This pandemic is exposing a natural kindness that drives many people. Virtually every day, someone calls me or sends me an email, checking in to see how I’m doing, whether I need anything, perhaps someone to run an errand for me. This is a comfort to me, and I’m grateful. Physically, I feel reasonably well for my age. Emotionally? Well, that’s another story.
My dear bride Betsy and I haven’t seen each other face to face for about a month now. She lives in an assisted living facility about five miles from our home where we used to live together. Separating us this way, nearly two years ago, has been hard on both of us, as you might imagine. For 57 years we had lived together under the same roof.
But declining mobility and increasing dementia brought her to a point when I no longer could care for her in ways that she needed, and assisted living in a well-regarded place provided our answer. Now she lives there, and I live here, so I visit her virtually every day. We laugh, play a favorite card game, swap family news, discuss music and politics. We draw strength from these visits, count on them. For us both, tit’s he highlight of our day.
Covid-19 has put an end to that, so we settle for a phone call every afternoon, after she’s had her lunch and a nap. The calls are brief, not much to talk about. Sometimes, confused, she asks me whether I’m coming to visit tomorrow. I gently explain why I can’t.
At first she didn’t grasp the significance of the pandemic and its effects on her life at the assisted living facility, but now she gets it. Residents eat their meals in shifts, only two to a table, seated several feet apart. Group activities have been curtailed. Staff is constantly cleaning, disinfecting. Everyone is wearing face masks and surgical gloves. Of course, no one visits.
One would be forgiven for concluding that she couldn’t be in a safer place during this pandemic. So it might seem, but every day, residents elsewhere are dying from this virus at other long-term care facilities, in our town and across the nation. Thousands of them. Residents of these places, referred to generically as nursing homes, are more vulnerable than the rest of us because of their advanced age and underlying medical issues. One can appreciate why the staffs of such homes struggle to keep them from becoming infected.
Where Betsy lives, a dedicated staff is winning the battle, so far. What will tomorrow bring? Will I receive bad news? When will we see each other again?