By Helen H. Webb
Will I survive my decision in 2019 to move from my home of fifty-five years to the Happy Home Retirement Community? I had been involved in a variety of activities: playing bridge three afternoons a week, church twice a week, attending a writing group monthly, walking with neighbors daily, and lots of other social activities. The decision had not been extremely difficult to make. The house had developed problems as had the yard. (It was a $1000.00 here, a $1000.00 there.) Arthritis had set up in my back which prohibited me from working in the yard. Although I had yard service, no one could keep the yard the way I had. Eight months earlier I had been hospitalized by a fall in the yard. It was time to move on to a different life.
Gradually I began to incorporate some of the Happy Home activities into my life. The various people I ate supper with were friendly and interesting. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my daughter and her family as my son had recently moved to Virginia. Life was moving along smoothly. Then, COVID-19 hit North Carolina and March 17, 2020 the governor shut down the state. The Happy Home Retirement Community became the Happy Jail. The dining room and café were closed. Meals could be ordered and delivered to residents. All activities were cancelled. No outside visitors were allowed on campus. Visiting inside the apartments or cottages was not allowed but we could leave the campus for essential reasons. Then came the mask wearing and six feet apart rules. The “shutdown” was suppose to be for several weeks, but several weeks got extended and re-extended.
By the sixtieth day I was “at the end of my rope.” Each day for thirty minutes I walked around and around the back parking lot often talking to God. Once I asked him “ How long are we going to have to deal with COVID-19” and at the same time I thanked him for a safe place to live, food to eat and the ability to at least see a few people. I always ended my walks at the front entrance to the Club House. Usually someone would be sitting in one of the four rocking chairson the porch. The chairs of course were six feet apart. I always stopped to chat a few minutes,after first putting on my mask. As the weather turned warmer, more people gathered and sat in the chairs or on the several nearby benches.
In the back parking lot there were things to watch: workmen coming and going, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, tomato plants growing and a yellow rose bush beginning to bud. Inside my apartment I had several daily devotion books to read, a diary to record daily happenings, a TV to watch and a computer on which I could play bridge with my long time partner. We played bridge every night for two hours. The trip to the mailroom was the excitement of the day: would there be a note or card or even a bill waiting for me.
Soon afterwards, the governor let up on some of the restrictions and we were allowed to eat in the dining room but fewer people at a time and only four people to a table. I was elated to be able to eat supper with other people. As the weeks and months have gone by, the rules and regulations have lessened. More activities have been gradually added to the social calendar but always the rules of six feet apart, masks and limited number of participants have remained in place. Last week we were allowed to have outside visitors in the apartments but not in the dining room or other inside areas of the campus.
COVID-19 has affected my emotional health. My nerves are shot. Any little problem throws me into a tizzy. Computer and cell phones glitches seem to be insurmountable. When will it ever be over? Problems with the computer and cell phone, and the 2020 election are things I will survive. Even though I’ve seen my children almost weekly, outside in the church parking lot six feet apart, I’ve not been able to touch them nor to see their unmasked faces. Last weekend both children visited me in the apartment….six feet apart and wearing masks. Instead of joy, I felt detachment. It was almost like entertaining a stranger in my home. Texting, e-mails and phone calls just don’t adequately convey deep down feelings and after a while the feelings just seem to vanish into thin air. Emotional detachment from my children is a terrible feeling. I feel like I’m alone in the world. For me, the emotional impact of COVID-19 is the survival question. Tomorrow when I walk around and around the parking lot, I’ll talk to God about my feelings and look for a message in the wonderful world of nature.