I have known Abby for fifteen years - she lived on my street for many years with her husband, Peter. She and Peter moved to Pittsfield Township a few years ago. Since Peter passed in 2018, she has lived alone. The sound of wind is loud in parts - below is a transcript of our conversation.
This is part of a series of interviews with Ann Arbor residents, talking about personal experiences adjusting to (and adapting during) the COVID-19 crisis. Interviewed Mar 29, 2020
This is my friend, Abby. Hi, Abby!
Hi, Elizabeth, nice to see you!
It is good to see you— from a safe distance, right?
Yes, we’re a good six to eight feet apart… and we’re both healthy!
So Abby, you are older, right? You’re older than me.
I’m older, I’m almost 80.
Almost 80, thank you. I appreciate you sharing that.
So, Abby, I wanted to ask you: how has your life changed since we are coping with the COVID 19 virus, how have you adapted?
Everything that really matters in my life— the people that I love and the security of my knowing I’m going to be okay as long as we get past this— is still in tact and I’m very grateful for that. Everything about the way I live my daily life is 100% different. All of the activities that anchor me and that sort of structure my life have disappeared. I can’t do them. I can’t go to the gym, I can’t get together with my friends, I can’t do my volunteer jobs, I can’t meet with my book group and my bridge group and my learning language groups. They’ve all disappeared. I’m lonely and I’m bored, but I’m grateful to be lonely and bored.
So what are you doing to combat that, because I know you aren’t sitting alone in your house every day— what are your strategies for keeping busy and combatting those feelings?
Okay, I’ve watched a lot of junk TV and I’ve watched way too much Corona virus and poltiical TV. I’m reading. I always read but I’m reading more than usual. I am walking several times a day, several miles a day. I have one friend with whom I have walked every day since this began. We stay outside, we stay apart while we’re walking together and that is one sort of predictable, plan-able piece of my day. I keep telling my friend Gretchen that she’s holding my life together because that’s the one piece of count-on-able in-the-same-space social contact that I have. I’ve made a lot of extra telephone calls which is kind of nice. I’ve been in touch with some people I haven’t talked to in a long time. They’re sort of “Oh yeah, I’ll get around to calling her some of these days.” Well, this is some of these days.
Do you have any advice… it sounds like you’ve made a lot of sacrifices, there are a lot of things that you have changed about your everyday life. Do you have any advice for people who are really struggling with that and trying to continue their day-to-day in a normal way, like going to stores and just going out-and-about to keep busy? What advice would you have for people?
Well, so far, out-and-about in the outside is recommended as well as allowed as long as you stay a safe distance from people. Fortunately, it’s becoming spring, the weather is getting nicer. I would say for anyone who is physically able to be outside, be outside. If there’s somebody in your life who you can arrange to be outside—distanced from each other—together, try and do that.
If you are inclined to be introspective and are interested, a lot of us have talked about writing things for maybe our kids or our grandkids or our friends, or just to get feelings out of you. Write a journal. Write letters if that’s an old-fashioned thing you once did that seems like a good idea.
I have gone to the grocery store. If I go to the grocery story, I wear rubber gloves. I take hand wipes with me. I wipe the cart, of course, and then I grab one of their plastic bags and I put that over the handle of the cart and hold onto that instead of the cart handle. I pick up things with paper towels or wipes in my hand. Everybody in the stores seem to be pretty respectful about maintaining distance and stopping if somebody’s walking by so that you don’t get too close.
I certainly wouldn’t go out and about just for the heck of it. I’ve gone like maybe once every five or six or seven days when I really needed stuff. I’m very dependent on fresh produce and as long as they will allow us, as long as I feel perfectly fine and have ways to protect me, I will continue to do that.
My house is cleaner… you ask what I do all day: I am not a big clean freak but these weeks I am. My house is cleaner than it’s ever been. My hands are so clean I don’t know why there’s not skin gone from them, but I feel better from constantly cleaning me and everything I touch. I wash all my groceries when I bring them in the house, wash every piece of produce before I use it. I’ve never done that, but I’m doing it now.
I’m hoping I stay safe. I’m hoping that people who feel fine, who feel young, who feel healthy, will still realize that they can contribute to the spread of this horrible thing if they just try to go about in the world. They’ve told us: this virus is just marvelous at just dancing around in the world and glomming onto people and travelling on them to other people. So the only way for us to keep from having that happen is to stay apart.
So, the hard, hard part of this is staying apart. The important part of it is staying emotionally and electronically and verbally in touch with each other, and remembering that this, like everything else, will eventually pass.
I thank you so much, Abby, for talking to me. This has been really really great and I think you have a lot of good advice for people. Thank you!
You’re so welcome. I’m really really happy to have a little break in my day and a chance to see you.