It’s been a little more than two-and-a-half years since Covid invaded our world. We all have stories we can tell about the ways in which that has affected us. Kate and I are no exception.
Although Covid has had a continuous impact on us, there are three specific events that are worth mentioning. The first occurred in mid-March 2020. That’s when restaurants and other businesses began to close. Prior to that, Kate and I had been eating out for lunch and dinner every day for eight or nine years. It made life easier for us than my preparing dinner and gave me more quality time with Kate. Along the way, we also went to Panera almost every morning where Kate got a muffin. In the afternoon, we often went to the café at Barnes & Noble. The greatest benefit of these daily routines was preventing us from being socially isolated. We often saw friends at these locations and became acquainted with servers, managers, and other personnel.
The pandemic brought that to an abrupt end. During the first week or two of the pandemic, Kate also lost her ability to work jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. That was her last remaining self-initiated activity. Daily living suddenly became less exciting for both of us. As Kate’s caregiver, that meant I had to work harder to keep her occupied.
The change in our active routine left her bored much of the time. She started napping more throughout the day. I read to her and played music for her, but that wasn’t enough. I also gave her tours of our house, pointing out pictures and furniture that had some connection to her and her family or to special events in our lives.
In spite of my efforts, there were moments when she wasn’t engaged in any activity. That led to her resting more during the day. We had lost a significant portion of the experiences that had given us so much pleasure before.
Of course, the biggest impact of Covid was that both of us tested positive for the virus just before Thanksgiving in 2020. Kate was in the hospital for eight days without me. The experience was traumatic for her. She was so frightened when she returned home that we were unable to get her out of bed for seven weeks. Before getting Covid, she was already on the verge of losing her mobility. Being in bed for so long pushed her over the edge. She has never walked since.
Our third experience with Covid began almost two weeks ago when I tested positive for the second time even though I had received all of the vaccinations and boosters. It’s been a mild case. My only symptom was a sore throat. The policy here in our retirement community is for people with Covid to stay in their apartments for the first five days. For the next five days, you can leave the apartment if you are wearing a mask, but you can’t eat in any of the campus venues.
The social isolation we experienced was reminiscent of the early days of Covid when we could no longer go out to eat. This appears to have had a greater impact on me than on Kate. I miss the contact with other residents and staff. They have played a major role in our lives since we moved here a year and eight months ago. I miss that and will be eager to get back to our normal routine starting today. That’s just in time for a visit from our daughter and son this weekend. We’ll have much to celebrate.
My biggest concern has been the possibility of Kate’s getting the virus. By now, it looks like she has escaped. The biggest and best surprise is that she had four or five outstanding days while we were restricted to our apartment. Not surprisingly, much of that involved music. In addition, however, she has been talking more. That has been especially noticeable with two of her caregivers. One of those is our primary caregiver with whom she feels quite comfortable.
On Sunday, one of our weekend caregivers took an extended amount of time to go through one of Sarah’s family photobooks with her. Kate didn’t seem to notice the photos, but the caregiver told her about the information explaining them. Kate not only took an interest, but she also began to talk to the caregiver. The next thing I knew they were having a semblance of a normal conversation. It wasn’t completely normal because much of what Kate said was impossible to understand. This was especially striking to me because Kate has never shown any special connection or feeling for either of our weekend caregivers.
The story doesn’t end there. When it was time for dinner the conversation ended. Kate took the caregiver’s hand and kissed it. Then after getting Kate into bed, the caregiver told her goodbye. I said, “Wasn’t it nice to have Malia with us today?” Kate looked up at her and said, “Thank you.”
Last night, we had a wonderful time together. Like any other night, we watched YouTube music videos, but there was a difference. Kate has never been as enthusiastic about symphonic music as I have, but last night I played Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 back-to-back. She loved both works, and I was thrilled.
As the music played, I did two things that I believe facilitated her response. First, I explained what was happening as the orchestra moved from one movement to another. For example, at the last portion of both symphonies, I let her know that the music was going through a buildup to the grand finale when the tempo would increase and the music would be much louder. Second, in several portions of the music, I emphasized the rhythm by audibly saying things like “bump da da bump da da bump, bump, bump.” At the same time, I held her hand and moved her arm back and forth. She was fully engaged and laughing. I hope we’ll be able to repeat our performance again soon.
Thus, I am coming to the end of our quarantine with a good feeling that Kate appears to have missed Covid, and she has had an extraordinary series of moments that have been very special to both of us. Life is good, and I am grateful.