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Senior Stories: Preparing, counting blessings during pandemic

For the Valley News
Published: 6/6/2020 10:25:40 PM
Modified: 6/6/2020 10:25:38 PM

I realized something serious was happening when Wuhan, China, was first being closed down and reporters were told to leave. I began to think about the impact it could have on the world.

I learned I was vulnerable to COVID-19 on more than one front and took it seriously. I immediately bought a box of surgical masks, stocked my pantry with items to help during illness and added extra reading material to the pile of things I could do from my Enfield home. Much to my son’s surprise, in March I canceled a trip to see my soon-to-be 1-year-old granddaughter in April, fearing any possibility of being locked down or sick away from home.

I wrote out a final letter to my children, knowing that all I could say is “I’m so proud of you and I love you so much!” I rechecked my always-ready emergency bag and added a phone charger. I let my sister know where I kept the paperwork my children would need should my health take a turn for the worst. I updated all my contact information and wrote down the necessary passwords for my survivors. As a widow, I know those passwords are essential for those who have to carry on. I cleaned out closets and rearranged everything. I left notes on everything they would need to take care of if we never saw each other again.

It seemed very possible and it still does.

After those preparations were put in place, the tedium of aloneness hit.

I reached out to the people on my Christmas card list with emails. I contacted loved ones who have something serious going on in their lives that the pandemic has made a million times harder, like moving across country or a family member who had to delay cancer treatments

My oldest son’s wife is deployed in a place that none of us think of as a place to be. We wanted her home, but no global travel means no travel for our troops. I also worried about my family in London. My daughter-in-law and my son were now working long days from home, with a baby to care for, just after she had returned to her workplace after maternity leave. Within a few days, my daughter-in-law lost her sense of taste and smell. My son didn’t feel good.

There was no way to travel if they needed help. What would happen to the baby so far away? Or if I needed help?

The internet is still up and running. I walk and talk and email and Zoom to stay connected. The new book club I joined meets on Zoom, as does a volunteer group here in Enfield. I use social platforms for family gatherings, but detest the awkwardness that all of us experience with the fact that we are not doing anything that we usually like to do. We are home, that’s it. Stories of how many basil seeds sprouted don’t bear much repeating.

I reread The Secret Garden as I did not want any stressful reading of history or unexpected endings. Give me Mark Twain, Frances Hodgson Burnett, old westerns and familiar stories. Even rereading the Lord of the Rings was too much adventure, with too many misadventures.

I stay in my neighborhood waving at babies and mommas on small explorations. I write. I garden. I keep in touch with friends and family.

I tell myself how lucky I am to have the provisions to be at home and protect myself.

I appreciate the time with an empty calendar and I move slowly trying to savor a certain peace. I have more blessings than most.

Editor’s note: This piece by Julie Eckert, of Enfield, is the first of a number of first-person accounts written by senior citizens throughout the Upper Valley about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Liz Sauchelli at or 603-727-3221.

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