The Plague Days

First of all, the COVID-19 makes me rethink Senior Assisted Housing. I’m watching the death toll from Senior Assisted Housing, nursing homes & Veteran Facilities skyrocket. They are like petri dishes enabling the virus to leap from one human being to the next.

I’m 74 years old and my wife is 72 and I’m grateful that we haven’t made the transition to any of those places for elder care. When my parents lived in a Senior Housing complex in Florida, visiting them became a nightmare, even when there was no plague causing residents to quietly disappear.

What was bad was my father talking to me about how nice it was when they first moved there (several friends in their 50’s all applied at the same time) but years later many of those friends were sick and dying. I can only imagine what it is like there now. I’m grateful my parents did not have to live through this.

Maybe the idea of Senior Housing needs to be re-thought and done away with. Places like that didn’t exist in the 1920’s, just one-hundred years ago. It seems unnatural to group silver-haired men and women together without the support of the rest of the family living close by.

Across the street from where my wife and I live is a two-family house where grandma and grandpa live downstairs and their daughter and their son-in-law live upstairs with their children. It gives us great pleasure to see the elder citizens sitting on the front porch playing with their grandchildren.

We’re missing our adult children and grandchildren because our daughter is working in Cairo, Egypt with her family and our son is living in Honolulu, Hawaii with his family.

Living with the virus at our age is not easy. We hate to ask friends to shop for us, but we actually get nervous when we have to go grocery shopping. We’re both in our 70’s with pre-existing conditions and would not make the cut for a ventilator. When they pick and choose who gets to live, we would not be first in line. This is a terribly strange time.

But there are few people who aren’t touched in some way by the virus or the country’s response to it. It appears, according to the Boston Globe, that there is some kind of coverup at the Holyoke Veterans’ Home, where so many have died and are sick with the virus. Bennett Walsh, the man in charge who is suspended with pay, says he and his staff were in constant contact with the Secretary of Veteran’s Services and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Health. Walsh claims, “We provided updates on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. These updates were by phone, text, e-mail, conference calls and official report forms.” Which raises some questions for Governor Baker.

I’m sure there will be an electronic trail showing who is telling the truth and who isn’t, but the tragedy is that there are so many elderly veterans who have paid the ultimate price.

Because I was homeless for a long time, and imprisoned for a few years, I especially remember feeling totally cut off while I was in prison and I knew that, if a crisis occurred, I would probably die in prison. In that instance, I got lucky and made it out alive. But my heart goes out to all those trapped in steel and stone, living in a giant petri dish of disease and loneliness.

Loneliness. That’s one of the most frightening aspects of this Plague; that when sick our loved ones can’t be around and people, like us, die surrounded by strangers in masks and costumes. I’ve reread part of Stephen King’s book The Stand and his story really hits the mark as Captain Trips, the Super Flu, wipes out most of the people his fictional world.

COVID-19 isn’t quite like that but I always worry that the coronavirus will mutate into a more lethal strain. That’s not beyond the realm of possibility in the world we live in.

To end this column on a lighter note (but still not a very good note), I wonder how come liquor and beer are regarded as essential but marijuana is excluded except for medical purposes? Governor Charlie Baker says he doesn’t want people from out of state coming in to buy weed at our local stores, but that’s easily remedied by having people show identification and if they aren’t from Massachusetts they can be turned away. No problem, right?

It’s actually very important to have marijuana accessible because our population of Veterans can’t buy medical marijuana since marijuana is not legal on the Federal level. They risk losing their Veteran’s Benefits if they buy medical marijuana. Baker should open the weed stores; if booze is essential, why not grass, eh? Also hit by unemployment, the marijuana industry had to lay off close to 8,000 people who could be hired back with a change in the law.

Well, I’ve certainly spoken my tattered mind on my thoughts about matters related to the Plague, as I work up my courage to go to the grocery store. I’m looking forward to the end of it, yet it doesn’t seem to end any time soon. And Trump—-well, no, I won’t even go there.