by Chana Thau, our Winnipeg Correspondent
I spent the month of February in Palm Springs, CA, then a week in North Vancouver to visit my newborn grandson and his family. Only on February 29, the day before our departure from California, did I start to get a real feeling for what lay ahead with COVID-19.
My brother in Vancouver texted us to see if we could buy some masks, as none were to be had there. We quickly learned that the same was true in PS, and that bottles of hand sanitizer were also in increasingly short supply. I naively thought my husband was overreacting when he bought up the last seven travel-sized ones at our nearby pharmacy.
Fast forward to coming home on March 8. On both segments of our trip home, we wiped down the armrests, headrest and seatbelts of our seats. Our seat mate made a racist comment on how members of a certain ethnic group should not have been allowed on the plane.
In both Vancouver and Winnipeg, we continued to see our children and grandchildren, all of whom had colds at one point or another. My doctor-husband continued to go to the office to see patients, and I went to the community centre and yoga.
Manitoba had no cases of the virus then. We reacted to the countless pings on our cellphones, updating us on the world and local situations, getting more and more worried. It was on Thursday evening, when a normally calm and collected friend called with panic in her voice to say her adult grandchildren had been sent tickets to come home from New York and Toronto, that I began to get a little panicky. I still went to my yoga class the next day, being careful to wash my hands and wipe down the mat, as yoga is a calming activity. But my husband and I made a list of essential foods to stock up on for the next weeks, “just in case”, and he sallied forth into the nearby SuperStore, finding the aisles and parking lot crowded as never before, and with many empty shelves.
We followed the announcements of countless local cancellations and closings – plays, concerts, our JCC, synagogue, yoga studio and our son’s long-awaited play, due to open later this month at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. I prepared to leave for a reading of this play before it went into hibernation last Sunday with my Vancouver brother’s words echoing in my ears : “You should not go. Stay home.”
That has been one of the hardest things for me to accept in this whole scenario – that I am a Senior Citizen, age 71 and, tho’ healthy and fit, in one of the most at-risk demographics. I want to help my kids out with their kids, but they are admonishing me to take care of myself and stay put.
Monday was a day of despair, as I slowly let the reality of all the closures and the social distancing take hold. My only sortie that day was to Costco – shudder! But the next day, I took myself in hand and started to do positive things. My house had not been cleaned in a long time, so I went at it, a few chores at a time. Monday, wash all the hardwood floors, Tuesday, remove six weeks’ worth of dust from the furniture and Wednesday, sponge mop all the remaining floors in the house. It was so therapeutic – it let me expend energy and was something I could control and see immediate results! I also went to Assiniboine Park with my daughter, grandkids and dog and savoured the fresh air and physical walking. (The icy sidewalks and lanes in Winnipeg have made walking around the neighbourhood perilous.) Wednesday, I decided to stop seeing all the kids, after speaking with various friends who emphasized the importance of social distancing, especially at my age. I will also try not to go into big grocery stores, or to take all necessary precautions if I do.
My other therapeutic activity lies in the kitchen: cooking and baking. I make larger amounts of soup, pasta sauce, muffins, and gift some to ‘the kids’. My daughter makes bread and soup and brings it over. She, my sons and I talk over the phone. We FaceTime with Vancouver kids and grandkids and will start to do so with the Winnipeg ones.
My two best woman friends have been away all winter and we were looking forward to seeing each other again but that will not happen in the foreseeable future, so we are in frequent touch by text and telephone. The same with my two good friends in Israel, where the situation is even more tense. One Israeli friend said that even during the many wars she lived through, the feeling of depression was not as great. After all, we are social creatures.
So, although I still go to bed and get up with Coronavirus on my mind, I am trying to establish routines and activities – exercise, phone calls, writing and journalling, playing piano, doing household chores that have always been put off. I plan to ‘attend’ the Shabbat services that our synagogue will be broadcasting on Youtube. The uncertainty and lack of control of these times are difficult to live with. Will we be able to host a family Passover Seder this year or will this Plague prevent that? We have to hope and pray that this, too, shall pass and life will go on.