As we approach what some are calling the “dark winter” of this pandemic, I can only hope it is our one and only such winter. Like so many others, I’m hopeful that the Pfizer vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or whatever vaccine may follow, is indeed the magic bullet.

I can’t help but think of the time already lost. So much stolen time, some of which we will never recapture. Those of us who have already taken dozens of journeys around the sun don’t have that many left. How many more soccer games, piano recitals, and visits with old friends can we afford to miss?

I used to have lunch with my buddies a couple of times a month, just for laughs. We have all missed a few hundred laughs already this year. Stolen laughter..

Many of us have lost friends this year to cancer, heart attacks, and of course COVID-19. We were often unable to say goodbye due to hospital and nursing home safety restrictions. We haven’t even been able to pay our respects in a proper fashion. Stolen hugs.

But enough about us geezers. How much more will be stolen from our children and grandchildren? Truer words have never been spoken than “You’re only young once.” My two sons are now in their thirties. They can still tell you about every baseball game they played or attended. The children of 2020 didn’t get a chance to make those memories. Stolen moments.

There were birthday parties that never happened, and vacations that never took place. The smallest, youngest children, forming their first mental and visual images, have never known a world in which people did not wear masks in public. Stolen smiles.

The optimist in me believes brighter days are ahead. The world’s best scientists will find a way to restore some of our stolen time. We may take baby steps at first, but normalcy is within reach. That hope is what fuels us to keep going, to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the finish line. We will get our lives back, despite the stolen smiles, hugs, moments and memories.

Besides, long ago I realized there are many activities I will never do again. Frankly, some of them I have not missed, and much of them are from my childhood.

I will never again ride in the bed of a pickup truck. Somehow I survived many such trips despite the fact I was a loose projectile.

I will never again eat twelve Krystal cheeseburgers at one sitting. When I was a teenager, that was considered a late night snack. Now, it would be a 911 emergency.

I will never again get to enjoy a true vacation. Once, a vacation meant no telephone. Now we all have one attached to our hip, and we’re addicted to the texts, the tweets, and the news updates, whether we like it or not.

I will never again put a quarter into a gumball machine. I see my dentist often enough as it is, without hearing him say, “Did you try to chew another one of those gumballs the Pilgrims brought over here?”

I will never again answer the phone if I don’t recognize the name or number. I used to enjoy the surprise of learning who was on the other end. Scammers, you’ve taken the fun out of answering the phone.

I will never again buy a major appliance after being lured by a $100 rebate. I will ask the store for that money immediately, instead of being turned down by the manufacturer because I failed to include one of the 14 receipts or rebate forms.

I will never again do business with an auto repair shop that charges me for two hours labor on a job that took a half-hour to complete, because “it says two hours on our price list.”

I will never again ride in a hot-air balloon. I did that once, and missed a power line by ten feet. There’s a reason I was spared, and I strongly believe it was to warn you about hot-air balloons.

I will never again buy clothing that seems a bit snug, saying to myself, “After I lose a few pounds, it’ll fit just fine.”

I will never again use the term, “His line may be busy.” No one under 30 has any idea what that means.

I will never again climb a ladder to the roof. I have not yet fallen off a roof, so I have decided to quit while I’m ahead.

Speaking of which, I will never again gamble. Twenty years ago, I played a slot machine in Atlantic City. The only time I pulled the lever, it shelled out $150 in quarters. I stopped right there. Kenny Rogers was right. “You gotta know when to walk away.”

David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at radiotv2020@yahoo.com, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405.

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