Thanks to COVID-19, my kids are home from school for the next month or so. We’ve started making plans for what happens if one of us gets sick, even if all of us get sick. In that case, our puppy Ollie is in charge. He hasn’t quite figured out Grubhub and only seems to be able to chase and catch sticks, so our diet is going to suffer. But at least we’ll know when anyone is approaching the house, and we’ll never be alone.
I’m not a sandwich generation parent anymore. It hasn’t stopped me from thinking about what we’d be doing now if my father were still alive.
He lived for the most part in an independent living community, which is a far cry from being a nursing home or even an assisted living facility. He occupied his own apartment and could make his own decisions about when and how he wanted to leave. Meals were meant to be communal and social, and so of course he decided to self-isolate. He didn’t really care for most people. One of the greatest days of his life was when he figured out that room service meals delivered for $6 per day would free him from having to interact. Best money he ever spent.
Given his history of contracting and beating diseases – colon cancer and C-Diff among them – I am certain that COVID-19 would have found its way into his system. His subpar hygiene almost guarantees it. Then, if the coronvavirus could talk, it probably would say something like “Yeah, I see now why nothing kills this guy – it’s way too much work.” And then he’d recover and marvel at still being alive.
Sometimes I picture the various things that tried to kill him hanging out together in a metaphorical locker room, dripping with sweat and exhausted, swapping stories about how close they came, only to bonk at the last moment at this unkillable giant. Only Time could get him.
The hardest part for him might have been the forced isolation from visitors. I get this recommendation. I also know that despite all the people living together, these communities can be lonely. On occasional Friday nights, we used to have dinner with Novas’s grandmother in her swank retirement community, and the other residents would mob us. Yes, we had cute pigtailed blondie 4 year old twins in tow. They were a sight to behold. More than that though, we were new visitors in a place that already did not get many. People were starved for contact with different people from the outside world. I can’t imagine living in a sealed-off community where your children and good friends are prevented from actually seeing you.
I remember how my father need not only the health to live, but something to live for. My brother and his kids would FaceTime him nearly every day, which was great nourishment for him. It was also not enough.
For as much as he didn’t like most people, he too needed people. He looked forward to visits from his Home Instead helpers and made sure to queue up videos and pictures for them. We had our weekly Sunday get-togethers. For months, he and I sometimes had loud arguments about my insistence that he change from his pajamas and robe into actual clothes when I’d come. Truth be told, it was one way I could check if he was still mentally with it without having to ask him. Eventually he gave in because he grew to like when I came, and he wanted me to be proud of him. I don’t know how he would have reacted to having those shut off.
I might have sneaked up the back stairs anyway – because like I said, there is no way the coronavirus could have killed him if C-Diff, colon cancer and the Nazis couldn’t do it.
Like everyone else, I hope this pandemic passes quickly. That would be great. I hope I don’t get it, and that my wife and kids don’t get it. I don’t have elderly parents to worry about, which like many blessings is bittersweet. If I did though, I’d also be reaching for a solution to their loneliness. It too is a serious condition if left untreated.