The Corona Virus has turned our normal world inside out. People have lost jobs that were dependent on customers, and businesses will flounder. Investments have plummeted. Seniors are suffering alone to protect loved ones. Health care workers are at risk when caring for the sick. Grocery stores struggle to stock everyday products, and a few empty shelves still startle us.
My Florida daughter Jill returned my 85-year-old California sister-in-law Carol after an extended visit because my two grandsons were returning from college. Jill never left the San Diego airport, boarding a plane three hours later to return to Florida. She had originally planned to stay a week to visit with us, her daughter and family, but consideration for our health changed her plans.
My first encounter with the inconvenience was returning from our Tahoe week to an empty refrigerator, then some empty shelves and a long line for checkout at the commissary. Fresh fruits and vegetables were plentiful, a definite plus, but no paper goods, peanut butter, or canned soup. Shoppers were generally patient and cheerful, accepting what they could not change. The unusual line allowed me to engage a fellow shopper, Jan, in an interesting conversation which made the 30-minute wait pass pleasantly. Being a people person, I miss the social interaction, even with strangers who often have entertaining stories. I miss the family and friend greeting hugs.
During this Pandemic, we notice the goodness of strangers and, sadly, the selfishness of some. In times of hardship, we Americans step up to demonstrate our concern for others and to confirm that our society will survive and become even better after this temporary bump. I missed my eggs and English muffins, and milk was running low until my son-in-law and daughter shopped for groceries and delivered them to us. A famous restauranteur opened his restaurant for gourmet soup, asking those who could pay for $7 while those who could not ate free. Mothers are hunkering down to home school and entertain restless children. Teachers are preparing on-line courses for the first time with great frustration but determination. Doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, and other necessary personnel continue their jobs daily for our protection.
Since I am usually an optimistic person, I choose to use my resignation at being self-isolated as an opportunity. My usual bulk shopping and overloaded freezer will get us through this period with only mild disruption. Our meals may be different, but we will not starve! No commitments, no socials, no routine gatherings necessitate a reboot to my daily routine, however. Social media, often ignored, has afforded me the chance to view creative ideas from friends, family, and former students as well as revel in the voice of reason from most. I have posted comments instead of the usual quick “like.” Encouraging and funny postings from friends provide some entertainment value.
For those sequestered with family, precious family time awaits. With children at home, determine to make it a good experience. Use the mealtimes to ask probing questions which will lead to revealing conversations: What is your first memory? Acquaint the children to crafts that may carry over into adulthood. When my girls were 5 and 7, I introduced them to embroidery on a cross-country flight, before seat screens were common. I had traced a large rose from a coloring book onto batiste material and taught them the chain stitch. Yes, it was frustrating, but they continued that hobby. I have beautiful samples around my house of later endeavors.
Teach the children some of those old card games, War and Old Maid. Give them a topic to journal. Read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” to children below that reading level but old enough to enjoy the story. Have a cooking lesson. Even making instant pudding is cooking to a 5-year-old. Teach them the proper way to set a table. Plan a talent show where everyone has to participate.
For us seniors with no small children at home and with the leisure to plan our own time but who routinely complain of not enough time to paint, read, meditate, pray, clean out closets, etc., we have no excuse for the next few weeks. We have the time. My intention is to do those things now, or never complain again about lack of time. One flower bed is half weeded, and I am well into a new book. My husband has been reviewing the method to cane chair seats and is ready to tackle two chairs again after a respite of forty years.
My friend Priscilla is knitting blankets for charity and has a new knitting project in the works: Twiddlemuffs (thanks to the British for that one!) for Alzheimer’s patients. Dawn is creating trivets from wine corks for their church bazaar.
I had an overdue, long phone conversation this week with a high school classmate in North Carolina who has been somewhat housebound for months, and I have a list of other friends I will enjoy visiting by phone. My intentions are good at keeping in touch, but I forget when the daily calendar is crowded. Life is too busy when we fail to put our friends as a priority.
This morning I shuffled through a plastic box of framed old pictures, probably left untouched for the last 15 years. Fond memories of our Swedish foreign exchange student Fredrik, skiing with the first two granddaughters when they were very young, my grandfather sitting comfortably in Mother’s house, all sent me back to a quiet period of reflection.
Isolation is not my choice of a meaningful lifestyle but making the best of any situation is. This Covid-19 period is very inconvenient for everyone and very serious, even tragic, for some. People are suffering medically and economically, and significant, celebratory events have been canceled. Loneliness is heartbreaking for those confined alone. Tempers flare with too much togetherness. Boredom, which leads to grousing, will surface unless we consciously prevent it.
We may grumble, and some did that too often when things were “normal,” but our rational selves know our condition could be a lot worse. People are trying to solve the dilemma. Medical care is available. We may not have enough masks or ventilators for this new experience, but plans have been made to secure them. We may not have all the supplies we would like, but few people in the U. S. are really starving. Churches and citizens are contributing to help those who have lost income. Most people have phones, television, books, computers, and a multitude of things to occupy their time in a worthwhile manner.
If you have been in contact with crowds or are virus free, stay isolated, not only for your protection but for everyone’s good, and put on your optimistic armor. We Americans can handle this and come out better people.