Photo by Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash
By Marilyn Pellini
I took my annual winter sojourn to Florida last year, as usual, but it lasted longer than I had intended. I normally return home in March, but my children thought it would be less of a health risk for me to remain down there until things got a bit better back home. I am older and I do have some health issues, so being down in the sunshine and sitting six feet away from my friends at the pool was definitely not a hardship. When I did finally travel back north at the end of May, the weather at home was totally delightful. Flower bulbs were popping up, shrubs burst with blooms, and the nip in the air was gone.
The day after I arrived home, I got a call from Lisa, a young woman who lives across the street. “I don’t want you going out to the supermarket,” she said. “I have to shop for my family anyway, so I’m happy to pick up whatever you need.” I hated to impose on her, but I really was grateful.
My daughter and her family live in Montana, and my son and his crew in Massachusetts. There’s not a single relative of mine in my area. It was a warm, wonderful feeling to know someone was looking out for me and offering what I needed with genuine concern and a caring heart.
I try not to ask her to pick up too many items at once, and it works out well, as I do eat quite a bit of take-out, ordering two or three meals at a time so I can keep my freezer well-stocked. When Lisa drops off my groceries, we often have a nice little chat; she always has something kind to say to me.
“You surely are an interesting woman, and you do so much for the community!” She told me last time. My, did I go back into the house with a puffed-up chest! I believe that it also brings great pleasure to Lisa to help out someone in need. There are people who are just born givers, and she certainly is one of them.
Most people don’t seem to connect to their immediate neighborhood as they once did. This is true for multiple reasons. Nowadays, every single family member who can drive has a car of their own, and they’re out and about all the time; people have such eclectic interests and hobbies that take them away from their local area. It’s only been since the virus shut down a lot of public life that people are taking an interest again in their yards and homes.
Once the virus is brought under control, however, I don’t think our domestic and neighborly relations will completely regress; we’ve all discovered the joys of our immediate surroundings and spending more time with our loved ones.
Some areas have a neighborhood watch, usually composed of residents of the local neighborhood. This seems to make for a very cohesive neighbor group, as everyone is looking out for one another. If newspapers are left in someone’s driveway for more than a couple of days, a neighbor will try to find out why. If they haven’t seen a neighbor outside for some time, they will check to make sure they’re okay. We don’t necessarily need to be our brother’s keeper, or insert ourselves into their lives, but a helping hand once in a while is so appropriate and appreciated, especially if someone is older, not well, or alone.
One night a few years back, I was awakened by the sound of sirens. I ran to the window to see the rescue squad at my neighbor’s home. I asked my husband if he thought I should go over there to see if I could help in some way. He simply told me, “Do what you think is best.”
I threw on some clothes and raced up the street. I knew that neighbor’s wife didn’t drive and would have no way to get to the hospital, since she was too old and infirm to climb up into the ambulance. I offered to drive her to the hospital. She was so happy that I could help her be with her husband in his time of need. I stayed with her the rest of the night, as the tests they were running seem to take forever.
When morning came, I was finally able to leave. I drove quickly home, jumped into the shower and into some fresh clothes, closed my suitcase, and left for California on a business trip with my husband. There were many hours to nap on the plane, and when we landed I was totally refreshed and so happy to know that I had been helpful.
Although I’ve lived here for many years now, I still feel like a transplant to my area. Most of my friends were born in this town or in the surrounding parts, so they have lots of family and childhood friends to call and rely on. My women’s club, totaling five members, has been my saving grace, but there’s even a bit of a problem with that. We’re all aging and have health issues of our own.
To have my young friend Lisa around is a boon, as she is agile and alert and willing to take on some of my tasks as well as her own. Just imagine if we all would take care of our little microcosm, offering our neighbors a helping hand — what a divine world will this would be!
Being a true Pollyanna, I believe that the coronavirus is opening our eyes to the needs of others and to the joys in life we’ve all been taking for granted. Maybe once we’re all out of quarantine or have less restrictions, more of us might be made more aware of our immediate surroundings and try to help someone who is alone or old. It certainly means the world to people like me.
I have taken precautions for myself, of course, because I certainly don’t want to be a burden to anyone. My son would come down more often to help me, or I could otherwise spend time with his family in Massachusetts, but his wife is an OB/GYN who sometimes has to deliver the babies of Covid patients. Since I’m asthmatic, I need to be more cautious than most.
Almost every day, I call my son in the morning or email him to let him know I’m doing well, and I do the same with my daughter in the evening, since she lives in a time zone two hours behind mine. It works well on both ends.
At the end of the day, caretaking comes in many shapes and forms. Some need people to attend to them every minute of every day, while others can have someone perform a needed task here and there and still be considered a savior to someone in need. Let us all make it our job, our duty, and our pleasure to take over a needed role in the life of someone else, especially those who are old or alone. I’m sure that blessings will abound.
Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.