather cure I was seeking. Now that I’m back in Portland, despite the cold and rain, the hacking has finally come to an end. It was undoubtedly a concern to others as one of the Coronavirus symptoms. Fortunately, it was never accompanied by a fever. Everyone is frightened by this invisible enemy and growing paranoid of any sneeze or sniffle. It’s an unprecedented experience in my lifetime.
I’ve been threatened by war and frightened by thieves, monsters, and bullies. These are the visible enemies that we’ve all perhaps encountered in our lives. We’ve read of pandemic outbreaks throughout history and seen them affect other countries. Coronavirus is the first to infect my life. It’s already taken away my freedom and my savings, and could weaken or kill. I can only fight it through isolation and cleanliness. We can’t even see it coming like a cloud of locusts, tornado, bomb, or forest fire. It could be lurking in this very room right now, ready to attack without notice. It’s the invisible enemy!
It’s official – every advanced sports, concert, or film ticket that I’ve purchased has now been canceled, leaving plenty of blank spaces on my calendar. I will soon be receiving my money back from suppliers for Spring Training, Sturgill Simpson, and the certain to be delayed Olympic Trials. However, airlines continue to fly, so that temptation continues to be a lure. Not one of my future travel plans with regard to planes or hotels has yet to be changed, refunded, or delayed in any manner. Borders have been closed but roads are not blocked. I guess it’s entirely up to me as it gets closer to the dates for Bali, Egypt, and Hawaii. In the words of The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go?”
People are now starting to get over-sensitive about receiving visitors or tourists. The residents around the Oregon beaches are complaining about the “crowds” coming to the Coast in search of fresh air. People are not respecting the “stay at home” recommendations, so stronger measures may need to be enforced. For the past few days, the only times I’ve left the house is to run, take the dog out, or get carry-out. I plan to remain in this mode for at least the next month. Admittedly, I was one who violated early pleas and got on a plane to Arizona. I’m sure I was viewed to be wearing a flashing “Intruder Alert” sign. Since returning home, I’ve vowed to maintain six-feet of separation from the rest of humanity.
I wonder what this viral tragedy has done for the murder rate? People are more aware than ever of maintaining safe distances and the streets of major cities are shockingly empty. Pick-pockets must be out of business, as well as kissing bandits. However, with people stuck at home with little to do, there will be lots of Christmas babies and timely tax deductions. On the other hand, too much time together will certainly lead to higher divorce rates. Unemployment is surely on the rise and our economy in jeopardy. Is a recession just around the corner? Travel will not be a priority for anyone – even us retirees.
Sometime in the future, travelers will once again be welcome guests rather than health threats. We’ll be hugging and kissing again as opposed to being viewed as sources of potential infection. We’ll eventually share a restaurant dining room instead of running away with to-go bags. Cruise ships and airplanes won’t be considered viral death traps. Social distancing will return to slow dancing and life will once again be normal. After all, there’s nothing more painful than when sirens and flashing lights go off when you get too close to others. “Intruder Alert!”
This morning I spotted several tempting pennies on the ground, but they were too close to a homeless camp. Normally, I would have picked them up as a sign of good luck, but recent personal hygiene dangers stopped me from enjoying and collecting the treasure. Instead, I let them rest on the ground, hoping that someone who could use them more than just a nod from an angel would pick them up. For me, it was another sign of troubled times, along with donating to my son’s Go Fund Me page for his furloughed fellow restaurant employees. It’s tough out there for everyone!
On the selfish side, I can feel my travel dreams slowly slipping away. Travel is what I worked for in retirement and now that we finally have the freedom to see the world…it’s closed. We had the entire year set-up and virtually paid for in advance, but now the travel bug will grow hungry. I do realize that this is a very petty concern in lieu of homelessness, sickness, and unemployment, but mixed emotions are currently flooding my mind. Do I focus on me and my family or worry about the woes of the world?
It’s all connected! As the stock market and related economy tumbles, there’s less money for us to spend on travel and a retirement dream home. Painful compromises will need to be made that were not a concern two weeks ago when toilet paper and wipes weren’t gold. Anymore, a good day is just waking up without a cough and fever. For at least the next month, we’ll stay home and adhere to the distancing guidelines necessary to “flatten the curve.” In retrospect, I regret our selfish decision to hop on a plane last week just before the “dam(n)” broke. Sadly, the Corona Bug has devoured my Travel Bug!
It’s back to reality and the deserted streets of downtown Portland. A discussion with my son in the Florida restaurant business has me worried about the future of his family. I’m back at my desk trying to craft a few words to summarize our trip to Arizona and decided on a poem:
Instead of spreading,
Or toasting with,
A Guinness beer.
We saw our savings,
Go down the drain.
While toilet paper,
Made folks insane.
Our Courtyard Hotel,
Was a ghost town.
Began to abound.
The six of us,
Of thirteen planned.
Dined on meatloaf,
And washed our hands.
A baseball game.
The world became,
A viral shame.
We shared a dream,
About “eating a peach.”
And talked of cars,
Two more went home,
We were down to four.
No tourney to watch,
Not a single score.
But a double rainbow,
Held fortunate appeal.
And Ted served up,
A “delicate” meal.
So off to Marana,
A full day early.
While life as we knew it,
Turned really squirrelly.
The sun came out,
As we quarantined.
A viral spiral,
Now forced to heed.
We met the neighbors,
And the construction crew.
Watching them “crown,”
Was something to do.
The restaurants were open,
Through St. Pat’s eve.
But most were shuttered,
By time to leave.
We made a brief escape,
To Dillinger’s hotel.
And the ladies did Tubac,
Intrigued by a bell.
The guys went to Sam’s,
To find the shelves bare.
Yet our hosts were gracious,
Their goodies to share.
It was a memorable reunion,
Despite a world of trouble.
We were comfortable and safe,
In the Laegeler bubble.
The wine case we brought,
That soothed our woes.
We shipped back full,
Of wipes & dirty clothes.
copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com
The world has drastically changed since we left home a week ago. The plan was to go to Spring Training and soak-up some Arizona sunshine. Our Oregon and California travel partners were more responsible and decided not to join us, but we were also joining friends who lived here. While we were on the plane to Phoenix, the games were canceled followed by everything else, and I began to feel guilty about being here. Although we found alternative things to do and visited with the people we had originally planned, there was still a disturbing sense of being socially irresponsible.
We are not doing our part in flattening the curve of infection risk. We could easily be exposed on the way home, a risk that should have probably been avoided in the first place. Obviously, our travel partners had a better sense of what could happen by venturing away from home. We’re also lucky that our route back to Portland is still open. More flights will soon be canceled and airports closed. Once we finally arrive, it will be a welcome homecoming filled with relief. Our dog-sitter can return to her home and Tally will be back in our arms. At that point, we’ll make some decisions on future travel plans.
Some of my weekly routine has remained intact despite the viral disruption. I’ve been able to run every day and watch my regular programs like Outlander and Curse of Oak Island. It will be great to get back home and settle into full retirement mode. By the same token, it will just be eerie to see the deserted streets of downtown Portland where even the movie theaters are closed. Thankfully, they are still doing carry-out at the Chinese restaurant at the entrance to our apartment building. Shortly, I will finish packing and we’ll head to the airport for what hopefully will be an uneventful trip home.
The countdown to home has begun, as only 24 hours remain until we get on a plane back to Portland. At that point, everything will become more realistic. We’ll no longer be in the Tucson bubble, protected from the big city viral risks. We’ll be exposed to the masses at the airports, in addition to fellow-fliers and public transportation users. My cough continues to persist and it will certainly draw the evil eye of others, wondering if I am a carrier. We brought a case of wine with us on the trip here, but the now empty box will soon be filled with flush-able wipes, expecting toilet paper supplies to be a growing concern.
Instead of going to baseball games, we made several visits to Costco and Sam’s Club to stock-up on supplies. Our friends have a grand-baby and another on the way, so they want to have plenty of household inventory. We’ve braved the long lines with only limited success. According to my wife’s daughter, staples are even harder to find in Portland. Oregon has remained a cautious step-ahead of Arizona in shutting down restaurant/bars and limiting group gathering, so we’ve been able to dine-out the past few days without much hassle. I’m getting ready to print our boarding passes for a hopeful flight back, before the airports shut-down as well. We’ve certainly stretched our luck in continuing this stretch away from the apartment we now call home.
I’ve been able to run every day in warmth and even got a little color back in my face, but I haven’t been able to shake this stubborn cough. I plan to see the doctor when I get back. Hopefully, it’s just allergies as I suspect. When we lived in Austin, Texas, I had similar issues with cedar and developed vocal cord issues. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy one more night of heavy wine consumption. Yesterday, my college buddy made us a couple of margaritas to celebrate St. Pat’s Day. I also had a few vodka martinis the night before at dinner, but mostly it’s been bottomless glasses of vino. I came to Arizona hoping to dry-out my sinuses, but will need to leave in an effort to dry-out on booze.
This could be the last travel for some time, having canceled some future dates. We’re still not sure about San Francisco in April, Bali in May, or our building plans for Florida. Glacier National Park and Egypt may also not be possible this summer. This could, in fact, be the last 24 hours of travel this year, depending on viral spread, the stock market, and the economy in general. It will be sad to leave our friends here in the desert, but I’ll feel more secure when we get home tomorrow.