Quarantines and Five-Card Draw

I’m playing cards with my wife outside on our porch. We never do this. In fact, I can hardly believe this is happening. It’s almost like a dream.

The sun is setting. It’s a pleasant spring evening. The North Florida mosquitoes are the size of Volkswagen Jettas. My wife and I are sipping beers, playing five-card draw. It’s been years since we’ve done this.

You know, in some ways this coronavirus quarantine thing isn’t all bad. Yes, I know the newscasters are constantly reminding us to stay inside our living rooms, and to keep our televisions cranked up loud so we don’t miss urgent commercials about reverse mortgage offers. But I need a break from TV.

I’m sort of getting into the spirit of this quarantine. Right now I feel the same as I did when I was a kid and school got cancelled. Whenever school closed it was like getting set free from Alcatraz. That’s how today feels.

Anyway, I love playing cards. There was a time in childhood when I was always coaxing my friends to play Crazy Eights, War, or gin rummy. Sometimes, we would sneak into the Baptist church shed, where no fundamentalist mothers could find us, and we would play poker. We played high-stakes tournaments. The game was Omaha hi-low split-eight or better, no limit. If you can just imagine.

We once played a three-hour game with Brother Gary, the church maintenance man. Brother Gary must have smoked three packs of cigarettes that afternoon. Wherever he is today, Gary still owes my cousin, Ed Lee, roughly $800,000.

As a young man, we used to play cards during lunch breaks on construction jobsites. We would toss dollar bills and quarters onto the lunch table. One day, I lost sixteen bucks and I was sick about it. It’s funny how a man changes with age. If I lost sixteen bucks today, it wouldn’t matter. But back then I was nauseous.

After the game, my boss took me aside and gave me sixteen dollars and said, “Promise me you won’t ever gamble again, it doesn’t suit you.”

I should have kept that promise because today, after a few hours of cards with my wife, she now owns the deed to both my kidneys and I owe her a cruise to Cozumél.

You know what else has been great about this quarantine? I’ve been going on lots of walks. And I’ve seen TONS of people outside lately. They’re all talking, laughing, barbecuing, strolling with loved ones, or doing some kind of leisure activity.

You rarely see things like this in neighborhoods anymore. Oh, sure, you’ll see one or two people having a cookout, but not like what I’m seeing. It’s as if the whole world has decided it’s the Fourth of July.

Things have changed dramatically in one week. Used to, nobody in our neighborhood even swept their porch. But yesterday, I passed by several family porch cookouts. At one house, someone was playing guitar and the whole family was singing. So help me, singing.

I saw kids riding bikes up and down the road. This might not sound like anything exceptional if you grew up the way many of us did. My Schwinn was a member of the immediate family. But in today’s world a lot of kids don’t even own bikes.

I saw a young couple pushing a stroller, listening to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” on a small loudspeaker. And a lady power-walking, talking furiously about something important into her phone. People washing cars until their driveways were covered in suds. A dog getting a bath. A kid playing in the sprinklers.

A few houses down, I passed an old lady seated in her open garage, drinking tea, reading a newspaper. Next door to her was a flock of young mothers, each seated ten feet apart, drinking wine.

Across the street was an older man lying beneath a Ford truck in his driveway. I heard the familiar sound of a ratchet wrench, clicking. And the sound of George Jones blasting from a tiny transistor radio.

I walked past a boy carrying his fishing tackle, heading toward the bay. And when I passed our boat ramp, I found four trucks waiting to back their boat trailers into the baywater. Four.

I know you’re probably thinking this sounds like an imaginary scene from the 1950s, but this is what I saw. And this is just one day I’m talking about. It’s been like this all week.

Yes, I know the world is falling apart right now. And yes, I know there is a lot to be worried about. But something wonderful is happening in spite of it all.

Kids are playing. Brothers are wrestling in the grass instead of playing zombie apocalypse video games. Families are on porches, sipping cold beverages. Children are laughing. Dogs are getting flea dips. Folks are singing. Old men are changing the oil in Fords. Radios are once again playing George Jones.

I know the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on civilization as we know it. And I know many are saying this world will never be the same after it’s over. I’m sure they’re right. But there is something very weird happening in my neighborhood right now. Something almost too charming to believe. I don’t know what it is, but it’s beautiful, it’s long overdue. And I hope it never ends.

Also, I’m pretty sure my wife is cheating at cards.

23 comments

  1. Donna - March 23, 2020 7:12 am

    I read your post everyday Sean, usually with my morning coffee. No coffee yet, no sleep yet, a sign of the times I guess. Anywho, I share so many of your post, this one, well, it’s real special. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, I don’t know you but I love you. Thank you for sharing your God given talent with us. By the way, I love your wife too and she’s no cheater, she’s just smarter than you😉 The Lord bless and keep you both, the Lord bless us all.✌

    Reply
  2. Lita - March 23, 2020 7:33 am

    My beloved husband has taken to re-stringing and re-tuning his guitars then playing them. It takes us both back to the year 1973 when we married.

    Reply
  3. Melissa Jackson - March 23, 2020 10:57 am

    I made biscuits from scratch and taught my daughter how to make friend rice. My boys sat down for lunch and didn’t fight the whole meal.

    Reply
  4. Beth Ann Chiles - March 23, 2020 11:11 am

    We are all adjusting to the new normal. We video chatted with our sons and their wives –one set in Raleigh and one set in NYC and it eased my anxiety to see them and realize that they are really taking it seriously and isolating themselves and taking care to be safe. That helped my heart to see them and laugh with them over silly things. We will get through this and it will leave holes and scars and sadness but we will get through it. And as you keep reminding us –there are a lot of great things happening in the midst of it all. Stay safe!

    Reply
  5. Patricia Harris - March 23, 2020 11:13 am

    Same in our neighborhood. I grew up in the 50’s and it’s great to be going back to dishcloths not paper towels. So much funny on the internet to keep our spirits up. I’m learning banjo and violin at the same time! Plus playing bagpipes. I’m not bored. I only wish my darling husband of 56 years were still with me to enjoy this peaceful time. He was the love of my life and he passed away from Alzheimer’s last year. The bright spot is he is no longer in memory care where I was with him every day. Now I would be banned and he would be all alone, not understanding why.

    Reply
  6. Ann - March 23, 2020 11:14 am

    You have learned ….definitely the hard way…yet been blessed with sharing “ life” as it is…..looking and truly seeing everyday occurrences….today’s sounds like my life growing and as awful as this virus is…our younger ones are getting a glimpse at “ doing” away from electronics and hopefully “seeing” beauty around us….you keep us grounded! Thank you and….it’s your deal!

    Reply
  7. Charles - March 23, 2020 11:26 am

    Sean,

    I go for a walk every morning, knowing there’s a hot cup of coffee and morning reading waiting for me when I return. I always enjoy reading your email first.

    Thank you for always telling a funny story or just sharing something you’ve observed.

    Charles

    Reply
  8. Edna Barron - March 23, 2020 11:49 am

    I agree, people are finding the time now to spend time with each other. Enjoy your card games and have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  9. Christina Davis - March 23, 2020 12:01 pm

    Thank you, Thank you.Thank you! Read this first thing this morning. My sentiments exactly. Don’t give up on the card game.

    Reply
  10. Becky Constable - March 23, 2020 12:47 pm

    Thanks Sir.
    It is wonderful to see th human spirit at work.
    It is God!

    Reply
  11. Phil - March 23, 2020 12:50 pm

    We’re seeing it in our neighborhood, too. More people outside. I’ve gotten our garden prepared and planted three weeks early. Glad you and Jamie have gotten back to the basics of life, AKA card games. Yes, I also think wives will cheat at cards, but I can’t prove it. Even if true, it’s OK, because know what? We love ’em, and love trumps a hidden ace every time.

    Reply
  12. Karen - March 23, 2020 1:07 pm

    You’re making me homesick for Florida, Sean. It’s still too cold for any of that here in Missouri. When my husband died, I gave up the apartment in a retirement community where we spent winters. I miss him and the lifestyle. It makes me happy to hear your stories and know you appreciate your good life and your good wife.

    Reply
  13. sandra mattucci - March 23, 2020 1:33 pm

    Greetings Sean,
    I’m and artist & writer…
    Many say to me, “You’re a simple writer and your art is GOOD but NOT really good!”
    Still, I allow what is in me to unfold…
    Thank YOU for the gifts’ you break open in the world!
    Sharing a poem from my heart to YOURS…
    sandra mattucci

    Amen, Amen…

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    You do not have to be
    spiritual, religious, atheist
    to notice persons
    during these times
    coming together
    even at a ‘humane’ distance.

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    Figuratively, so many ordinary
    ‘routines’ have been upturned…
    ‘blood’ now pooling
    from heart centers.
    Persons are reaching toward each other,
    families are riding bikes, playing in the parks,
    walking in the woods.
    Long conversations are taking place
    with grandparents, our seniors,
    vesting ‘time’ talking 
    and there is ‘listening.’

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    The world has gotten a bit quieter—
    Less traffic on the roadways,
    restaurants functioning on carry-outs,
    grocery stores are open but the shelves
    are bare.  Many of us, a large majority,
    have what we need…and then some—
    while there are those who
    have NOT (each day) and understand THIS moment—
    We are learning the gift of the Sabbath.

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    One cannot deny the present sufferings.
    Yet, why is it, kindness ‘grows’
    abundantly from grief, chaos, and pain?
    I will not attempt to explain it and I 
    certainly will not deny it.
    Persons are coming together.
    Oh, yes, sometimes the usual ‘stutters’
    break the flow, but hope held,
    as curves rise and fall AND
    acts of compassion, care, service
    heighten to needs still unknown and growing.

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    Our children are watching—
    they are ‘hearing’ and observing
    the heart beat of our world.
    We, as adults, are we able to exemplify
    the sacred art of ‘pausing?’
    Breaking from rushing to the next constant event
    in our daily schedule?
    Can we light a candle
    guiding our young people
    no matter how much may still be invisible?
    Our flame will not burn out.
    AND, if it does, we will create another wick!

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    May we burn brightly enough
    that our light casts itself
    across this globe reaching outward
    to the Sun.

    Amen, Amen I say to thee.
    I can almost hear that fiery ball exclaim,
    “Look, they’re finally trying to imitate me.”

    Reply
  14. Cathi Russell - March 23, 2020 2:11 pm

    We’re gonna be fine, no matter what & our world is going be a little more humane & kinder. You, Jamie, Thel & Otis stay safe & well! ❤

    Reply
  15. Cindy - March 23, 2020 2:29 pm

    Sounds like Mayberry R.F.D. to me!

    Reply
  16. Linda Moon - March 23, 2020 3:46 pm

    Front porches, no TV, and playing Rook are liberating for me. My childhood in the 1950s was spent most mostly outside. This was OUR social network. I hope children and neighbors will embrace the charming change you’ve beautifully described, Sean. And one more thing …… maybe you and Jamie should follow some card-playing advice from the recently-departed Gambler himself!

    Reply
  17. lou - March 23, 2020 3:48 pm

    You, my dear, are my kind of man and I love your
    Humor! Keep it up! You have made my day and I hope the rest of my days. My brother in law forwarded your message today to my husband
    And he forwarded it to me and our children. They
    Are adults and I am sure they love it. I can’t wait
    Til tomorrow right after I read my devotional. After that, I will be good for the day! Thank you❤️

    Reply
  18. Cynthia Woods - March 23, 2020 3:58 pm

    Same here in Franklin, TN. ( I know. You were so close!) We were on the porch last week, when it wasn’t cold and drizzly, singing Oklahoma. Two were about to leave early for their drive west to self-quarantine in a mountain cabin before returning to their home where 92 year old momma was waiting for them. And today, my sweet grandaughter and I just danced the Macarana. We changed the words. “Get lost, Corona!” It’s not all bad!!

    Reply
  19. AlaRedClayGirl - March 23, 2020 4:32 pm

    Our family has been playing a lot of cards the past few days, but no betting (I like having sole ownership of my kidneys). I drove around yesterday and noticed what looked like neighborhood gatherings at a lot of homes. Maybe people are scared, but what I saw was people talking and laughing with their neighbors. I believe that something good always comes out of something bad, you just have to look for it.

    Reply
  20. Sharon Brock - March 23, 2020 5:01 pm

    Sean, my friend, your wife doesn’t have to cheat. She is that good.

    Reply
  21. Patricia Gibson - March 23, 2020 5:25 pm

    I agree Sean. I think some good will come out of this ❤️

    Reply
  22. Mary Elsberry - March 24, 2020 4:21 am

    Thank you! I love your stories!

    Reply
  23. Linda Moon - March 24, 2020 8:53 pm

    I saw something weirdly good in my neighborhood, too. Read my comment that I “futuristically” posted “tomorrow” on March 24th if you want do know what I saw!!

    Reply

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