Life in the pandemic: Adapt, take precautions, keep moving

Bob Buckley
Legal perspectives
Bob Buckley

I have four brothers and three sisters. My dad wanted a big family and my mother obviously consented. I think they had eight, so they had one for each day of the week when they got older. That plan worked well with my mother before her death, as each of us took a turn fixing dinner for her each night of the week. Those dinners were precious times for all of us.

It was important to our parents that we enjoy each other and gather for important occasions. Our parents’ home was a gathering place for birthdays and holidays, and it was large enough to accommodate us and our growing families. My wife and I decided to buy my mother’s house after she died in large part so we could keep the grand old house on Waldo Avenue in the family and continue to have a place to come together as a family.

COVID put the brakes on those celebrations to a large extent. My wife and I sat at the large table in our dining room last Thanksgiving and shared a meal by ourselves. We hope to gather as a family this year. Two Christmases ago we had 45 in our family room, which included nephews and nieces and their children.

We have political diversity in our family. I purposefully try to avoid such discussions as I have found that this only leads to angry exchanges. They are not going to change my mind, and I know I have no chance of changing theirs, so we just agree to disagree.

We also don’t agree on masks and vaccinations. Most of us are vaccinated and wear masks in public places, but a few do not. The positions on masks and vaccinations do not follow political lines either, for which I am grateful.

I just received my third booster shot last Saturday at Hy-Vee without any side effects other than a sore arm. It gives me comfort to know that I am as protected as can be, but I still wear a mask into public places, even in Independence, which has no mask requirement.

I have taken two depositions in person in the last three weeks as everyone in the room, including my court reporter, was vaccinated. One of the depositions took place at Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, and there were very strict requirements in the hospital, except in the room we were in for the deposition. Again, everyone including the doctor I was deposing was masked. I forgot to wear mine to go to the restroom during a break, and the risk manager wanted to slap me, but I apologized. At one point, I was standing three feet behind the doctor while he was looking at X-rays and the risk manager ordered me to mask up. I had no problem with that.

Last Tuesday, I again went to a law office in Kansas City and took the deposition of another doctor. I have taken probably 10 depositions by Zoom since April of last year and have produced expert witnesses on a half dozen. I prefer Zoom to traveling and will probably continue that practice. I have not been on an airplane since March of last year as we were returning from spring training the day before they shut down the ballparks.

I just spent two perfect days with my three sisters and older brother going through a mountain of old photographs, love letters between our parents from the 1940s, and other very interesting documents that were left by my great grandparents, grandparents and parents. Two of my sisters and my brother, Tom, are vaccinated, but the unvaccinated one is very careful, so we were all comfortable with her presence.

My younger brother is adamantly opposed to masks and vaccines, and so we agree to disagree. I don’t love him any less because of his position on the issue, but I wish he would change his mind.

It is apparent that we are more divided as a country than we have been at any time since the Civil War. There are many reasons for our division, but COVID has played a significant role. Those opposed to masks and vaccinations are not Republicans or Democrats. They are Americans, but I don’t agree with them and I fear that their positions will expose me to illness. Yet I suppose that they have the freedom to do as they please and to take the risks. People can ride motorcycles now without helmets, and not everyone wears a seat belt. That is a personal choice that does not directly affect me, but masks and vaccines possibly do.

Jesus had two basic commands: Love God, and love your neighbor. Many people of faith disagree with me, but I firmly believe that loving your neighbor includes taking advantage of the precautions that will protect us all. I love my brothers and sisters and their families. I will continue to encourage all of them to be careful. We are planning Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families, unlike last year. Our hope and prayer for everyone is for safe and healthy holidays.

Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at bbuckley@wagblaw.com.