The new normal


One of the most difficult circumstances during COVID-19 is the inability to be with loved ones when they are in the hospital. Such a heartbreaking occurrence is currently upon our family. Grandpa, the patriarch of Hubby’s large family, has been ill lately. Having lived his senior life with a multitude of medical problems, this could have been just one more hospitalization, except that it is not. He is in a situation where further treatment may not be possible.

Grandpa was always my biggest fan, congenially commenting on the quality of a recent column. It was as though I was personally writing just to get a chuckle out of him, and it was a joke that we shared.

Grandpa may have some memory problems, but he always had some wise advice or suggestion for one of my children. He personally knew them all, including their jobs, hobbies and other interests. Every time we met he had something to tell me that showed he had been thinking of them. For instance, he saw an advertisement for a pillow on which to rest one’s telephone, and suggested it for Marie. He knew that Marie kept her girlfriend on videophone and took her everywhere she went. When we went out to eat at Dave’s Bar and Grill on “red meat night” (Emily’s ASL for prime rib,) she would prop her telephone against the saltshaker which caused consternation when one of us wanted to use the salt. Grandpa thought the phone pillow would be perfect for her so I went out to buy one.

Knowing Steven’s interest in old cars, Grandpa would easily converse with him on the topic. Steven was thrilled with this interest in him, and would talk for as long as Grandpa would listen. A major topic was the old Sunbeam Tiger, Grandpa’s unique mode of transportation almost 60 years ago, (also driven on the “Get Smart” television show.) This automobile hibernates in our garage, awaiting Hubby’s renovation efforts. Currently it is buried under a pile of lawn chairs, boat lifejackets, various tarps and other soft objects in need of a storage space. Unfortunately, it won’t be done in time for Grandpa to drive it.

He was fascinated with Francis’ ability to sail his schooner with the enticement of San Francisco Bay making it even more exciting. Francis would explain how he did it, but Grandpa still shook his head in disbelief.

Within this pandemic lies the unsentimental rule that patients in hospitals are not allowed visitors. Of course, for the safety of the many, this makes perfect sense, but for those personally affected, it is devastating. When a patient is not expected to be able to return home, it is overwhelmingly heartbreaking. Why didn’t we visit more when we had the chance? Why didn’t we have at least one more “red meat” night? My brain swirls with the “what ifs.”

One of the biggest regrets is that Grandpa has not met his newest great-granddaughter, Dinora’s third child born right before Christmas. Because she was a newborn, Dinora did not bring her to the family holiday celebration, and COVID hit after that. Being elderly, it was best for them to hunker down without any visitors. Now it is too late …

It is unfathomable to think that a beloved family member must live out the rest of his life without the human connection of his family. I am sure that the nurses and nurses aids are tender and caring, but it is not the same as gesturing with his granddaughter who is deaf, or dreaming about driving that Sunbeam Tiger again with his grandson, or meeting his newest great-grandchild. It is not normal. This pandemic has formulated a new normal, and I do not like it at all!   


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