Going the Distance
Local writers offer strength, hope, and solidarity in a time of social distancingAppearing in the print edition of the Benicia Herald, April 3, 2020
Tuesdays with Helen
Helen is my closest friend of fifty years. We raised our kids in tandem sharing many heartbreaks and happy moments. The Covid-19 virus is invading our lifelong friendship. Helen lives in Walnut Creek. She can’t really see very well anymore and she can’t drive. She was my Tuesday date. I would go to Walnut Creek, take her to doctor’s appointments and shopping; we’d get pedicures, and go to the movies. Before coronavirus.
Now everything is closed except the grocery stores. Because of physical limitations we can’t walk far; sitting outside is not a great option either. The cold makes us stiff; we both have arthritis. Symptoms that often plague me at non-virus times, happening now, raise the question of whether my aching joints, sinus headaches, red itchy eyes, or lack of energy are a threat to friends. These are the kind of symptoms seniors tend to get with Covid-19. And Helen’s adult son lives with her. He goes out and who knows where he goes? And what he might bring home? So many questions.
In these difficult times I am left with two choices. Grocery shopping with her, or not.
Here’s the rub. She’s a very tactile person, a hugger. And she likes to pick everything up, touch it, squeeze it, read the labels, expiration dates, etc. She carries a magnifying glass with her. It takes forever. She’s lonely and friendly and likes to talk to people. People respecting the six-foot physical distance aren’t as receptive these days. They want to get in and get out. I have offered to order food for her online and have it sent. She has no technology in her home besides the jitterbug phone I got her so she could call from wherever for help if needed. She is not receptive to more technology.
I am torn up. If it was a family member, like my mother or sister, I would just put my foot down and insist that she accept food ordering and delivery. But this being her only opportunity to move among the living, I can’t discourage it. Her son still takes her to the store. It is still an ordeal.
The Way of Balance
In everything evil, the potential for good;
in everything good, the potential for evil.
We live by the grace of the Great Mystery
and the goodness of one human being toward another.
Send your poems or short prose to Mary Susan Gast for possible inclusion in this column as we support one another during the coronavirus pandemic. Email to msgast45 at gmail dot com.