The Story Hall
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The Story Hall

Haven’t Been Writing Much Lately

And I Really Don’t Know Why

Chatham Manor, a little place down the road that has a lot of historic significane

29 Days of “Quarantime”

I haven’t written or posted anything here in nearly two weeks. That doesn’t happen often. I’m not really sure why I haven’t been, other than, my days have been so full, I simply haven’t found the time. I know, that sounds crazy, here I am in the 29th day of my “Quarantime”, you would think that I’d have all kinds of free time to do things like write. I sure thought I would.

But I have been working full time from home this whole time, and work has been very busy. From 8 until about 5 every day, I’m in meeting after meeting after meeting, mostly on the phone, managing all the complexities and intracacies of keeping a well-trained inspection force on the line to ensure our meat, poultry, egg products and catfish are safe for consumption. In times like these, that is not easy. Keeping employee morale up through times like this is also a challenge. One of the ways we try to do this is by more outreach, more check-in calls, more listening to their needs and concerns.

At the beginning of my quarantime, I had a genuine concern about how I would hold up, personally, being cut off from direct human interaction with all but my wife, Kathy. That hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In my first day or two inside, a cousin-in-law who also happens to be in the same 12 step fellowship I am, sent me an invite to a private facebook group designed to help those who were quarantined.

Seattle — shot taken by me in 2013

A Virtual Revolution is Launched

It was launched out of Seattle, Washington, the erstwhile epicenter of this Covid-19 virus, the first place that got hit hard with it in the U.S. They’d started a meeting on the Zoom app for those who were quarantined. It began when a girl who had been directly exposed, and was showing symptoms of the virus herself, set the meeting up with a little help from her friends, to ensure she still had a regular meeting to attend, even if just virtually.

As the effects of the virus spread rapidly across the country, this little facebook group of a couple hundred quickly zoomed to over 30,000 members. The group that started it encouraged them all to start their own groups where they were, and these groups just sprung up everywhere, all featuring regularly scheduled Zoom meetings. Then, just as this was all taking off, the actual meetings, all over the world, began shutting down as the world became aware of just how prevalent this virus was, and public meetings became outlawed. Since these quarantined groups had shown the way, through Zoom meetings, all the canceled meetings began moving their meetings to the Zoom rooms.

It’s mind-boggling how quickly this all happened. For addicts and others dependent on 12 step programs, most of which include the need for regular meetings in order to prosper in recovery, it was a no-brainer. The fellowship I belong to encourages hugging before, during and after the meetings. That’s something that the internet can’t replace — but, it sure has come close.

The Seattle Space Needle

Celebrating 40 Years

What I found at that meeting out of Seattle, that started this whole 12 Step virtual revolution, was the kind of connection I knew I would need to survive this “shut-in” period. I instantly connected with a number of the regulars there, and found myself hitting that meeting nightly.

That first week of my quarantine also happened to be the week I was celebrating 40 years of recovery, clean of all mind and mood altering substances. My home group here in Fredericksburg had planned to celebrate my anniversary that Thursday night, but by then, the church we met in was closing, and I wouldn’t have been able to go, anyway. We did have a virtual meeting that night, but there hadn’t been time to plan an anniversary celebration.

However, the group in Seattle had decided to begin a featured speaker meeting that Saturday night, and a birthday celebration meeting that Sunday, so I got to celebrate my anniversary out there — from the comforts of my home. I spoke on Saturday night, and many people who would not have been able to physically come to Fredericksburg to help me celebrate it live and in person, were able to attend it, virtually. Sunday night, I celebrated along with everyone else who’d had a “birthday” in the month of March.

Sleepless in Seattle

Any good 12 step meeting has a robust “meeting after the meeting”. That’s where the real bonding and comaraderie occur. This nightly virtual meeting out of Seattle is no exception. Their Zoom room stays open 24/7, and those folks really like their fellowship time. Given that they are 3 hours earlier than we are out here on the east coast, my midnight is their 9:00. The meeting ends at 11:30 my time, and by midnight, I’m off to bed, after about a half hour of fellowship time.

Most mornings when I get up, fix breakfast, do a little quiet time, then come down to my basement office to get ready to “go to work” (virtually), I’ll check in on the zoom room of that meeting to see if any are still going at it. Nearly every morning, without fail, there’s still a discussion going on. It’s 6 or 6:30 my time, so that’s like 3 or 3:30 out there.

Becoming a Virtual Grandpa

One morning, one of the late night fellowshippers, a guy about my son’s age (30) asked me, “Hey Pete, would you mind of I called you Grandpa?” One of the younger ladies there quickly chimed in, “Oh, yeah, me too. Will you, Grandpa Pete, will you be our Grandpa?” I adopted three grandkids that morning, and within days, I was generally adopted by everyone in the group, and am now “Grandpa Pete” to a whole schlew of quarantined kids in Seattle.

Big Pete and Little Pete — me with my Grandpa Pete, when I was about 7

However, they’re not just in Seattle as many, like myself, from other parts of the world, have become regulars of that group. There’s a fellow from Iceland, a gentleman from Paris, France, a young guy from right around here who followed me out there — he’d been having a hard time making the transition from live meetings to Zoom until he logged on to hear me speak that Saturday, and quickly became embraced by that group, himself. One of my “granddaughters” is from Missouri.

Finding Time to Write

So, I have been O.D.-ing on social interacting, when I’m not working, eating, or sleeping, leaving little time for my favorite pastime, writing. Today, I decided to change that — I need to find time to write. Writing is an important way that I make sense of my life. Like this piece, I never know what I’m going to write about when I begin a piece. I simply pick a thread of thought, start tapping on the keys, and follow that thread to wherever my fingers lead it. It’s a form of writing made famous by Jack Kerouac, and subscribed to by many other writers, myself included.

All I have to do is find the time to sit and tap on the keys. This is my comeback piece. Thanks for reading! Stay safe, and I’ll check in tomorrow.

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Hawkeye Pete Egan B.

Hawkeye Pete Egan B.

Connecting the dots. Storytelling helps me to make sense of this world, and of my life. I love writing and reading. Writing is like breathing, for me.