Our Stories: In times like this…

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By Mona Howard

Is there anyone besides me who is in a funk from being constantly reminded of a personal assigned status, “elderly?”  

Who, me?  

Strangely, I have never thought of myself in that light, never worried about it or really cared.  I confess, whenever I happen upon a terrific senior citizen discount I do take advantage, since I technically qualify.  But otherwise, age does not dictate my life.  

Through the years, gallons of hair coloring chemicals, buckets of miracle wrinkle preventative creams and other cosmetics, have been my arsenal.  I honestly thought I had been reasonably effective in waging my war.  Hiding my birth certificate and swearing my twin brother to keep the secret, my age has not been a concern in my mind!  

And then, along came COVID-19.  The virus uncovered my charade while the brigade of broadcast announcers continue to slam network airways with directives!  I cringe, honestly do, as those of us who are “elderly” must hear continually overly-emphasized, extra precautions repeatedly.  

Is there a consensus with the broadcasters that we cannot hear?  Panic and fear escalates, along with aggravation and defiance.

COVID-19 silently slipped into our lives like a thief arriving in the dark of night.  The virus robbed repeatedly without detection.  Time passed, the practice continued and our peace of mind, security, health, economics, daily routines, contentment were all taken. In an attempt to overcome this thief, our leaders have issued necessary directives. 

Instructions such as sheltering-in-place, social distancing, closing of businesses, working from home, and no longer being able to share activities and presence with family and friends are the outcomes.  

I am convinced our adult children have us tagged in their GPS systems and receive automated notifications, if we dare to plan and initiate occasionally necessary sanity escapades.  

Busted.  

Yes, I have to admit I have been caught occasionally but in my defense, the situation has become almost overwhelming.  Almost.  We can carry on as directed and we must. We must team together in the fight and we are indeed a team, struggling together.  But, it is acceptable and understandable not to like it!  Life is chaotic, unsettled and unsure as we deal with this invisible enemy.  But, with determination the situation is to be temporary.

Time has marched forward and impatience has settled into our personalities.  I wear my mask, my gloves, travel alone in my vehicle, and usually do not even exit my car.  The human side of me absolutely has to occasionally escape the solitude of home.  

What am I in need of escaping at home?  Myself. When you talk to yourself is one thing.  When you talk to yourself and then answer, it’s time to make some changes!  Our family room is currently devoid of family and the 16 foot table remains adorned for the Easter meal that this year was just not to be!  Normally, in this season our home would be full of active grandkids with their parents, dropping in and out, swimming, hunting, fishing, or simply gathering and sharing sibling and cousin secrets.  

The sound now is deafening silence.  

Changes had to be made to preserve my sanity. So, my sewing machine is now relocated in the family room and a constant hum replaces the previously unnerving silence.  I unnecessarily finished sewing Easter bonnets for the six month old twins’ first Easter, not really needed since this first holiday was spent worshipping with family, but in their home using social media.  

Easter bonnets they wore though, to keep Grandma happy!  

A higher priority project, face masks, replaced sewing bonnets! Over 160 face masks have been produced in the family room, a room that now resembles a sewing plant!  A mosaic of fabric scraps cover the floor and bits of elastic are coveted as the supply is scarce.  No need yet to sweep the remnants since the demand for masks has not decreased and remains a high priority. 

Efforts to fill the demand continue with a vengeance.  Friends bring their donated fabric to the front door and stand at a distance so that we can cherish a bit of conversation and visual recognition!  Friends have mailed me fabric, others have sent elastic from their inventory.  We are all in this battle together and it’s a good feeling to feel the teamwork.  

The mood is of challenge, service with purpose, a united determination to beat this enemy, the unseen virus.

Baking homemade bread has been another personal effort to combat the isolation that eats from within me.  Not long before COVID-19 made its presence known, a good friend randomly offered  me bread starter dough, random because I had not made homemade bread in years.  I accepted the gift, came home and started bread loaves, and have not stopped yet.  

During the pandemic there have been days when I have made as many as nine loaves and I am asked, “What do you do with all the bread?”  I share it!  After all, Ken and I are limited as to the amount we can eat without needing larger clothes, and shopping is not a good idea!  Seriously, there are others who are also isolated at home and I surprise them with bread loaves, but do observe social distancing!  I promise!  After all, homemade bread baking gives your home a wonderful aroma and is a comfort food for all who consume!  Unfortunately, bread flour joined toilet paper and hand sanitizer to become missing shopper targets on retail shelves.  

No flour, no baking of bread!

Every spring brings the excitement of revitalizing our yard.  

Why should the virus rob us of this joy?  Pulling weeds was not a problem.  However, producing blooms required the presence of plants.  Donning gloves and mask and traveling alone, I sneaked to an outdoor nursery for a brief visit and secured treasured plants, while hoarding moments of freedom from cabin fever! 

 Busted!  

My lecture arrived to remind me of sheltering directives and the inquisition of why I needed to beautify the yard since no one could visit?  My answer was, “Selfish motivation.”  Many of us find a closeness to our maker when digging in the soil, listening to His birds chatter, or even watching pesky squirrels and chipmunks steal food from the bird feeders. 

Meditation, self-reflection, and the simple process of remembering what we had and what we cannot afford to take for granted again when this chaos passes all happen in my garden.  Friends will not visit, family will not see, but in my garden I will find peace and hope, knowing times will get better.  I believe we will exit this struggle stronger in our faith, closer as family units, more determined, less selfish, and more respectful of our differences.  

We will genuinely appreciate all that we have previously taken for granted as Americans.  I smile, knowing the day will come again, soon I hope, when I can physically hug my grandchildren, visit with my adult children, and make new memories to cherish with my friends and family.

Mona Howard is a retired Morgan County teacher, lives in Morgan County.  She is an avid grandmother, loves life, family, and outdoor living.

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