“I have never understood how the loss of an elderly person has meant so little to people. I’ve never understood that when you have lost someone like a grandparent, an ‘elderly’ parent, or someone who has lived ‘a long life,’ how that somehow it becomes a consolation prize.
I’ve never been able to understand how many people look at our elderly, place them in homes, don’t visit, and then tell themselves ‘it was their time’ when they leave this earth.
I’ve loved the geriatric population since I was young. I found comfort around them, the way they spoke, the way they treated one another (especially their spouses), the way they listened, and I mean truly listened. I loved to hear the stories of their families, their parents, their children, their grandchildren. They are our timekeepers, our memory vaults.
They have respect, love, and a truth that never knew any bounds. Their advice sage, well put, and always respectful.
I think of my own grandmother on my father’s side and how well she knew me. She always smelled of Vitamin C drops, she never raised her voice, and watching Orpah was her biggest pleasure in life. She always knew how to brush the knots out of my hair, without ever hurting me. Sleepovers were my favorite and finding my special toothbrush with the strawberry mint toothpaste was everything to me. She let me stay up late and the sound of her clock ticking in her den was always my favorite way to fall asleep. She never yelled at me or spoiled me. I always appreciated, loved and respected her.
My other ‘grandmother’ was actually my mother’s aunt. But I loved her just the same. She was someone I became close to later in life. She became my best therapist when I had no clue I actually needed one. During that point in life when you are finishing college, moving back home, and second-guessing your career, and ‘no one could possibly understand your feelings’ — there she was, in her perfectly set post-WWII curls, a beautiful red lip, with her quick jokes and her ‘snap out of it’ advice. She never let me feel bad for myself and she always let me love myself. She was perfection in every way. She knew every last terrible part of me and still looked at me like I could do no wrong but demanded the very best of me.
My geriatric loves who live in my nursing home, the ones who come by my office, who can tell I have changed my hair or have a new lipstick on, who have been there when I got engaged and even some who came to my wedding, who have always asked me how I am doing first, even though they are the ones in pain, lonely, or are close to their end of life — they are selfless and kind and thoughtful. They look out for each other and celebrate and grieve with the staff and fellow residents around them.
So as I sit here in New York on quarantine day whatever, I’m shocked, appalled and flabbergasted that so many healthy Americans are treating this virus like a joke. You have Facebook memes, plan meetups, and playdates, and you say how the media and politics have driven hysteria. But pause and take a moment and see who is being affected. It’s my people, my geriatrics, my immune-compromised, the ‘greatest generation.’ A group of people who have made way more sacrifices than I know I have.
‘It’s their time anyway.’
It’s ‘their time’ to die alone because we have shut down visitors. It’s ‘their time’ to die in a panic, not being able to breathe. It’s ‘their time’ in some isolated hospital room, surrounded by people they don’t know because we cannot handle their needs in the nursing home?
Covid-19 to the immune-compromised is a grim, lonely death. I get those of you healthy, young, and lucky don’t need to think about that — but I do, every day. I think of those beautiful geriatric faces that have brought me love, kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, and I worry. I worry your poor decisions to not stay home and respect this virus for what it is is going to hurt the people I love so dearly. They aren’t just numbers posted during a media conference or on a website. These are PEOPLE!
Beautiful wonderful people. One day, you will be immune comprised and elderly (because the two go hand in hand at some point).
What would you want people to do?”
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