Isolation, Age, and Assistance
Updated: May 5, 2021
During the time of the Covid pandemic, isolation is required. The old, like me, are especially vulnerable and advised to remain at home. These days, alone, indoors, and often on the phone or the computer, I dress for comfort. For months and for more than a year, I have hardly been out of my nightclothes. My usual robe wardrobe has doubled to seven, robes of various colors and degrees of warmth. When it rains, for exercise, I walk the building hallway in my robe and slippers. I seldom bother with lipstick, a messy affair impossible to maintain beneath a mask. Since I have so little reason to wear earrings, the holes in my ears have closed . . . perhaps forever. When required to change to daywear, I choose my Cuddl duds t-shirt and sweatpants of cozy fleece. At an age abundant with wrinkles and with hair, now white, that was once, decades ago, dyed red, I find it easy and relaxing to downplay the value of appearance.
As the threat/isolation of Covid stretches from one year to another, the days of the week blend together. Time seems primordial and loses immediate significance. Some days, I forget to open all my drapes. Others, I don’t remember lunch. More often than I plan or expect, I find myself stretched out on my recliner and awaking from a nap. Each night before dinner, my daughter Leslie calls me before she begins to prepare dinner, calls that can end abruptly when we find we have nothing new to report. On occasion, David drives me to Diva’s for coffee and conversation. Coffee with David is like a vacation.
All through 2020 and into 2021, my daughter and granddaughter ordered my groceries, cleaned them thoroughly and delivered them to my condo. Last year I bought a latex mattress that proved too large and heavy for the lovely walnut bed my son made. Now someone younger and stronger has to change my sheets. I can no longer drive; my neuropathic foot has lost a full appreciation of the gas pedal. Some time back, I donated my Honda to my daughter and must rely on others for rides. My brother, my niece Ari, my friends David and Tom take me to the doctor’s and on infrequent sight-seeing tours.
Most of the things I need, I order online. I get medicine from Bartells and nearly everything else from Amazon. Many of my fellow condo residents also work from home and, on a daily basis, our entrance hall is stacked with boxes and packages. We are obviously dependent on those who are required by circumstance and need to make deliveries. I think of them as our helpers, our heroes and, much like our overworked doctors and nurses, our salvation. We would not be able to isolate if other people weren’t willing to run the risk of Covid.
Even when Covid is over, I will continue to require, now and always, a multitude of deliveries and other kinds of help. I have had a computer for several decades and, as a writer, I can’t imagine life without it. But the Mac that replaced my HP defies my understanding. I rely on my granddaughter Elicia for assistance, as well as my son, a former Microsoft employee. I am also currently struggling with a new Canon printer. I have aging friends and relatives who don’t complicate their lives with such devices, some of whom call me with questions that I look up on Google or Bing. I wish Microsoft and Apple would make a relatively simple version of their wares for the tech limited. Instead, their products become more complex, multi-dimensional, and purposed for the young.
Increasing dependency is vital to being elderly and alive; I am happy to be both. I don’t resent growing older and see nothing demeaning about needing more assistance. We are all, all our lives, and in a million ways, dependent on others. We are born in a quite dependent state and our dependency continues.
I come from a big, if shrinking, family and I have a multitude of friends. People have given me a piece of their hearts; I have happily returned the favor.
When I was younger, I took the care and attention of others for granted. I seldom noted a valuable idea or remarked the giver. Only at the end of my life have I had the time and desire to revisit the past. Possibly the most important of these influences hark back to my early childhood.
Among those I remember who gave generously by word and example was, of course, my mother Myrtle/Mimi -- her enduring love for me has been the source of a lifelong confidence and eternal optimism. My sweet and sociable French grandfather taught me to respect everyone, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, or race. Charming Lina K. Litchfield showed me by her high kick example that having fun was as important as working hard. Much admired by my mother, the heroic flyer Claude Owen was an unusually kind man who didn’t drink or smoke; he taught me by beneficent example and an affectionate squeeze that I didn’t have to lose my temper when my volatile father lost his. The pianist Laura B. Luke shared her love of music and the critical importance of art. My English teacher Mr. Canup cheerfully sponsored all my writing efforts and assured me, a student who had zipped through Lewis and Clark High School without bothering to study, that I was “a brain” nonetheless.
It is too late now, but how I wish I had thanked them. I was young, mostly younger than sixteen, and not fully a person. I did not know why and how these gifts would matter.
To be human is to be social. We are constantly affected by people we know – and some we don’t. Our choices, despairs, hopes, and longings, our emotional well-being and what we believe to be true are all influenced by others. I am in large part the result of my encounters, near and far, intimate and abstract. As a devoted reader, this encounter is sometimes with a book and its author. I consider who and what I am at this moment resembles a chorus, a committee, or, possibly, a non-sporting team. During the long and isolated time of Covid, thoughts like these kept me from feeling tragically alone.