I finally took a walk on the wild side over the Labor Day weekend and drove about 500 miles to northeast Kansas to visit my 89-year-old mother and son.

Having been cooped up at home and work since mid-March – only taking trips to stores in Jonesboro for essentials – it was good to break up the monotony and get to see family again. I hadn’t seen my son since he visited last December, and I hadn’t seen my Mom and sisters in almost a year – the last time I ventured north.

Three trips had been canceled because of COVID-19 – my mom’s first trip to Jonesboro, my son’s graduation from college and a family trip to Estes Park, Colo. Wife and I also had to cancel a trip to Florida to watch our other son graduate with his master’s degree, and she had to cancel a special Mother’s Day visit to our daughter’s in Florida as well.

Yeah, I know, join the club.

Much has been lost because of the coronavirus, most of which has been not seeing loved ones and celebrating special occasions together. When your mom is 89, time is of the essence.

Thank goodness, we’re all well.

Actually, my mother won’t turn 89 until Wednesday. While her physical appearance has changed as she’s aged, her mental abilities have not skipped a beat. She attributes her mental acuity to working lots of crossword and jigsaw puzzles as well as knitting and watching Netflix on her iPad. She loves foreign movies and serials as well as BritBox, and she reads lots of books.

Because she hasn’t been able to make daily swimming trips to the YMCA since the pandemic hit, she’s having a small in-ground, heated pool installed to help keep up her physical health. Taking her dog Lucy on short walks throughout the day doesn’t provide the same level of exercise as kicking around in water.

You may be asking yourself, why would an 89-year-old have a new pool installed? Well, if you plan of getting to 100-plus, it makes perfect sense.

In addition to traveling outside the state, two other firsts since mid-March included eating take-out – we’ve eaten every meal at home – and working the chain gang at my high school alma mater, where my son is now a history teacher and coach.

Everyone, except the players, had to wear a mask, and social distancing was no problem. With the exception of being in proximity to my son, the masked head linesman and visiting football players running on and off the field, I was almost always 10 yards away from anyone. There were fewer than 300 fans in the stands – each player got four tickets.

A 34-0 first quarter spanking by the home team made the game somewhat boring, but a lopsided victory is always more interesting when it’s your team that’s running up the score. During my high school tenure it was usually the opposite, so I enjoyed the victory.

I also made a must visit to a nursing home in Oskaloosa, Kan., where my best friend has lived the past 16 years. Because of COVID-19, I had to stand outside his closed window in the 92-degree Kansas heat to talk to him.

Because Russell can’t walk or talk, it was all the more difficult to communicate. He can draw letters in the air with one hand, but spelling words and me being able to decipher them is tricky at best.

We had some good laughs at my inability to make words out of his letters. I’d get stuck on a letter and then forget the word he was trying to spell. Always the optimist, his mood was surprisingly upbeat.

Still, it was heartbreaking to see my friend cooped up in his room, knowing he’s had no in-room visitors to give him a hug in nearly six months.

We parted company at the window in tears, me promising to return the next time I was in the area and Russell noting that he’d obviously be there.

Hopefully, the next time it will be on the other side of the glass and we can share a couple beers.

One of the things I noticed most on my travels were the crops in the fields. Seven years ago on a summer trip to Kansas, everything outside Northeast Arkansas was burned to a crisp. There was no grass in anyone’s yard. Even the weeds had given up.

It was quite the opposite this trip. Everything was lush and green and growing like gangbusters. I swear I saw acre after acre of 9-foot-tall corn and miles of lush rows of soybeans through Missouri and Northeast Kansas. The crops looked better than I had remember seeing them. I can only imagine the record-setting yields those fields will produce in a week or two as harvest begins.

It’s already started in NEA, as rice fields are beginning to wave a golden shimmer in the wind and corn has reached its peak. As usual, crops in NEA look outstanding and reports say it will be a bumper harvest.

That’s good news when any positive news is a much-needed break with so much bad news lately.


On a more somber note, Managing Editor Randal Seyler is leaving The Sun to become the editor of The Courier in Russellville. His last day was Friday.

It’s a good move for him – not so much for me or The Sun. Randal has done an outstanding job as managing editor, and his contributions to The Sun will be sorely missed.

Our loss is the Courier’s gain, and I wish him the best in his new endeavors.

Chris Wessel, editor of The Sun, can be reached at 935-5525, Ext. 250, or cwessel@jonesborosun.com.