Focus On: Bob Mitchell

Bob Mitchell is a former chairperson of Westport Museum (Westport Historical Society). He’s lived in Westport with his wife, Kathy, for 22 years.  

As with most people, I am spending a lot more time at home, basically alone. (My wife is an invalid.) I go out for basic errands, and to walk – my principal source of exercise. I am taking advantage of the extra free time to work around the house. I’ll be pretty embarrassed if the many overhanging chores are still undone after life returns to normal. And, I am resuming hobbies and avocations – writing, genealogy, music, scientific analysis – for which I found little time recently in my busy life. 

I am retired. However, I am very active with the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston, and our many face-to-face meetings and activities have been replaced by Zoom, conference calls, and emails. I am responsible for arranging speakers for our weekly meetings, and now am engaged in preparing podcasts, video meetings, and other ‘socially-distanced’ modes of providing camaraderie and involvement for our many home-bound members. 

I was always raised to follow the rules, and to think about other people, so living under the COVID strictures fits right in with my mentality. I also was always more an internal person rather than an external person, so being at home more is not so strange to me. And my wife is not well, so I have long lived a somewhat solitary life. But I still do miss being with other people.  

I miss the lack of direct personal contact. Electronic means are not the same. I thank God that our technology is such today that we can associate with each other in one form or another that was not available until recently. But it is not the same. You cannot hug friends over Zoom. 

 I miss institutions – principally The Library, WMHC, MoCA and others where one could hang out and participate in activities with other human beings. And bookstores, which have always been a place of comfort for me. One positive change has been the impetus to overcome social distancing with social reaching out. I have spoken on the phone with more distant friends and relatives in the past few weeks than in the past several years. I just hope the impetus to keep in touch does not fade when we are back together with our local friends face-to-face. And, as I said before, I have never walked so much in my life since I left New York City in 1993, where I walked everywhere. I see friends, at a distance, explore areas of town I hardly knew, and keep healthy. I even see my neighbors, believe it or not. Thank goodness the virus did not hit when it was 10 degrees out.

I just hope the impetus to keep in touch does not fade when we are back together

I think Westport is doing a very good job with this. Most people are following the guidelines; those businesses that are still open are being very sensible; and the Town government is doing its usual great job. I’m sorry they had to close the beach parking, but I understand that some people, particularly the younger ones who can’t imagine that they could ever catch this ‘old-folks disease’, might well succumb to the temptation, especially as the weather gets nicer. 

I would hope that we learn some lessons about helping each other, thinking before acting, and being generous. I hope that people develop a greater appreciation for the important things in life – family, friends, social activity, healthy fun. I would also hope that our government would take to heart the lessons about not being adequately prepared, in readiness for the next one, whatever it might be. My greatest fears are the growing instances of totalitarian governing in response to the need for strong executive action during the crisis. This crisis will pass, but the changes in our various societies may not. This too shall pass! 

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To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.