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Pandemic Extremes and the Circle of Life

What's it like to be really old in a pandemic?

Last April my 98 year-old father-in-law passed away. He did not have COVID-19. He did have poor circulation, which was causing gangrene in one of his feet, and he was mostly deaf and almost blind. The ordinary isolation he must have felt was surely compounded by the isolation the pandemic imposed. My father-in-law was a brilliant man who, even in his decline, was still aware or tried to be. But penetrating his limited world was difficult. He knew there was a virus that was only allowing us Facetime visits, which he could barely hear or see. My husband and his two brothers, my sisters-in-law, and I, and many grandchildren attempted daily contact, but we are left with only the hope that he knew we were reaching out through this unfamiliar technology. I have the feeling he held on as long as he could, but relief was taking too long, and he let go. Unlike the Facetime conversations, the Zoom funeral and shiva were surprisingly satisfying. Fortunately, we can all hear and see, and we were able to connect with family and friends nearby and around the world.

What's it like to be a newborn in a pandemic?

Our first grandchild was born in November. Though our daughter delivered the baby in a hospital five minutes from our home, we could not stand by in the waiting room sharing the excitement, worry and joy with our son-in-law's parents, who would have been there, too. In these early weeks, the baby's world is very small, anyway, but what will she think when things open up and there are so many new faces in her world? Maybe a pandemic is actually healthy for a newborn, limiting exposure to all kinds of illnesses and increasing bonding time with parents. Will slightly older children remember what baby-sitters are? Their parents certainly haven't forgotten. How strange it will be to see all the new arrivals when we are out in the world again.

What's it like to be a pet in a pandemic?

We have two dogs-- now. We have our ten-year-old miniature poodle and a six-month-old puppy who entered our lives in July. I imagine our older dog telling the puppy, "I don't know what happened. I used to be home all alone for hours. Now they're always here. It's all walks and belly rubs and just hanging together on the couch. (I heard Marcy say we'll be getting a new one of those when the pandemic ends). Life is good."

And life is good if:

You don't get COVID-19.

No one you care about gets COVID-19.

No one in your world dies of COVID-19.

No one dies and you can't mourn them the way you want to.

You have a job that you do from home.

You have a job where you can be safe.

You have a job.

You have a home that's big enough so you can work or study easily.

You live with people you like to be with.

You love the people you live with.

You get to see family and friends.

You don't feel lonely.

You have a computer.

You have Zoom.

You have wealth.

You have health.

Births and deaths happen in everyone's lives. To experience them both while the world seems to be on hold is more disorienting than usual.

The celebrations and commemorations that will be held when we can gather again will extend whatever feelings we couldn't fully express. I hope when the pandemic ends, we can remember to be more attentive than we used to be.

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