I hope people living in the time of the coronavirus are journaling about their quarantine. Our memories are often distorted by time, and our memories are singularly ours to recall.
What will my grandchildren want to know about this unprecedented time? In my journal, I’d write that I’m among the very fortunate right now. I’m healthy and so are my loved ones. If everyone over 60 is at a higher risk, count me in; ditto for anyone compromised by underlying health issues, as I’m carrying excess weight that I cannot attribute to quarantine. Medically speaking, I’m in good health; I have no chronic conditions and a remarkable immune system. I’m not denying my age as much as that I don’t feel like someone who is high risk. I’m a susceptibility denier.
My future grands might wonder who I’m quarantined with. I’m sheltering in place with my daughter, Nelle, who was sent home from college early. I’ve come to love my empty nest, but Nelle is good company and we both value our solitude, so it’s working out. I can’t speak for her, but I’m loving this time together.
Did I lose my job? No, my work for Silver Century entails reading and writing about aging, which I do from home. My other work is caring for older adults who need a little support to stay in their homes. I have clients counting on my help to navigate the lockdown remotely, like with a little shopping or a car repair. I also have uncompensated but challenging work for the school board. Nelle’s college classes take place in the home office now, but we easily reconcile shared space.
What do we do for fun since restaurants and movie theaters are closed? Nelle and I do jigsaw puzzles, play board games and try to remember rules to childhood card games. The best enhancement to the quarantine has been the absolutely glorious weather we’ve had in New Jersey. Our house has a wraparound porch that never translated to the repose and enjoyment one imagines. We’ve gotten more mileage out of that porch in lockdown than in all the other years put together. It feels like time stands still out there. And we walk the dog.
We talk to my older daughter, Mariefred, who lives in Baltimore with a roommate, Daysi. They both telecommute to full-time jobs, but their part-time restaurant jobs shut down. Both young women are separated from family and, maybe harder, boyfriends. My daughter is considering hiring a rental car when that’s a possibility—public transportation is too risky for visits home or to her boyfriend. She worries she’ll be putting me, or those in my care, at risk if she comes home, and interstate travel is ill-advised right now anyway. I can’t be with her. It’s hard.
If I wanted those future grandchildren to know how I survived the pandemic without losing hope, I’d want them to have this advice: stay connected, find joy in the simple things, get outside and keep mind and body active.
Pepper Evans works as an independent-living consultant, helping older adults age in place. She is the empty-nest mother of two adult daughters and has extensive personal and professional experience as a caregiver. She has worked as a researcher and editor for authors and filmmakers. She also puts her time and resources to use in the nonprofit sector and serves on the Board of Education in Lawrence Township, NJ.