• Mary K. Armstrong

Longing for Normality

The following blog post was originally written for a local magazine in May 2020.

Woman hugs a man through a plastic shield, wearing a mask and gloves to protect from COVID-19

As I write this post, I’m sad to say it might be the last for a while. The Senior’s Association and other organizations that are essential to my enjoyment of life in my town are closed due to the pandemic. It’s not that I’m opposed to these extreme measures, I just wish I knew how long it will be until life returns to normal.

In my 82 years, I’ve never experienced the anything like this. All around me, neighbours are returning from Mexico, Florida and other warm spots they flock to in the winter months. Who would ever have thought so many Canadians left our snowy winters to become Snowbirds? Being risk averse, I cut short my time in Mexico, fearing a problem in flying back to Ontario. Now I’m alone in my small apartment, maintaining social isolation as required by law during the COVID-19 pandemic. The alarm on my iPhone startles me out of my writing state. It’s warning newly returned snowbirds to self-isolate, not go home via the grocery store and not to stop by for a visit with the grandchildren. I’ve completed my solo isolation. Now I’m being scrupulously careful to wash my hands and disinfect whatever may be contaminated.

Every day we hear how our government and our health care system are figuring out ways of lessening the spread of the infection. I’m impressed and my heart goes out to all those who actually come in contact with the virus as part of their job. Their intelligent planning and their willingness to risk themselves reassure me that one day all this will end.

Getting sick is not my worst fear. Social isolation is.

A grandfather hugs his grandchildren

How long can I endure not being among friends and the others whom I meet in my otherwise busy life beyond the walls of my apartment? How long can parents maintain their dual lives of working at home and caring for their young children? How, I wonder, do you work at home if you have young children? How long can the snowbirds resist reconnecting with their grandchildren? How can I maintain a sense of wellbeing if I’m so alone?

We all have our stories, but the worries go on and on. There was no rehearsal for this catastrophe. As inhabitants of planet Earth, we’ve never seen anything like it. What will it be like when this is all over and we can play together, go to sporting events and be entertained by musicians and actors?

There have always been epidemics, but none that swept the whole world. We know about the Spanish flu in the 1920’s. You and I weren’t alive back then. The Spanish flu hit just after the First World War when society was trying to get back to some sort of normalcy. It killed people of all ages, right across the country. Once it was all over, everyone seems to have lost at least one person who mattered.

It’s human nature to try to find a bright side when bad things happen. The Globe and Mail once ran a story about a “Coronavirus truce” in the Middle East. Neither side wants to acknowledge there’s any kind of agreement in place, but the past two weeks have been remarkably quiet in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, as well as along Israel’s northern frontier with Lebanon, which is controlled by Hezbollah.” Columnist Yossi Melman wrote in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “Our reality is now that when the virus roars and spreads, the guns are silenced. A sudden, relative quiet reverberates across the middle east.”

Is it possible that the pandemic will drive home the realization that our world’s populations are inter-dependent? We all live on the same planet, count on the same oceans, get warmed by the same sun, breathe the same air, and so on. Have you noticed that the air is clearer these days? Fewer planes are flying. People are staying home rather than driving to shops or going to work.

When life returns to normal we seniors will all have tales to tell and, one way or the other, we’ll get through this as we’ve got through the other tough times in our long lives.


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