Seeking Comfort, Sharing Stories
By Dolores Eyler
These are strange times. I would say unique times, but we are all experiencing them together.
I was never much of a crier, but now I find myself tearing up many times a day – at the arrival of the U.S.N.S. Comfort into New York Harbor; at the words of my 96-year-old father, asking if this is the end of us all; at the sight of my grandson, playing piano over Facebook.
I thought this would be an opportunity to be creative – writing, painting, improving my pitiful piano playing. Instead, I clean. My art area is ready to go, but I am not. The piano stands in the corner, unopened. I am like post 9/11, too stunned to concentrate.
Grocery shopping is like entering a dystopian universe, where most everyone wears gloves and a mask, topped by an expression of suspicion. No wonder there are not enough supplies for First Responders.
One video, certainly not meant to be a joke, showed the manipulations one should go through to ensure one’s groceries are germ-free. I was comforted when my friends’ reactions were the same as mine – you have got to be kidding! As careful as we are trying to be, it seems unrealistic to have to wash every piece of fruit in hot soapy water, after they spend a post-shopping three-day hiatus in the garage. Just wash those hands and KEEP THEM AWAY FROM YOUR FACE.
Social networking, which has saved us, has also become a bane to contemplation. The constant dinging of texts, displaying the latest jokes and cartoons, are a relief but also a distraction. Is it uniquely American to immediately find humor in the horrific? It does help, sick as it may be. How many administrations, initially promising a return to a robust economy around Easter, would speak of its resurrection? And after weeks of Trump’s denial that the virus is serious, his sudden change of heart is most depressing. If even he believes it’s bad, it is beyond terrible.
I constantly write, text, and call friends and relatives, seeking their safety, and sharing stories. A single friend, alone, with a pre-existing condition, said his neighbors have been wonderful, shopping for him and checking in. “But what I really miss is touch,” he said, “just feeling someone’s hand.”
At the beginning of the isolation, I told myself this was a good time to lose a few pounds, due to home cooking. Instead, I crave sweets, thankful my husband overbought at Costco, bringing home Lemoncello Chocolate Almonds, Dark Chocolate Apricots, and Half Dipped Mango. And I start thinking about my evening cocktail before noon!
I spend so much time sitting in the same place, I find myself musing often of the past, maybe afraid to think too much of the future. It is comforting to remember good times, and a relief to finally accept that time doesn’t heal all wounds.
A senior, I worry about my two pregnant daughters-in-law, a son with a new house, furloughed jobs, and many nieces and nephews still working in dangerous jobs. One nephew, a fireman and EMT in Gig Harbor, WA, said their aid calls, surprisingly, have been fewer than before the epidemic. “No one wants to go to the hospital,” he said.
I have long told my husband that when I get old and infirm, just put me in front of a window, so I can see light, birds, and flowers. Well, that’s my life now. And I am a lucky one. I think constantly of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugees, the hospitalized, and the families that could not say goodbye.
A month ago, few of us knew someone who had it. Now, we all do.
But there are some positives. My husband and I cook together every night, culminating in a family dinner with one of our sons, who is now living and working in our basement. Another son, in the financial business, told me my call to him was the first friendly one he had had in days.
We are talking and walking more than ever. We are asking how we can help others. We are relieved of constant political news. And we are looking ahead, together, to when this all ends. And it will.