Commentary: Right words appear elusive during this difficult period

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Jean Simmons, columnist

Jean Simmons is a Franklin resident, nurse and published author who won a Janice Keck Literary Award from the Williamson County Public Library in 2014. She can be contacted at

These are very strange times indeed. 

Few cars on the road, no rush-hour congestion, empty streets in downtown Franklin, stores closed in the middle of the day. Just a few of the unusual sights now. 

Seeing very few people milling around, everyone several feet apart and no one talking was a surreal site at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. An older woman I noticed but did not know remarked to me, “This really seems strange,” adding an awkward smile and nervous chuckle. She seemed almost in shock. 

I replied, “Yes, it is strange,” because I could not think of anything else to say. I thought later that I should have tried to talk to her more, but I was feeling pretty surreal myself with no words to describe what it felt like. 

I also wondered if she lived alone or had someone with her. If alone, I can only wonder how really isolated it must feel. As much as my husband and son can get on my last nerve at times while being in the house together for like 500 days, I am grateful to be with them and know that they are safe with me. I also know that we will look like pale, ghostlike shut-ins when this is over. 

I’m hopeful that we will not take our freedom to move about as we please for granted again. 

When my son asks me how long this will last, all I can say is, “I don’t know. Hopefully not too long.” 

Every time I talk with friends/family, turn on the TV or look on online, all I see is something about the coronavirus. That is a word I had never heard until a few months ago. Now it seems like it is all I ever hear. Phrases such as “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” also are terms few ever heard before, but they’re ones we will never forget and will define 2020. 

I apologize to people when I stand a few feet apart. They understand, I know, but I still feel rude, somehow. No more quick hugs when you see an acquaintance, at least for a while anyway. 

When on the phone recently, talking about doing some work on my yard to a woman I did not know, I told her that when she comes, I would have to stay 6 feet apart since my husband is “immunocompromised.” That’s a word I have heard before, but I have used it more in the past two months than in my entire life. 

She said that was OK and then she started to cry as she told me how difficult things were and that she just hoped the nightmare would end. She said that her family lived far away and she can’t visit them. I told her it would be OK soon, hoping this helped her a little. Maybe. Again, like with the woman at the supermarket, I am at a loss for words. 

I know things will return to normal, at least for most of us. We will move on together, and pray for those who can’t.   


Jean Simmons is a Franklin resident and contributor to the Herald. She can be contacted at

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