Category Archives: Coronavirus

Looking for the Silver Lining

Glass half full!

When you’re chewing on life’s gristle….Always look on the bright side of life. Monty Python

If these were normal times, my husband Larry and I would have already flown out to San Francisco to meet our new grandson. If these were normal times, I would be writing this column in Colorado, where we would have settled into a summer rental close to our daughter, her husband, and my four year old granddaughter. These are NOT normal times! Because of COVID-19, Larry and I are staying in our home in  Florida for the first time since we moved here five years ago. 

The two of us are both very disappointed, but we are finding  silver linings. We are healthy, we are safe, we are in a community that offers walking trails and swimming pools. We have discovered tree-lined streets, serene ponds,  and quiet trails that we had not explored before until we began 

And we have re-discovered each. We have never in our 46 years of marriage spent this much time together, and we are loving it. We walk or bike together almost every morning and then cool off in one of the neighborhood pools. In the afternoon, we sit on the lanai, where we work on crossword puzzles and read books. After dinner, we play three games of Yahtzee  (I won the championship in May; as of this writing, Larry is  in the lead for June.) Then we settle onto our couch to watch shows on Amazon Prime or Netflix. In some ways,  I feel as if we are on some type of extended honeymoon.

Many of our friends, who are like Larry and I are fortunate enough to be retired and not dealing with health or financial issues, have shared with me how sheltering in place has resulted in hidden blessings. 

My cousins Ruthie and Yaacov Kiflawi, who live in Washington State, have found joy in their own surroundings. They spend hours on their deck, which overlooks the Little Spokane River. Teri Chaves, who would normally be up and out of her home at 9 am, now sleeps in and then takes a leisurely walk. She then enjoys her morning coffee on her screened-in porch while watching the abundant Florida wildlife.

Teri is also using this time for intellectual pursuits and learning.  In anticipation of a 2021 post COVID 30th anniversary trip to Italy with her husband Mike, Teri is learning Italian with the help of a phone app. Susan Hoff-Haynes  is learning Spanish with the same app and has also taken several Great Courses. Michelle Moriya has audited free on-line courses from several prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. 

Others are testing out their green thumb. Sarah Rubin designated a corner of her lanai for an herb garden; Susan sent me pictures of her raised garden beds behind her home in Upstate New York. Virginia  Allain, who is complete her family’s genealogy research, is also working on establishing roots into the soil by planting  her 2020 Pandemic Victory Garden. “It serves as an affirmation that I intend to be around for months to come despite this virus,” Virginia wrote in her blog.  https://findingmymom.wordpress.com/…/the-victory-garden/.

 Candace Thompson stated that the months in quarantine have been the best months of her life, giving her an appreciation for little things “A simple ride in the car really brings me joy now where it would’ve been nothing more than something else to do prior to the pandemic.”  In what she calls a  “true sense of agency and empowerment,” she planned ahead of the curve by stocking up on foods, creating reading and movie lists, subscribing to streaming services, and downloading workout videos on YouTube. Since sheltering in place, Candace has also joined several community-based advocacy groups that hold Zoom discussions on topics including COVID-19, racism, and the upcoming elections. 

Zoom and other collaborative technologies, are being used to make closer connections with friends and family. Her friend Marilyn Tayler, who also is participating in the advocacy groups, is using the collaborative technologies to connect with old friends. Naomi Biderman Allen FaceTimes daily with her grandchildren, talking to them about their day and reading them bedtime stories. 

For some families, the pandemic has meant even more time with their extended families. Since Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, Howie and Sandie Vipler have stepped in as the full-time day care providers for their two granddaughters, age 1 and 4. “Time—especially with our grandchildren— has become more precious since this virus has struck,” said Howie.

The pandemic has also brought the-strangers-who-live-next-door together. In March, Joy and Ross Aronson are enjoying  sidewalk chats—while social distancing—with people in her community whom she had never met as they all take their daily walks. An animal lover, Joy was also pleased to meet up with people who were walking dogs that they had rescued from shelters, another positive result of sheltering in place. 

In some cases, unexpected illnesses have resulted in life-saving interventions. While vacationing in South Carolina, Ira Smolowitz complained of COVID-19-like symptoms. His symptoms of dizziness and  shortness of breath, they soon learned, were signs of a heart attack.  Emergency surgery, five days in ICU, and three months  of virtual doctor visits later, Ira feels blessed to be on the road to recovery. Ira’s wife Judy has been his rehab coach and number one cheerleader.  “It’s a tough time to have medical need,” said Judy, “but we made it.”

In a similar situation, Richard Porter, a friend from Texas, had triple bypass on March 13. The day after he was released, Dallas issued a shelter in place order and the hospital that was to provide follow-up services closed its doors to non-COVID 19 patients,  His wife Betsy, who spent her career as a nurse, willingly took over Richard’s cardiac rehab. Neighbors helped by providing meals and dog walking services. On May 13, Rich celebrated 60 days of recovery by completing a 3.5 mile walk. “We saw the silver lining in the slowing down of our lives that helped in Rich’s successful recovery,” said Betsy.

Sunny Hersh rediscovered—“for the umpteenth time”—how much she respects and loves her family. Her husband Scott has been painting the house and cooking wonderful meals. Her children are doing an incredible job of balancing their parental and career responsibilities. Even though her attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter, Sunny said still “has enough bandwidth to dream about the future and appreciate all of the above!”

Others, are creating their own “silver lining” scenarios. Becky and Mark Silverstein, who have cruised 47 times in the last 20 years,  re-imaged their shelter-in-place experience as SHIP (Shelter-In-Place) life. Their bedroom is now their cabin and their lanai as the balcony They watch television and listen to music in their  “entertainment venue.” They enjoy breakfast and lunch at the “buffet” at the kitchen counter and dinner at their dining room table. 

Only one week into SHIP life, the Silversteins hit-err— an iceberg. That first Friday, they dug into their weekly pre-Shabbat house cleaning, which included changing the sheets, cleaning the toilet, and “swabbing the decks.” “We were rudely reminded that we are not just passengers,” Becky said ruefully.“We also are serving as the crew.” 

Okay, not totally smooth sailing. But Becky and Mark, as many of us fortunate enough to be healthy and financially able to cruise safely through this pandemic, can always find a silver lining.

First published in (Capital Region New York) Jewish World, June 25, 2020.

“This too shall pass.” Meanwhile we sit tight and alone.

My friend Kathy in happier times. May she be writing again soon!

As we tread  carefully through the fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic, the emotional and physical devastation this plague has caused is felt acutely by so many. As our days of sheltering at home continue, it has become much more real, much more personal, much more frightening.

My husband Larry and I are feeling the impact, as I suspect many of you are. Our community already has had two confirmed deaths from the virus. Kathy, a friend from my writing group who had been sick with bronchitis, posted the following message on a on March 30 on her Facebook page: “I have pneumonia and am in the Poinciana Medical Center where I am getting fantastic care. Take care. Be well.” Two days later, her brother Brian Joyce posted that she had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was on a ventilator. His daily updates report the news that she is still fighting for her life.

Friends and family are all sharing stories of people they know who have been diagnosed with the corona virus and those who have lost the battle. A longtime congregant of our synagogue in Upstate New York succumbed to the virus this week. My son’s brother-in-law’s grandfather in California died after contracting the virus from his daughter. Each day the numbers continue to climb.

Although most of my friends are retired, many have children on the front line as medical staff or first responders. They post and text pictures of their son or daughter in full protective gear or—worse yet—reused masks and garbage bags for scrubs. Originally, it was believed that the virus mostly attacked the elderly and those with underlying conditions. That “reassurance” no longer works, and my friends are worried that their children or grandchildren will contract it.

Any medical procedure becomes a cause for serious concern and even panic. A friend scheduled for cancer surgery was terrified that he would develop the virus and would be told he must cancel. Meanwhile, his wife had to drop him off at the hospital and pick him up two days later. She couldn’t physically be there for him.

Another friend, also diagnosed with cancer, was told by her Florida doctor that the surgery would be postponed until the pandemic had subsided. Fortunately, she was able to find a doctor in her home town of Pittsburgh who could operate within the week. She and her husband made a hasty trip up for the procedure. I am happy to report that her surgery was a success.

Last week,Larry was involved in a bicycle accident when he slipped on some wet pavement. His primary physician insisted Larry go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and for potential stitches for the gash on his elbow. I freaked out, fearing he would contract the virus in the waiting room. “Please don’t go,” I begged. “Stay home. I’ll stitch it up myself.” That freaked him out. Wearing a surgical mask, he left for the hospital, where he was immediately ushered into a sterile examining room. He came home two hours later, tetanus shot administered and wounds bandaged—none requiring stitches. He had only the highest praise for the medical staff.

Two days after Larry’s ER visit, friends were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first grandchild. The impending delivery had made more stressful as it was uncertain whether their son could be in attendance as some New York City hospitals were not allowing any partners in the delivery room. Everyone was relieved to learn that he could accompany his wife during delivery, but the planned birth was still fraught with worry. If either the expectant parents had symptoms, would she have to deliver alone? And would she or the baby contract the virus while in the hospital? Thankfully, the baby was born without complications. The proud grandmother sent me a picture taken in the hospital of the father dressed head to toe in scrubs and a surgical mask gingerly holding the swaddled baby in his gloved hands. All that was visible were the father’s proud eyes. 

The coronavirus has taken much from us, but the inability to congregate, to be with those we love, to hug one another in times of joy or sadness, is the most painful. In normal times, we come together to celebrate the birth of a baby, to support ill friends, to say goodbye to a beloved friend or relative. During this time of a “new normal,” grandparents cannot hold their newborn grandchild. Friends and family cannot celebrate birthdays, weddings and bar mitzvahs. High school and college students cannot celebrate graduations. Jews cannot gather around a huge table or meet in a large room to hold a seder. Most tragically, family and friends cannot even help those who lost a loved ones to grieve, to offer hugs and human touch. 

One day, in the unforeseeable future, the corona virus will be behind us. We will gather together and hug each other tightly and even plant kisses on each other’s cheeks that are wet with tears of joy. We will hold our friends and family not only in our hearts but also in our arms.

On Friday, March 20, for the first time since serving as our spiritual leader, Rabbi Karen Allen did not conduct Shabbat services at Congregation Shalom Aleichem in Kissimmee. The synagogue, like thankfully churches, mosques, and other religious meeting places, were closed due to the pandemic. In a letter sent to the entire congregation, Rabbi Allen suggested the following:  At 8:00 p.m. that evening, “when we would all prefer to be together in the sanctuary, let’s do two things that are emblematic of the worship service:recite the Sh’ma and Mi Shebeirach prayers.”

Like Rabbi Allen, Larry and I could not be together with other members of our congregation.. Instead, we set the table with white linens and good china and crystal wine glasses. We lit the Shabbos candles, said Kiddish, and ate the delicious warm challah I had made from scratch. We recited the Sh’ma. Then we prayed for all of those—too many to even count— in need of healing.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu, m’kor ha-bra-cha l’avoteinu./Bless those in need of healing with r’fu-a sh’lei-ma./The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit,/And let us say Amen.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay home.

Published in (Capital District) Jewish World April 16, 2020 and in (Orlando) Heritage Florida Jewish News April 17, 2020.