Life’s a Beach by Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

As I write, more than 75 million Americans are under orders to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

This sweeping statewide step taken by Gov. Gavin Newsom marks a first for Californians and forces us to redefine our day-to-day lives.

I’m struggling to adjust to an ever-changing world but taking some steps to adapt. As we cope with the effects of the coronavirus, instead of writing my typical monthly column, I’ll write an atypical weekly column.

My hope is to offer a little levity and laughter as we combat a menacing pandemic wreaking physical, emotional and financial havoc.

As I navigate this paralyzing pandemic challenging our collective sanity, I’m relying on laughter more than ever.

A few weeks ago, my older son and his girlfriend drove from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to visit her family. After working remotely for weeks, their apartment walls were closing in fast.

When they departed L. A., they drove to our house, planning to spend a few days before returning north. It’s been two weeks since their arrival.

The fallout from the coronavirus transforms our household of three to a party of five for the foreseeable future.

After a fun couple of days together, reality hit, and we struck some bumps in the road; but we’re paving a positive path forward and adjusting to our close quarters.

I’m sure I’m not the only one experiencing the toll that five people working remotely in one house takes on Internet connections and family interactions.

My older son is enforcing strict adherence to the CDC guidelines and has a zero tolerance for rule-breakers. Knowing his staunch stance against group gatherings, I decided to have some fun.

While discussing the week’s meal plans, I mentioned I’d miss lunch at home the next day—I told him I planned to meet a girlfriend for lunch. He spun his scolding head around like the possessed little girl in the movie The Exorcist.

I shouldn’t provoke him, but these days I’ll take my laughs where I find them.

Every March, to celebrate my best friend’s birthday, we meet for lunch on her special day. I’ve known my best friend for more than 50 years; and, no, we’re not counted among the pandemic’s elderly at-risk population—yet.

We’ve celebrated some epic birthdays together; some I remember more clearly than others. This birthday, which we marked before Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order, was like no other before.

With our world turned upside down, I wanted to find a creative way to keep our annual lunch tradition alive.

Typically, we visit our favorite restaurant for soup, salad, and salacious conversation. Hopeful the establishment remained open, I called and learned they delivered curbside take-out orders.

Solving our cuisine conundrum, I sought to find a spot for us to dine that met my criteria: we hadn’t previously lunched at the location, and the setting didn’t break the ban on social gathering and distancing.

Out of the blue, the perfect place popped into mind:  the cemetery.

I know, but it’s not as grim as it seems.

My girlfriend lost her dad last October, and he took up residence at the same cemetery that’s home to my maternal grandparents.

The cemetery’s wide-open lush landscaping, seaward slopes, ocean views and lack of overcrowded occupants made it the perfect place for a birthday lunch during a pandemic.

On a chilly Friday afternoon, we found two benches near our relatives to enjoy our picnic; and practicing social distancing sat, appropriately, six feet apart.

In these troubling times, there isn’t much we can control, but we can initiate creative ways to keep connected to loved ones as we cope with this crisis.

At times like this, we may not know whether to laugh or cry, but try choosing laughter—it’s the best medicine.

Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times, and sometimes Dana Point Times, since 2006. DP Times will be publishing a special series of columns, centered on COVID-19, written by Murphy.

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