During December 2019, I returned to my hometown of Detroit, along with my trusty emotional support animal, my boxer Baby Girl, for my daughter’s commencement services. My firstborn child, a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools, had followed in the footsteps of both of her grandmothers for her career and educational milestones, including earning a master’s degree in education.
Two things stick out in my mind as I think back to that trip to Motown. First, it was a very cold December. So much so that I had to literally drag Baby Girl out of the hotel so she should “handle her business.”
Second, I became extremely ill on the morning during which I was scheduled to return back home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Chills, nausea, a raging fever and difficulty walking or maintaining my balance were among the symptoms. Determined to get home, I was assisted onto the plane with several thick blankets while seated in a wheelchair and with Baby Girl both thoroughly confused and concerned.
Months later, I would learn that I had been infected with COVID-19. I am grateful to say that I survived.
Perhaps ignorance is bliss after all. The world had not been informed about this highly infectious, deadly virus so I treated it as if it were just a very bad case of the flu. In fact, I didn’t even contact my physician. I just followed the protocol that’s generally recommended for the flu.
Now, nearly 18 months later, COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of life no matter what your zip code may be. Every day we’re bombarded with the latest numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Every day we rise from our slumbering beds wondering if it’s finally our turn to receive our vaccination. Every day we long for our favorite restaurants to reopen and for concert halls and outdoor pavilions to swing open their doors so we can enjoy a good concert or a play. Every day we long for the day when the “storm” is over and we can remove our masks and rejoin our friends, family and co-workers again.
Sometimes, things become so confusing and the challenges so overwhelming that I totally understand the sentiment behind Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong who wrote “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today).”
The song was a big hit for the Temptations in the spring of 1970 and represents one of the few protest songs which Berry Gordy allowed his artists to release under the Motown/Gordy Record labels. Lyrically, the song attacked the Vietnam War, President Nixon’s government and drug addiction. Among the top news events that occurred that year were the Chicago Seven being found guilty, both the U.S. and the U.K. lowering the voting age to 18, the First Earth Day and demonstrations in Washington, D.C. against the Vietnam War that totaled over 100,000 participants.
“Ball of Confusion’s” haunting lyrics include the following images, some of which almost sound like they could be describing what we’re facing today.
“Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball of confusion, Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today . . .
Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul
Shooting rockets to the moon, kids growing up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything
And the band played on
So, round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows.”
If you’re like me, you continue to hope and pray that things will return to “normal.” But history shows us that everything must change – no matter how much we may long for things to return to the way they were in the “good old days.”
But there is no going back. Like any other major upheaval that has shaken our nation and the planet, nothing will be the same after COVID-19. But life will go on. For now, as my mother would often tell me, just “spit in your hand and take a fresh hold.”
One more thought: wouldn’t it be great if we could return to some of those 1970 prices and costs of living.
Back then, a new house cost $23,450, average monthly rent was $140, a U.S. postage stamp was 6 cents, Sports Illustrated set you back 15 cents, a Chrysler Newport hot off the car lot cost $3861 and a back-to-college typewriter was a whopping $28.88.
By the way, no, I still have not received my COVID-19 vaccination yet. But any day now, it will be my turn in line. In the meantime, I’ll keep my head down, my hands washed, my mask on and continue to work from home with Baby Girl hovering close by.