One by one, the things that comprise normal life have slipped away from us.

  Businesses and churches have closed, jobs and incomes have been lost. The life we knew just a few short weeks ago has become a fond memory. 

  We can’t even buy toilet paper.

  The one thing we do have plenty of, those of us still lucky enough to be healthy, is time. Things that once kept us busy, so busy we sometimes complained about them, have given way to searching for things to fill our days.

  The first thing we lost was the freedom to come and go as we please. My wife and I are in the at-risk age group. No longer could we go see friends, visit our children or even run to the store for a loaf of bread without the fear of being exposed to an illness that for us could be fatal.

  The shelter where we volunteer more or less booted us out. Services were reduced; younger volunteers would carry the workload.

  With barber shops closed, no more haircuts. By summer I could look like Ozzie Osborne, 

  My band and another classic rock group postponed a dance that would have meant hundreds of people in close quarters. No dance, no more getting together to rehearse for a while.

  And, starting now, no columns to write. Because so many businesses have closed, newspaper advertising revenues have taken a huge hit. People who work full time at The Idaho Press have taken a pay cut, and many of the paper’s local columns, this one included, are being suspended.

  I’ll miss writing those columns for you. It’s what I’ve done for most of my working life. It’s a big part of who I am, and writing them has been one of the joys of my life. But we’re all having to give up things we love now, so no complaints. A break will give me time to recharge, to work on a memoir I’m writing and do things I’ve been putting off for months or even years.

  My wife and I have called friends unseen in too long to catch up and make sure they’re okay. I installed a dimmer switch that had been waiting for months, unopened in its package in the garage. After procrastinating literally for years, I cleaned out a venerable roll-top desk and found some long lost treasures. Subjects for a future column, perhaps.

  Our kids and grandkids have shopped for things we needed and come to our house to deliver them and to visit – outside, of course, practicing social distancing. Just seeing their faces again lifted our spirits.

  My granddaughter Kelsie came up with an idea to pass the time during the long days of self isolation, and my daughter Jennifer, her mom, turned it into a game. Her hours at work have been cut, so she has the time. She and her family are finding fun things to do every day, based on letters of the alphabet.

  On the first day, letter A, they “rode to Albertsons and bought foods that start with A. We did acrobatics and art. … We ate almonds, apples, arborio rice, asparagus and avocados. We finished the day watching ‘Anime.’”

  I’m not that creative, but if I get bored enough reading and walking the dog I might alphabetize our DVDs.

  None of this is meant to make light of the situation in which we all find ourselves. Obviously, we’ve never faced anything like this before. It’s killing people in a way unknown in our lifetimes, and when it’s over some of us won’t be standing.

  We can only hope and pray that those in charge of controlling it do the right things, that most of are still here when it passes, and that those who are hoarding or ignoring social-distancing guidelines will stop acting like idiots.

  That does it for me, at least for a while. Stay home if you can, stay well. I’ll miss you. And I’ll look forward to writing for you again when life returns to something approaching normal.

Tim Woodward’s column normally runs every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. That won’t happen for a while, but you can still contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com