Here I sit, at age 85, in my prime, discovering things about myself that I’d forgotten about. I have the Pandemic to thank for that, giving me time to reminisce . My parents used to say, “Susie, go to your room”. Then in 2020 our caring scientists said to us, “People, stay in your homes and wear a mask when you go outside.” Once I got used to my glasses fogging up every time I breathed while wearing a mask I actually felt safer. I even carry my vaccination card in my purse because it’s as important as a passport. My father had a sign he put on the wall in our house. (Native American Proverb), “Never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.” Of all of the “tchotchkes”(stuff) that was in my parents home that sign stays imbedded in my mind. They stressed how being kind to others, “being a mench” (a good person and giving “Tzedakah” (charity) is important to practice and teach our children.
When the world learned about the covid 19 virus it was frightening. Watching T.V. and reading the newspapers we saw charts showing the numbers of people dying daily, and those numbers kept rising as the clock ticked. Airports around the world were closed down to travelers either coming in or going out. Everyone was basically a prisoner for their own and other’s safety no matter where they lived. Even though our grown children live within a few miles of us not being able to see them, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren was depressing. So wearing a mask everywhere and getting a nasal covid test to see if we had the virus was welcoming especially when the test came back negative. I haven’t been this clean since my mother bathed me when I was an infant while everyone feared getting polio, measles, and whooping cough (I caught that one).
I’m reminded of the trip I took in 1970 to meet my husband on his R & R, in Bangkok when he was serving our country during the Viet Nam war. The flight overseas consisted of a lay over in Tokyo for 2 nights. While on my tour bus I noticed many people wearing masks as they walked the busy streets. I didn’t fully understand then how pollution can carry bad bad germs. While raising four kids my motto was “a little dirt don’t hurt.” We need to wear our masks even now because of the variants from the covid virus. We need to be a beacon to everyone to show we care about our friends, loved ones and yes even strangers. and we need to get vaccinations to survive this terrible pandemic. My mother’s brother Phillip contracted the Spanish flu when he was young. Through God’s grace he lived through it, but it left him severely disabled.
I think the year was 1968, when my husband was stationed at Plattsburg AFB, N.Y., and the Hong Kong flu was raging around infecting people. The night I fell sick I felt cold, shivering I went to bed and woke up a week later. I lost a week out of my life and seven pounds and didn’t remember anything during the time I was so sick. Not a good weight loss program. We were grateful to our friends and neighbors for helping take care of our four children. I remember when I woke up I drank water and went to the bathroom. Funny what you do remember.
The words I mentioned earlier; mench and tzedakah. The first responders, nurses, doctors risking their lives to care for the sick, (Angels) strangers helping strangers sign up to get their vaccinations, children raising money to feed the hungry and restaurants giving food to the homeless. They became the heroes. Mothers and fathers now working from home are able to spend time with their children. We learned to do our grocery shopping online, having food delivered or driving to the grocery store to pick up groceries. I was reminded of the movies about the depression era where long lines of people waited to get food. I made the decision to shop early in the morning when my store was not crowded. With my mask properly placed on my face covering my nose and mouth I walked into the store, I carry sanitizer in my purse. I found my sanitized cart and searched for the items I needed. Before Covid I could pick up a piece of fruit, smell it and gently squeeze it to see if the cantaloupe, or peach was ripe or pick up the watermelon and thump it close to my ear to hear if it was hollow, a sign of ripeness. I became more considerate of the next shopper, maybe a stranger who hadn’t had their vaccination touched and smelled the fruit too. No more touching or smelling. There were no more tasting stations in the stores where you could try before you buy. Then I thought about the people who were running out of food because the place they worked had to close. I cook three meals a day plus give snacks to the man I’m a caregiver for, my husband and feel fortunate that I have food to cook. My scale was reading, “slow down on the snacks.” The gyms were closed so I bought a used recumbent bike and I walk my dog to work off the snacks. In the stores people would avoid the aisle another person was in. It was like each person was a “disease carrier in a science fiction movie, like we had the “plague”………..oh my G-d……………covid 19 is a plague. When we had our Passover seder this year we added covid to our list of plagues. It came after boils. I have friends that haven’t gone out for almost two years. Before the covid I taught water aerobics classes at an independent living facility until March 1st………then I was put on leave until………It’s now two years and I am still not teaching. I miss the warmth of the water on my body as I walked through it teaching, laughing with clients.and sometimes greeting new clients. But I believe that when one door closes another door opens. During my 85 years I’ve learned many skills that with a tweak here and a tweak there I can return to them to keep my mind active.
I became an avid reader, devouring book after book. I awaken at 4:30 or 5:00 each morning, crank up my Keurig coffee maker, put my back rest at the head of my bed turn on the reading light, sip my coffee and read for about two hours. Because we haven’t been able to travel due to covid and my husband’s dementia I imagine that I’m in a lovely hotel room somewhere else. Then I look around at the clothes I need to iron and put away. Holy Cow, where’s room service when you need it.
I started writing my stories, and recording them. My sound engineer instructor and I zoom our lessons which has been helpful, fun and something to look forward to. Having something to look forward to is a necessary thing. I’ve discovered my muse and rediscovered the true meaning of friendship and love, and being “there” for others. George Gershwin put what I’ve learned so beautifully in his song. “No, no Covid can’t take that away from me”.
Sue Bilich 7/6/2021