Category Archives: Quarantine Days

WRITING IN THE TIME OF THE PANDEMIC by Marjorie Roemer

Writing in the Time of the Pandemic

In that time . . .

By Marjorie Roemer

I noticed things.  Specifically, the little leaves coming out on my Christmas cactuses.  They emerge, one at a time, first the tiniest speck at the end of an established leaf.  Week by week, that speck creeps out until it is a pale, reddish quarter inch.  I think, with less time on my hands, I wouldn’t see these at all.  Now, I pore over the plants and I see, cheering on these tiny bits of growth.

What else can I see now?  Certainly the signs of spring, my emerging bleeding hearts and forget-me-knots.  Sad names for such pretty things.

The taste of food, the changes in the weather, the news from outside . . . all have an enhanced importance as other diversions are no longer available.  And I rejoice at all Zooming possibilities: our BOLLI meetings, the choruses and orchestras that somehow manage to create affirming, triumphant sounds.  With diminished horizons, everything looms larger, and I think we all cling to signs of life and vitality, celebrating the way that people can unite to overcome distance and isolation.

The majesty and unconquerable nature of the human spirit is something to affirm, something to cling to.  I am so grateful to all those musicians and dancers who continue to bring us delight, who articulate artistry and commitment in these trying times.  Ballet dancers with their adagios around a kitchen counter, others in fields and on roof tops, dancing their joy.

I look forward to meals and the occasional long phone call.  I read plague literature, first Camus then Defoe. I watch the news and hear about what new blunder our government has made and watch Blue Bloods on Amazon when it all gets to be too much.  I rejoice at my own ability to survive with the help of Instacart and Wegmans’ deliveries.  I check out how the virus is faring in the places where my family members live.  I didn’t know what county Cary, North Carolina was in, but now I do, and I check to see how relatively safe my grandson might be.

Vigilance, anxiety, concern (and rage) are balanced by some new set of appreciations, some new awareness, or permeability.  I check again my tiny new slow-starting leaves, and I see another tiny dot of expectation.  Hooray for you, I say.  I’m on your side.

BOLLI member and Memoir Writing SGL Marjorie Roemer

Marjorie has been at BOLLI for nine years, taking classes, teaching classes, serving on committees. Writing has, all the while, helped to frame and deepen experience for her.  (Be sure to dip into the 2020 BOLLI Journal to read two of her lovely poems.)

A MOVING EXPERIENCE by Sandy Miller-Jacobs

A Moving Experience

By Sandy Miller-Jacobs

It happened quite simply. Our older daughter, her husband, and their three children moved to Massachusetts around 7 years ago. They had lived in Washington DC while she was in graduate school and her then soon-to-be husband was attending medical school. There, for several happy years, they received their degrees and became parents of their first child, our first granddaughter. They moved to the Philadelphia area and bought a sweet home in a wonderful neighborhood. She got a job, he completed his residency, and they became the parents of another daughter. We were quite sure they’d never move to the Boston area. Then he applied for a fellowship in mammography at Mass General Hospital.

Our hopes were high, but realistically, his chances were low, but we hoped for the impossible.   We were thrilled when he was selected! They rented a two-bedroom apartment on the T line in Brookline. They liked living here and were glad to have grandparents as well as a great-grandmother all nearby.

Eventually, they bought a house in Newton and had a third daughter.  Their lovely house sits on a quiet street where they have  fabulous neighbors who have become close friends. It is within walking distance to the T and the center of town, the library, and, most importantly, PJ Licks Ice Cream.  When they first looked at the house, they said that, some day, they would like to expand the kitchen and the dining room, and they especially wanted to change the chandelier. They were staying for the long haul, and we were delighted.

After six years, 2019 became the year for the renovation. They selected a contractor who had done jobs for friends and only worked on one job at a time. They were confident in their choice and shared the architect’s drawings.  It looked like a bigger job than we had expected, but it surely looked good. They rented a home close by so they could take the kids to school, get themselves to work, and keep an eye on the construction. Their lease was for September to January. The contractor said that should be perfect timing. They put their furniture in storage and looked forward to 2020 being the year of their home being redone.

When our daughter was young and we had another on the way ourselves, we went through a much smaller renovation. It was rather stressful, but at least we weren’t out of our house for four months as they were to be. We suggested that, since we were going to spend February in Israel, they would be welcome to use our home if the job wasn’t finished on time.  When that did become necessary, that move worked very well, especially because the family knew the house–its layout, the beds, the bathrooms, the toys, the couches, and, of course,  the kitchen.  They were already comfortable in it.

We arrived home on March 1st to find the house filled with smiles and laughter, and for two weeks, we all lived together. The kids went to school, their parents to work, and we were thrilled to have the time together. Then the Corona Virus overtook our world. Our son-in-law was sure that, as a doctor at Boston Medical Center, he’d be exposed, and he didn’t want to impact us since we are in the elder risk category.  Both my daughters insisted that we take our friends up on their offer for us to go to their condo.

So, we packed up for our next adventure.  Our friends are in Tucson, we’re in their condo, and our kids are in our home.  Some day, our kids will move out, we’ll move back into our house and complain that it’s too quiet and run over to visit them.  Our friends will return, and we’ll join them for dinner.  Keep calm and carry on!

BOLLI Matters contributor and “Aging with Resilience” SIG leader Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Sandy finally retired after nearly 50 years in Special Education.  Along the way, she married, completed her doctorate, raised two daughters, married them off, and became a grandmother.  She says that BOLLI is the key to maintaining brain function through teaching and learning while meeting new friends. Her hobbies now include photography, memoir writing, and aging.  Sometimes she takes the risk and shares her hobbies and ideas with BOLLI members!

 

COVID-19: JUST ANOTHER DISRUPTION?

Covid-19: Just Another Disruption?

by Kate Seidman

“Have you visited China in the last two weeks?”

I was in line at the departure gate at Gatwick Airport for my flight back to Boston. It was late January, and news of a virus in China had led many international airports to start some basic screening. There had been news of someone in Boston getting sick after returning from Wuhan, so I was a little nervous getting on the plane.

At the entrance to the departure lounge, each passenger was asked about recent travel to China.  If someone from China wanted to get to Boston, I thought, they could just lie,  but the person in front of me said that, yes, he had been in China three weeks ago. He got on the plane.

Now, in early June, so much has changed. How quaint were those early days when the only check was a verbal one and many thought the virus wouldn’t spread beyond its origins in China. Could we have imagined that, by now, there would be over 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19 and the economy would be in shambles? Or that our lives would revolve around working from home, Zoom, grocery shopping exclusively online, social distancing, and face masks? We have been forced to “shelter in place” not for a day or two, as some of us did during the Boston Massacre, or weeks, as we did during a blizzard, but for months–and with no clear end in sight.

As we start to dip our toes back into the world, I find myself wondering how to make sense of what has changed and what may be laying ahead. Will we be able to return to normal, or will our lives never be the same? What can we learn from other disruptive events?

Are we like the survivors of a war trying to rebuild shattered lives and homes? Yes, we have lost too many lives. And we have lost our sense of feeling safe and secure in the world. But now, the danger comes not from bombs or artillery but from each other. Who might have the virus and not know it? How close can I come to that stranger or even my friend or relative? Who can I trust?

But the buildings are still standing. The communication, transportation, and other infrastructures have remained functional as have most businesses and institutions. Retail businesses are only waiting for people to emerge so they can start up again. Going forward, it is not the physical structures that need to be rebuilt but the personal, social, and political structures that hold our world together in invisible ways that make us feel safe and secure.

After every disaster, there is a period of cleanup which can last months. Now the cleanup drags on, exhausting the doctors, nurses, and others who are on the front lines. If the virus lingers, how do we build continuity and resilience to prevent breakdowns for those tasked with caring for the sick, the poor, the homeless? How do we reduce the demands and stress on teachers, parents, and others who are responsible for educating our children and grandchildren? We need more than just cleanup. We need long-term planning to train and rotate multiple waves of educators and front line workers as the first group rests. We need to protect those who heal, educate, and support us. We need to show them our appreciation and gratitude.

After wars and other major disruptions, the world did not return to the way it was. Some losses never healed. Some organizations never came back. Some people never recovered. And some suffered long-term physical and mental problems. We have already witnessed social, political, and economic fallout that could last for years. As we contemplate our lives going forward, we have to consider that we won’t ever go back to the way things were.

If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that we are responsible not just for ourselves but for those around us. We limit grocery shopping to protect not only us but the people working in the stores. We wear masks and practice social distancing not only for our own safety but so that we don’t spread the disease to others. These actions are part of living in a community where we have mutual responsibility for each other. When we trust and respect others by demonstrating kindness and compassion, we start to build the social structures from which strength, determination, and resiliency can grow.

We are fortunate, at BOLLI, to be part of a thriving learning community, even though  remote.  It’s a good start.

BOLLI Member Kate Seidman

When Kate joined BOLLI 5 years ago, she put aside a lifetime of research into people and technology to take classes in History, Music, Art, and Writing. She also knits. After 40 years as a foreigner, she still doesn’t understand America.