People are humans and we like to consider ourselves caring and compassionate beings but the truth is most people only understand and relate to things based on their own personal life experiences. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, COVID-19; the whole world is adjusting and experiencing changes. Isolation, quarantine, wearing masks, social distancing, school closures, and many places of business being shut down due to the effects of COVID. Because of the virus, our world has become smaller. No more large groups, gatherings, visiting of friends and family; the way we interact has changed. It has become a whole new world, and many refer to these changes as a new normal. Everyone is hoping for the best and coping as best as they can during these unprecedented times.
I am not new to “a new normal”. Between becoming a caregiver, twice, and my own multiple knee surgeries, I have had to adapt to “life changes”. My first time caregiving, I experienced how fast the world can become smaller. I was facing and tasked with extra responsibilities while trying to keep everything else in my life continuing as smoothly as possible. I mean it was fantastic to spend time with my grandparents; it wasn’t fantastic that it was because my grandfather had colon cancer. My life was centered on caregiving. Ironically SARS also happened in the last half-year of my grandfather’s life. Thank goodness I was able to visit the hospital and my grandfather. I could not imagine how fearful and heartbreaking it is for caregivers and family members if they have dying loved ones, or worse, lost loved ones during the current pandemic!
“Normal” as a caregiver was becoming a light sleeper so I could wake up if the phone rang. I was never able to commit to plans and parties as I was always on call. I was also the POWER OF HEALTH ATTORNEY, so I was the person who had to be available to make decisions if for some reason my grandfather was not conscious or lucid. I was also on call if something happened with my grandfather; be it a late-night hospital visit or a home visit. I also administered medication as Ota needed. Time and my life adapted to Ota and later Oma’s schedule, needs, and the progression of their diseases.
Every day was different, all I could count on was the unexpected, but I would check in with Oma to see how Ota was doing, or I went to give him his prescription meds, I would go to work, or check-in depending on how my grandfather was doing. The only thing I was committed to was working my part-time teaching at Conestoga College, which was a couple of days a week for a few hours in the evening. My dog went with me to work and often had to stay with my grandma if I had to go to the hospital with my grandfather. Sometimes my uncle and boss got stuck dog sitting during business hours as I took care of Ota. I had a doggie bag with food, toys, bowls, and snacks for Dino and a bag for me with a change of clothes and all toiletries such as my work and teaching bag; everything was always with me or in the car ready if I needed it.
I never seemed to be home. My surroundings seemed to be the hospital either because of surgeries, testing, appointments, or complications. I did the groceries for myself and my grandparents and picked up medical supplies/prescriptions. It seemed I was always on the go yet very much isolated and cut off from people. Most conversations were about Ota’s health, either with family members or professionals. Visitors were limited, if they happened, we had to be conscious of Ota’s reduced immune system; he was also tired and drained. Ota and I used to say we were both tired of cancer. He used to say he did not need doctors’ explanations, he felt it. We became too tired to talk and some people also didn’t feel comfortable seeing my robust and strong grandfather lose so much weight. His features had changed. Ota often slept or napped during visits, he had little energy to entertain and make polite conversations; sometimes these actions were misunderstood to be unwelcoming.
I too became tired, even when it could have been possible to go to a party or spend time with friends, I would stay away as I did not have the energy to always be upbeat. I needed downtime to relax and have quiet time so that I would not take part in larger gatherings.
My world became smaller, my circle became tighter, and I relied on phone conversations. I had very few visits with friends. I felt very isolated. As Alice Walker says in THE COLOUR PURPLE, “Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.” COVID-19 has made time feel like it has stood still, the days of the week are mixed up, yet it’s hard to believe here we are in August, and various regions have various phases of reopening. We look back and wonder where time has gone, and what changes will happen next.
Currently, we as a society are taking precautions to slowly expand our environment. We social distance, and no longer do we congregate in large crowds and groups. We don’t seem to greet people and talk, traveling has been restricted, even going out of province can mean a longer stay to quarantine, all in all, our world has become smaller.
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