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Living through the COVID-19 pandemic is scary for everyone, especially if one is in the 'vulnerable' category as am I.

"So this is what a blank calendar looks like," I'm thinking as I turn March's page of crossed out appointments and events to April. I'd often wished for more blank days on my usually full calendar, but to have a month with 30 free days was shocking. Perhaps the moral of this is to be careful what you wish for as the grantor of wishes may get carried away and upset the whole world.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic is scary for everyone, especially if one is in the "vulnerable" category as am I, and most of the residents here at Mary's Woods Retirement Community. We were not expecting to have our final chapters of enjoyable and sociable life interrupted in this way. Nor was it on the agenda of the management and staff.

I appreciate and commend those in charge here at Mary's Woods for the early and extreme precautions taken for our well-being. There have been difficult and unprecedented decisions made daily and obviously wisely since, as I write this in late April, we have no known COVID cases.

It was early March when I began crossing out events on my calendar. I especially regretted, but understood the reasons for, cancellations of scheduled concerts, Saturday night movies and other activities here involving a large attendance. Then it progressed to smaller groups eliminating bridge and mahjongg games, chime choir and writing groups that I personally enjoy.

Our dining areas closed and the meals and conversations we look forward to with friends were replaced with phoned-in orders delivered to our apartments and I now dine solo. The weekly happy hour that fills the Social Lounge has been recreated into Hall Happy Hours when we pull a chair into our opened doorways, don our masks, and have muffled conversations waiting for the wine cart and a neighbor who strolls the hall with her ukelele for a sing-along.

The calendar exing-out process also included activities outside of Mary's Woods — monthly lunch dates, bridge groups, meetings, a play, church activities, plus non-essential appointments. Family get-togethers were postponed when visitors, including family, were no longer allowed. The regular nightly phone chats with my daughter are even more appreciated these days.

I am aware that in the big pandemic picture all these petty grievances are merely minor inconveniences and don't compare with the pain and suffering others are experiencing. As I watch the nightly news I feel a mixture of sadness and guilt to hear and see the sacrifices being made by so many and am thankful to be where I am.

So, what does one do with the extravagance of time that a blank calendar provides? Books have been read, letters and emails sent, closets and drawers reorganized, files purged and shredded, the list goes on. But I confess to squandering large portions on leisurely walks under blossoming trees, meditating and communing with nature while being serenaded with birdsong as deer traverse the ivy-covered ravine and resident eagles soar high above.

When this life-altering event finally ceases, major decisions will have to be made as people reset their lives. May we all be better and wiser for having endured it. In the meantime, may kindness prevail — and may some calendar-worthy events appear soon.

Jo Ann Parsons is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego AdultCommunity Center.


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