By Hansha Masherani

In February and early March of this year, my husband and I had been following the news of the COVID-19 virus and the experiences of affected communities in China and Italy. At that time, we started getting calls and texts from our children, saying things like “Mom, Dad, you should self quarantine because this virus is bad and older people are more vulnerable.” I would answer by saying we are being careful; that we were practicing social distancing and wiping all surfaces frequently at home, at the gym and at work (the masks would come a few days later). But their calls persisted and both of them got more and more upset with us for going on with our regular activities. They were happy when the Governor announced a lockdown on March 20th.

One of my favorite tasks during lockdown has been sorting out family photographs from when my children were younger; photos of them climbing rocks at Yosemite National Park or having breakfast under the redwood trees while camping at Big Basin State Park.  I look into the eyes of my children as they gaze directly into the camera and I think about the people they have become, both independent and navigating their own social and working lives.  It seems only recently that I was advising them on keeping themselves safe and healthy when they were in college, and after they left home. Don’t drink and drive, have a designated driver; eat healthy meals; exercise… and so on.

And now, the tables have turned. They are asking us to keep ourselves safe. Our daughter has volunteered to shop for us so that we can minimize our exposure to the virus. “Don’t go to the store; let me know what you need and I will get it; I am younger and less at risk.” And they both check in with us every few days to ensure that we are staying healthy, both physically and mentally.

I talked to a friend of mine recently and she finds the same thing has happened to her. She is a very active woman in her early 60’s and unfortunately twisted her ankle recently. Her doctor gave her a ‘boot’ to wear and told her to stay off her feet for six weeks to allow her ankle to heal up. Her children, also in their mid twenties, are delighted that she has to stay home, because it is the only way they feel that their mom is safe from the virus. During the pandemic, a twisted ankle is something that we are grateful for. 

At the back of my mind, I had known that our kids would worry about our health. However, I had expected it to happen ten or fifteen years from now.  And I realize that I am fearful of being in a higher vulnerability group, fearful of being burdensome to others. Until now, we have been healthy, and like most parents, we want to remain healthy and independent into old age.

Recently, I have started paying more attention to articles  about how to age well from places like the New York Times, and taken to heart a lot of the advice given by these articles. I have had conversations with my husband about changes we might need to our home as we age. Now, however, these thoughts are on pause.

For now, we greet our daughter every two weeks as she delivers bags of groceries to us from a distance of six feet, or we talk to our son in New York, and we feel grateful that they are caring young adults.  We find joy in our conversations about trivial matters like the meals we have cooked over the last week, the books and articles we have been reading, and exchange news of friends and relatives. We continue to follow the public health reports of the pandemic in various parts of the country, we read about testing and tracing and await news of a vaccine, which we hope will arrive sooner rather than later.

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