That was the rhetorical question posed on the Twitter this morning. The implication being that because our elder population is the demographic most vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus, any caring person is for the full monte: quarantine, masks, lockdowns, hobbling the economy, you name it.
As my Mom (not my Dad) would have said, bullsh*t.
I’ve earned my stripes in the elder-care department, having buried both my parents in 2017. They were married almost 73 years, and loved each other dearly. They took very different paths to their final reward, and I thank God every day that they passed away before this damned pandemic.
Mom spent the last three years of her life in a nursing home. She was slowly slipping away with dementia, but remained as a sweet teenager still in love with my Dad to the end. He saw her nearly every day, but was unable to take care of her. These Depression-era savers lived modestly, which meant at the end Mom could afford a private sitter — an extra set of eyes and ears to insure proper care — in addition to the considerable expense of private nursing care.
Dad, by contrast, had all his faculties. We moved him into assisted living, a wonderful place where he made new friends. He never got used to the “chow”, as he called it. In his last three years, I listened to his old Navy stories many times over and came to appreciate just how socially engaged he was. I used to think that he’d be burying me, he was so healthy; in the end, a blood disorder did him in.
I shudder to think how a COVID lockdown would have affected the quality of their lives.
In Mom’s case, I expect a lockdown would have meant the end of the private sitters. Mom’s care would have suffered; even when she couldn’t communicate verbally, the sitters could tell from her eyes, her expression, if something wasn’t right. They’d raise holy hell until it was fixed. Without the sitters, and without Dad’s nightly visits to have dinner, share a dessert, and just hold hands, I’m certain that Mom’s condition would have spiraled downhill rapidly. Depression, abandonment, call it what you will; is the coronavirus a worse fate?
Cut off from his nightly visits to Mom and from family visits, Dad would have literally climbed the walls of his assisted living “home”. This was an active man: organic gardener, beekeeper, habitual tinkerer. He was still on a ladder tending his fruit trees at 90. He’d nip at a little Carlo Rossi to help with insomnia, as he didn’t sleep too well in the “home” as it was.
In his later years, Dad became more patriotic than ever. He would tear up at the sight of a flag, and military displays on TV invariably caused him to weep openly. He spoke constantly of how he cherished our God-given freedoms and how his grandchildren and great-grandchildren represented our nation’s future.
In a lockdown, Dad would have felt just as depressed and isolated as Mom. It may have been worse for him because he had the capacity to understand.
Mom and Dad were both God-fearing people. They were satisfied with their lives and secure in their final destination. Had she understood, Mom would have laughed at the lockdown as “silly”; Dad would have been mighty pissed, though he’d never use that word. America is the land of opportunity! What are we doing? We’re killing opportunity for millions of Americans in the primes of their lives!
A recent poll indicated that the level of corona-anxiety is highest in the segment of the population whose lives are least threatened. I’m in the category that the threat of the virus is not insignificant, but it’s not keeping me awake at night either.
Old people know they’re (we’re) mortal, and for the most part, we’re cool with it; call it philosophical. Me, I don’t want to live forever. I do want our country to be the land of freedom for many future generations, and this damned lockdown has made me feel just how fragile that future may be.