Erin's Journals

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Just a thought… I’d rather be honest than impressive. [Author Unknown]

Well, Dad’s lockdown in Kelowna just got more serious: he tells me now that if he goes out anywhere – including to the drug store to get supplies for his lady friend – he’s got to stay in his suite in his senior living complex for two weeks.

He was lamenting yesterday that it felt like some kind of maximum security ruling for everyone in Sandalwood, but he was half joking. And when he told me that on Easter Sunday they brought by some chocolates to everyone and a glass of “nice wine” as Dad put it, I said, “Yeah, sounds like you’re really doing hard time, Dad,” and he laughed.

As long as he’s laughing, he’s doing all right. Most of us are – including our 90-year-old fit and feisty friend Helen (who will cringe that I just included her age here). I talked to her yesterday and she’s missing hugs; she lives in her own Toronto-area apartment and is usually out at 5:30 am to join her friends in some good mall cardio. That’s walking, not shopping; she and I have differing ideas on that, I think!

But here’s a little slice of her life that I still chuckle about: every single week for over fifty years, Helen has gone to the hairdresser to get her hair washed and styled (and obviously sometimes cut, or her kids could just climb up her braid to get to her apartment). Not these days, though. Her daughter actually had to buy shampoo for her, and last week added hair spray to the shopping list.

I love Helen. She’s independent and proud, and now using some old curlers she had in her cupboard – I picture the grey metal and brush-spiky things my mom used to use in the 60s – and learning how to put ’em in. It’s so good to have a laugh with Helen when we chat, as we did yesterday when I was feeling blue and reached out hopefully to brighten two days at once.

Here’s Helen in happier and well-coiffed days at our place in Jackson’s Point. Molly isn’t missing a moment of the action.

There can be no doubt that by missing visiting with others, getting out to have some much-needed exercise that helps with balance and health, and just receiving that simple hug, the older ones among us (and I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that for Helen “elderly” is a four-letter word) are the ones who have more than their share at stake here.

As I say about grief, there’s no blue ribbon, no contest, in suffering. But my heart is with the older folks, many of whom are having trouble even comprehending why they’re not getting the visitors that they used to.

While Rob and I have each other, so many are alone right now – people of all ages. But I thought I’d link you to an uplifting radio story on about a Toronto man, Brian Corcoran, who actually took a part-time job in a seniors’ facility so that he could be with his mom. Imagine.

There are big stories that make it to the radio or TV or internet of the losses, the sacrifices, the hardships – financial, emotional, physical – and the suffering. But there are the little stories, too.

Some break your heart, some lift your heart. And that’s our life today. An unending tide that rolls in and rolls out again, carrying with it some moments (or as I felt yesterday, hours) of depression and others of hope and inspiration. In and out, over and over.

Please don’t write to remind me of the things for which I should be grateful. I see them and know them and am thankful every day. That’s not what I need. What I need is this here, right now. Some honest interaction that isn’t judged, and that certainly is not meant to put a damper on your day.

At the risk of repeating myself, I am just so grateful to you for being here. For having forged this connection, either recently or decades ago. For being a lifeline. We all need one these days. And we also need to give ourselves permission to put our necessary blessing-counting on hold and just feel lousy.

Luckily for me, I have a few people who are there when the ditch dips begin. And one of them even added an extra Facetime with a special little boy to raise our spirits. Sometimes just watching a kid cut circles out of his Play-Doh will do that.

All we can do is ride that tide and do our part to make sure these murky waters recede by being helpers, doing everything (even when that means nothing) and eventually healing ourselves, our communities and our country. And by keeping that lifeline – our connections – strong.

Because if you’re like me, the time you least feel like chatting is exactly when it can do the most good. Kind of like writing. So, thank you.

I’ll back with you tomorrow.

Rob WhiteheadTuesday, April 14, 2020