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Hunkered down in Florida, but missing LI

Carol Cott Gross and her husband, Herb, take

Carol Cott Gross and her husband, Herb, take a selfie in their home in Florida. The two traveled to Florida for the winter in November, and have not been able to return to East Northport due to the coronavirus epidemic. Credit: Carol Gott Gross

In November, when my husband, Herb, and I arrived at MacArthur Airport to fly south as part of the annual, mass migration of northerners on so-called “miracle flights” — some of our fellow seniors travel in wheelchairs then bop off the plane upon landing — we never imagined we’d be stuck in Florida unable to return to Long Island for Easter and Passover.

And now, I’m hunkered down in Lake Worth, Florida, ordering a $70 “quarantine package” of brisket and kugel sold by a restaurant because a roll of toilet paper comes with the food. I’m also changing the mezuzah on my front door to my refrigerator like Floridians are doing because it’s the only door we open these days. I responded “Yes, I will attend” along with Herb to a wedding in Commack in July, which was postponed from earlier this spring, if we can finally leave Lake Worth and fly home to East Northport. I’ve washed my hands so often I have an itchy rash. I keep trying to get my dermatologist in Huntington to find out what salve to use. So far, no luck.

Every day, my BFF snowbirds, Susan from Floral Park (now in Wellington) and Terri from East Northport (winters in Boynton Beach), and I make ourselves feel even worse by listing all the birthday, anniversary and college graduation parties, family reunions, Broadway plays and glamour trips to Europe we can’t attend, and all the pressure of being cooped up with our spouses. One friend here says he never spent so much time with his wife and kids before the coronavirus and fearfully adds, “Eek, this is only the beginning.” 

Don’t tell my husband this, but 10 years ago, when we first retired, I thought we had too much togetherness. And now, according to my snowbird friend, Tom from Merrick (now in Miami Beach), the one word of communication in their cavernous beach condo with his wife, Stephanie, these days is, “What?” because they don’t hear so well. And after Tom counts the tiles in the kitchen, his dual activity with Steffi is done for the day.

Virtually everyone here discusses lonely Zoom seders and Easter Sundays they’ve had with grandkids in New York. I developed three questions from our seders: When will the hunkering end? Will my husband and I still be a couple if this crisis continues? Why is he talking about getting a black standard poodle now when I want a brown miniature?

According to my friend A, a Florida year-rounder in Parkland, her new puppy, which is a poodle designer mix, not a mutt, is keeping her relationship with her husband on firm and friendly ground. They both get lots of legal fresh air walking her. So maybe I should compromise with Herb about the dog and the questions will be, “What did he make?” “Does he need a brushing or a bath?” “Do you think the dog park is open?”

One of the good things now — and there is little enough of that — is that while the virus keeps us globally claustrophobic and locally grounded, the Florida-rounders have finally stopped the Long Island blame game since traffic on Interstate 95 is nonexistent. There are few crowded beaches — and getting the best seats at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach is a non-issue. But I bet when this is over — knock wood — we will become the victims of regional abuse all over again. 

Reader Carol Cott Gross lives in East Northport.

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