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After weeks of quarantine following sickly cruise, there’s no place like home 

  • Dave and Judy Lewis of Concord finally made it home from a cruise that began on Feb. 25. Courtesy

  • Dave and Judy Lewis are grateful to be back home with their dog Bruschi on Tuesday. The Lewises tested negative for the COVID-19 virus but are still wearing masks, even with family members who come to visit and drop off food. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Dave and Judy Lewis are grateful to be back home with their dog Bruschi on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The Lewises tested negative for the COVID-19 virus but are still wearing masks, even with family members that come to talk and drop off food. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 3/31/2020 1:57:19 PM

Next time your head hits the pillow, enjoy the comfort, more than usual.

Next time you cradle that cup of early-morning coffee, with the sunlight streaming through your windows, make sure to appreciate the moment.

It’s more meaningful than you might think. The coronavirus helps remind us of that. It sure did the trick for the eight area cruise-ship passengers who got stuck aboard the Grand Princess while floating toward Mexico.

All were quarantined, starting March 4. Four of the eight didn’t arrive home until Friday, and two from that group – Charlie and Rose Currier of Pembroke – contracted the coronavirus somewhere during their arduous journey.

Physically, they feel better, their daughter, Suzanne Genest of Litchfield, said Tuesday. Emotionally? They’re still working through that, which is why Genest spoke for her parents.

“They’re doing great, almost back to normal, both of them,” Genest told me. “They’re tired, but they’re getting their appetites back.”

That’s why these are days of appreciation, perspective, recognizing the simplest things for their, well, simplicity.

“You cannot imagine how happy we were to see our house,” said Dave Lewis of Concord.

These days, all eight could probably find peace and serenity, not boredom, through watching paint dry – as long as they could watch from home – after spending most of last month on a cruise ship and military bases in Georgia and California.

The “lucky” ones – Frank and Deb Keane of Allenstown, and Bill and Marcia Krueger of Concord – were flown to Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta Ga., and they got home on March 17.

The two couples were scheduled to finish their 14-day quarantines this week. Frank Krueger said by email Tuesday that he was taking no chances.

“I have decided to self quarantine for another 30 days,” he wrote, “as not to expose myself to any unnecessary risks, since I am in the high risk category with heart issues.”

The Lewises and the Curriers were sent to Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. Then Charlie got sick and then Rose got sick. That’s why they remained quarantined in San Diego for an extra 10 days, arriving home on March 27.

They remain under quarantine at home until April 10.

The Lewises described a surreal world that could have come straight from a Ray Bradbury novel. Too bad this is real.

Commenting on life at the base, Judy said by phone: “We had guards and masks. You could go to certain areas, and that made me reflect on how quickly you can lose your rights, even in the United States. They were taken away from us.”

For good reason, of course. What perplexed this group of energetic, adventurous seniors was the uncertainty that stripped away their confidence, once it became clear that the so-called experts were ill-prepared to fight this thing.

They were quarantined on the Grand Princess on March 4. Sardined into a bus a week later and held there for hours. Grouped together on a tarmac, then split into two groups of four. Then more delays, forcing everyone to sit in the planes for hours before, finally, an acknowledgment that quarantining the world was the only way to go.

Suddenly, all eight had less freedom than Gilligan and the Skipper during that three-hour tour. During transport, they were greeted by people in full outer-space gear. White overcoat. White masks. White caps. White gloves. White shoes.

White, white, white, appearing with a ghost-like glow that would have scared Casper.

And while the two San Diego couples had to wait longer before flying home, the four people who made it home earlier had a harrowing experience of their own.

They boarded a bus from the base in Georgia and went to the airport, a 10-minute drive. There were 13 passengers: seven from Massachusetts, two from New York and the four from here. Then, suspense, right out of a Hitchcock film.

Someone official-looking boarded the bus and said the New Yorkers had to go back to Dobbins, for reasons that remain unclear. Then, the New Hampshire four and the Massachusetts seven boarded a 734.

For Boston Logan International Airport. For home.

The engines roared. Hope soared. Someone got on the plane with something to say. The engines were cut. The Massachusetts crowd had to leave.

“We just said we hope the wheels go up shortly,” Frank Keane said. “We just hoped we’d hear the engines again.”

They landed in Boston early on the 17th, before the sun rose.

“It’s a little bit frustrating to have to be quarantined three times,” Bill Krueger wrote in an email. “It seems to be a never ending process, but we are making the best of it. The house has never been so clean. Catching up on all our favorite TV shows. Just looking forward to (April 1) when we can be released back into the wild.”

The West Coast four won’t be free to leave their homes until the 10th. Rose and Charlie were moved to a Ramada Inn in San Diego, used for housing people who had tested positive or felt sick.

Dave and Judy stayed at the base. It’s an active base. That helped.

“We’d watch an airshow,” Dave Lewis said. “We’d watch the fighters each day. Pretty neat to watch them up close. Entertaining.”

And that’s not all. Dave and Judy took walks around the base. It was fenced in. There were guards.

“We walked around the perimeter when it wasn’t raining,” Dave said. “It never rains in San Diego and it rained every day. And it was chilly.”

Now their arms ache to hold their grandchildren. They can’t leave their home, though. Not yet.

“It just seemed like a black cloud was following us from Hawaii,” Dave said. “It was like we came out of a bad nightmare and we finally hit reality. We’re home.”

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