Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Pandemic ~ My Story

We are living in an historic time, and I thought I really should document how life has changed over these past six or seven weeks.  One day they will ask...'What was it like during the pandemic of 2020?'  Will we ever be able to explain how life as we knew it came to a sudden halt and how a new a totally different way of living became the norm? Having a few memories 'on paper' might be helpful!

Early in the year we heard of the corona virus and the havoc it was causing in Wuhan, China. But that was far from here, and we carried on with our lives as always. In February, I flew to Texas to spend some time with my sister Bev who was undergoing treatments for brain cancer. By March, Covid 19 was rapidly spreading around the world with new travel restrictions being added almost daily. Travel to the USA was no longer advised and we cancelled our plans to attend my niece's wedding in Iowa as well as spend some time in Phoenix after. By mid-month, all non-essential travel was a thing of the past and all Canadians abroad were advised to come home immediately. Social distancing became our norm by the middle of March. Everything changed so quickly...and life as we knew it disappeared.

On March 12th we spent the evening with my dad, playing Rook in his suite, as we often did.  We played until late, but never finished the game and made plans to carry on the following week. By then, the independent living retirement complex where he lives, was already implementing restrictions to keep the residents safe, but we were assured that family would still be able to visit. Two days later, with outbreaks in many care homes, that all changed and only staff could enter Birchwood. So, that evening of playing cards with dad could well be the last time we visit with him in his suite!

The following evening, on March the 13th, we went out for dinner to a restaurant with friends. The Wild Cat Grill is usually a busy place on a Friday night, but it was quiet that night. People were already opting to stay home.  I had my long-time favorite dish off their menu...the Cat's Meow. I have good memories of that evening...a totally normal night in a casual cafe visiting with friends. I don't foresee that happening again for a long time!  Within a week all restaurants were closed, as were non-essential businesses.
On Saturday March 14th, we were invited to the home of friends for dinner.  The plans had been made well in advance and went ahead as scheduled.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal around the table, played a game afterwards, and laughed a lot. We stayed late, since none of us would be getting up early to go to church the next morning. Gatherings of more than 50 people were no longer allowed, so our church services would be on-line the next day. One week earlier we could never have foreseen that! 

We have enjoyed participating in our church service from the comfort of our couch these many weeks, though it is nothing like being there in person. We have also enjoyed visiting other churches...and they don't even know we were there!

And so began our new normal.  On Monday of the following week, our daughter Heidi made the decision to close her business and lay off all employees. Our son-in-law had just started a new job a few weeks earlier, and now found himself working from home. Kris and Lina cancelled their travel plans to Hawaii for spring break, closed their private clinic,and Kris went to work as needed at the hospital.  As for here on the has carried on as usual. The cows still need to be milked twice daily, fed, and cared for. With all restaurants closing shop, milk usage dropped dramatically in BC. While the stores could not keep milk on the shelf, we were informed that the processors could not handle any more milk. They could not switch overnight from packaging milk and cream for the restaurant market to packaging it for the grocery shelves.  And so, for several week farms were required to dump milk. All dairy farms will share that loss equally. The price of beef fell dramatically as well, which also impacts dairy farms.

BC students were on spring break when the lock down was first announced, but are closed indefinitely...likely until September. My grands are actually enjoying on-line learning for the most part! Emme and Spencer finished their first year university courses on-line last week.

We are part of a small group that previously met several times a month in a home.  We are now meeting weekly via Zoom. I don't think any of us had used Zoom prior to this, but it is a good way to stay in touch with friends.

Easter 2020 was also unlike any other we have ever had.  We have the same meal with our family every year and decided not to change up the menu at all...just the table setting!  I delivered dinner to each doorstep that afternoon (they added salads), along with treats for the grands, and they each set their own table.  We ate Easter dinner together on Zoom.  It was not the same, but so much better than not meeting up at all.

Of course one of the hardest things about this pandemic, is staying away from friends and family. We have had a few impromptu safe-distance visits on a porch or patio and that's about it.  It has been good to video chat with family...something my siblings and I have been doing weekly.

For the past many years, I have participated in a fitness class at a local gym several times each week. I went to the Chilliwack Landing Leisure Centre for my last class on March 13th.  I am thankful that our city is sponsoring one of our instructors to go live with her class every morning at 9:15 and I can now work out without leaving home. And I can go any day of the week...or every day if I feel like.  And I never feel like it!

Elmer and I both got e-bikes this past year, thinking they would be great to take along on RV trips.  There may not be much traveling happening this year, but the bikes have sure been a great way to get out and and enjoy the scenery and fresh air during this time of isolation. We think we should call them C (for Covid) bikes!

A friend and I thought that maybe playing tennis would be a good and safe activity...something we could do together and yet stay far apart. However, we discovered that the tennis courts are all closed. We have walked together (six feet apart) a few times and used our outside voices to chat. :)

As for groceries...I go as seldom as possible and hope to find the things on my list.  We are advised to go only once each week and only send one person from each household to the store. The grocery stores have tried to accommodate social distancing...some better than others. Cashiers are behind plexiglass, and lines on the floor mark the spot where customers wait to keep a safe distance. Most shoppers are good at keeping their distance.  The first few weeks, I had a hard time finding baking essentials (flour, yeast, sugar, and even eggs).  Toilet paper has been the big ticket item, but we had stocked up at Costco before it became an issue. As for Costco, I don't plan on going there anytime soon since waiting in a line-up for an hour or two (at six feet from the next shopper) to get inside the store does not seem worthwhile to me.  Most stores do not accept cash.

Family doctors do only on-line appointments for now. Dentist offices are closed.  I chipped a front tooth about a month ago and will be arranging a visit as soon as it is safe to do so.

One can now purchase car insurance on-line rather than standing in line at the insurance office.  That's a good change!  Gas is about $.80 per liter now, rather than the $1.40 that we were paying earlier this year. And since the car only leaves the garage once a week, I won't be filling up often.

Since all large gatherings are prohibited, we have had several events cancelled for which we already had tickets. There was a concert at the local Cultural Centre, tickets to the Canada vs Australia women's soccer game on Aril 14th, as well as tickets to a High Valley concert in Abbotsford in May. A ladies get-away trip to Chemainus (sponsored by our feed company) was cancelled. Our church had a 75th anniversary celebration planned for the long weekend in May.  Not any more. We have quit making plans for now! 

Until now, masks have not been required at most places, but I sewed a few and am prepared. The fabric was leftover scraps from aprons I sewed for my granddaughters one Christmas many years ago.

At the beginning of the pandemic, masks were in very short supply even for front-line workers.  Local hospitals were accepting masks and other PPE from businesses that had them available. I think that is not as much of an issue here now.

Though I have not taken up sourdough bread baking (which everyone else seems to be doing), I have used a lot of flour and yeast these past weeks. I baked Paska buns four times, and lots of breads and rolls to share with others.

One day we discovered a treat left on our front porch by Emme and Spencer.  After a month at home, they made the trek to Krispy Kreme donuts.  Since they had to wait in the drive-through line-up for several hours, they made their visit worthwhile and brought home enough donuts 'to spread the love'.  We enjoyed our first Covid 19 take-out dinner last Friday, opting for Chinese food.

Tomorrow I am taking my dad to an appointment with his retina specialist for an injection (which happens every six weeks).  We will both be wearing masks. Dad has spent most of the last six weeks in his room, so I think he may actually enjoy going for this injection.  Birchwood is an independent living facility, where there were many activities for the residents.  That has all changed. Dad spends times watching re-runs of Blue Jays games (apparently they always win in the re-runs) and has taken up Covid art. He has been sketching pictures of cars and trucks and tractors that were once part of his life.

They still have lunch and dinner in the dining room, but sit two at a table and then return to their suite.  There are no concerts, church services, or bingo games.  They no longer gather in the library or the bistro. No one but staff is allowed in, for which we are thankful!  The staff have been great at making the best of the situation, adding some fun new things to their program. They show up at the residents' door with treats every so often!  They print off emails from family (in large print) and deliver them to the intended recipient. They still find a way to celebrate birthdays. They take photos of our moms, dads, or grandparents and send them to us.  Apparently the residents like to make the staff smile as well, and planned a 'wear something silly' dinner a few weeks ago.  I would never have expected dad to participate...

...but they sent me a photo to prove he did.  He found a chauffeur's hat from more than seventy years ago when he worked at Chilliwack Taxi...and paired it with a Christmas tie. Made me smile!

I'm sure there are many more snippets of life that I could share here, but this is getting plenty long enough. Let me just end by saying, despite everything I have much to be thankful for! I have had the best 'cellmate' here during this time of isolation.  We have eaten well, played many games, watched some Netflix documentaries, read a few good books, have gone for walks and bike rides.  We are happy to live in the country, enjoy the fresh air, and sit on the patio. We are home and we are safe. We have hope for tomorrow!
 WATCH: B.C.'s daily coronavirus update with Dr. Bonnie Henry ...

Today marks 100 days since the first Covid 19 warnings were issued here in British Columbia, and Dr. Bonnie Henry (our provincial health officer) became the soothing voice in a sea of corona virus frenzy. We have watched her daily briefings, always telling us what we need to know in a clear and compassionate way.  We will not soon forget her words which have been repeated so many times during this time in history...

"This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe."