By Jill Brightman
In the time before Coronavirus and Covid-19 became the common phrases in our lexicon, life was already a bit hectic and at times, overwhelming. Anyone, like me, who is a card-carrying member of the “Sandwich Generation” knows the challenges of balancing responsibilities to your spouse and children (and their own busy schedules), to your employer, and to your aging parents. Juggling all of these balls in the air is tough, but something I was learning to manage and adapt to.
But, just when I thought I had some of this stuff figured out, the world was turned upside-down, blanketed by a vicious pandemic and everything that was normal before is anything but normal now.
Life seems to be moving slower now, although hardly less complex. No longer am I challenged with finding enough time to do household chores or catch up with friends. My groundhog days are instead filled with concerns like worrying if my husband (in the health care industry) is safe at work, hoping there will be enough toilet paper in the house, trying to decipher 5th grade math as I attempt to home school while working in a make-shift office out of my bedroom, and explaining to my 8-year old, that yes, you still have to get dressed today even though we aren’t going anywhere.
But, perhaps the most frustrating thing has been trying to get my baby boomer parents to just stay home!
They know they are vulnerable – especially as they are both in their 70s – and are especially at risk for complications from Covid-19. Yet they still they make their weekly rounds (with gloves and scarves serving as masks) to the grocery store, the gas station, the bank, and the pharmacy. I offer help like getting their groceries and setting up online delivery, payment and banking options. But my too proud parents are fiercely independent and insist that all of these excursions are indeed, “absolutely necessary” trips.
I ask myself over and over, “Why can’t they just stay home?”
The answer, I think, is simply, they can’t. And, I get it.
The isolation is incredibly difficult for them, as it would be anyone. They can’t hug their grandchildren. They can’t go out and socialize with friends. There are no longer events on the calendar to look forward to in the coming months. They feel the need to get out and about, not only to get the essentials, but to feel purpose. And as long as they take proper precautions (as they have been doing diligently) and limiting trips, I can only continue to offer to help and let them know that I am here.
And, while modern technology has been a savior in terms of communication with co-workers and family, it has also proven a barrier for my parents during this pandemic. They don’t own a computer. And my dad, who recently purchased his first non-flip mobile phone has just learned how to text. (It’s still a work in progress though, as he calls me to tell me he has texted me, which sort of eliminates the need for the text in the first place.) They don’t have access to or a strong understanding or trust of online commerce, so in a way they only have their telephone and car as their lifeline to their community.
Like all of us, they are fearing the unknown and what happens next. I try to re-assure them (and myself) that this will be over at some point and talk to them as frequently as possible. I try to share my concerns and understanding, but also try to get them to think of the little good things that still do and can happen every day. And of course, I send many, many pictures (in a text message) of the grandchildren!
Lessons for a Lifetime
The Coronavirus pandemic has both terrified me and taught me. I hope that I now appreciate the little things I have been taking for granted like watching a ballgame on TV, chatting with my hairdresser as she makes my gray hairs disappear, or taking my kids to a movie. I hope that it has also emphasized to me importance of the big things – quality time with my children, appreciating my good fortune to be healthy, and most importantly, appreciating loved ones in my life, like my parents. The last few months have taught me to connect with and understand my parents in a way I haven’t been able to do before.
Someday, hopefully soon, things will return to life as we knew it – although, most certainly a different normal. Regardless of where we all go from here, this shared human experience will certainly leave behind its share of scars but, ironically has given us some of unexpected gifts.