Streng Neighbors Cope with COVID

Longtime neighbors Mike Grandi, Jan Scott, and Susan and David Link socialize while masked on the court they share in Elk Grove. That's Mike's dog Auggie. Photo by Dave Weinstein

David and Susan Link were looking forward to motoring to Boise, Idaho in June for a family reunion. And every summer they bask in the music of the waltz king at the Strauss Festival of Elk Grove, where Susan had served as costumier and draper and stitcher for several years. “We have been part of the festival for 20-plus years.”

Instead they are spending quality time in their backyard, and gathering in masks alongside Skydome Court with longtime neighbors, in a neighborhood of mid-century modern homes built by the Streng Brothers.

The Links are proud owners since 1985 of their home in the Williamson Ranch subdivision of Elk Grove, just south of Sacramento. Mike has lived in his home since 1984, an original owner, and Jan Scott in hers since 1986, a second owner.

It was Jan who organized the first get-together, and there have been several since. “I’m ready for another one,” she says.

“I sent a message to everyone. Bring snacks,” she recalls. They spaced out their seats for special distancing and wore masks when not enjoying those snacks.

“We took our chairs out and sat in the court, ten feet away from each other, sitting and talking. We couldn’t do anything else,” David says. “Where are we going?”

David and Susan
David and Susan Link share a laugh in front of their Streng home. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

“We just yelled at each other,” says Mike Grandi, Jan’s next door neighbor, who attended with his wife Theresa.

Mike and Theresa have been playing a lot more golf since the pandemic hit, once their club reopened. They get to the course three or four days a week, he says. “It’s one thing to do where you can go out and stay distant,” Mike says.

He says at least eight members of the club have contracted COVID-19.

Mike, who is 79, shops for groceries for one neighbor who fears going into stores. “I don’t have problems going to the store. I mask up,” he says. “With my life and my age, I say whatever will happen will happen.”

Jan and Mike
Jan and Mike discuss gardening during an informal neighborhood gathering. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Jan, a retired teacher, has been spending some of her sheltering time caring for about 30 doves that she has rescued and keeps in her well-landscaped backyard.

“They keep me positive,” she says. “I’m caring for them to help them survive.” The birds fly off in the morning and return every night.

She Zooms with friends, and has game nights on Zoom, playing Crazy 8s, rummy, Oh Hell. “We can see each others’ faces and talk,” Jan says. Many are friends she knows through wildlife rescue.

The hardest thing for Jan is not seeing her grown children, triplets, as often as she would like. One son works in a hospital where some patients may have the virus. “He doesn’t want to bring it home to me,” she says.

“They all showed up on Mothers’ Day to surprise me, which was wonderful,” she says. “We had a little picnic in the backyard.”

Sitting in garden
Susan and David Link spend much time during the pandemic in their lush backyard, which has a redwood grove, small trails, a pool, and more. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

Like Jan, David and Susan care about the environment, and have created a garden that displays those values.

“We replaced our front yard with drip, and drought tolerant plants, after receiving help designing the landscaping by UC Davis Arboretum workers. We have continued to use 50 percent of the water we did pre-drought,” David says.

Having a great garden “has proven to be a wonderful retreat during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders,” he says. “We are just shy of a quarter acre, with over 50 trees on our property,” David adds.

David and Susan have gotten together with family, at a distance, and with neighbors during the pandemic. It bothers him, though, that not everyone in the neighborhood or vicinity is as careful as he and Susan try to be.

“We definitely have a mix of neighbors, some who wear masks all the time when they leave their homes, like us, and others who adamantly refuse to wear masks ever," David says. "We don’t understand their lack of concern for others. Refusing to wear a mask can injure others, not only the refuser, but selfish attitudes are prevalent.”

The Links' garden is like another world. It was bare dirt when they bought their house in the 1980s. Photo by David Link

“We still walk or bike ride each morning, but always wear masks and walk on the other side of the pathway. Most people still fail to wear masks while walking along Laguna Creek.”

Next up for the Links – camping. Not to Tahoe, which attracts crowds. They know a little place, 30 miles off the highway – serene and undiscovered.

And next up for Jan Scott – one of her sons is getting married, on the beach in Half Moon Bay. She hopes the beach isn’t too crowded to find parking.

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