Isolation spreads faster than COVID-19

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COVID-19, the coronovirus, is splitting up families. One of my friends is afraid he’ll never see his parents alive again. They’re in a nursing home, and visitors are not allowed. Indeed, as of Monday, in Oregon and a growing number of other states, we have all been ordered to stay at home. It’s a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or time in jail, to venture out on a “nonessential” trip. The idea is to stop the spread of the virus. Instead, we’re spreading fear and isolation. It can’t be avoided, I suppose, but it’s painful.

My aunt, just a few years older than I am, lives across the street from her son’s family in Santa Clara, California. Because she has some serious health problems and because the grandchildren have been out and about until very recently, she is not seeing them now, except on her telephone. Those kids have been part of her everyday life since they were born. With her job winding down and all social activities canceled, she is suddenly as isolated as I am.

My friend Bill lives in an assisted living facility. Going on two weeks now, the residents have not been allowed to go out, and no visitors are allowed in. Their meals are dropped off outside their doors. Used to socializing and going out for lunch, shopping and church, he says he’s going stir-crazy. He can’t see his friends. He has no children, but he’s worried about his sister’s family in California. The lockdown is meant to keep him safe, but he feels like he’s in jail.

My life is not so different from usual these days. I miss my church and my writing and music groups, but most days I still do the same old things: writing, practicing music, walking the dog, interacting on Facebook, doing my chores, eating, and watching TV. I live in the coastal forest. When I step out the door, I rarely see other people. I’m already isolated.

If I had children whom I could not be with, this shelter-in-place thing would be a whole lot worse. I would worry about them getting sick. I would give them hell for not protecting themselves. I would worry about them losing their jobs. I would worry about the kids stuck at home with nothing to do. I’d want to jump in and help. But like my aunt, I am “older” and not supposed to go anywhere. Nor am I supposed to welcome groups of people into my house. At the moment, I’m grateful not to have to deal with this angst.

I’ll be slipping out for groceries and mail today. I’ll be walking my dog. I’ll telephone at least one friend I know is also alone. And then I’ll go back to my solo life.

All anyone talks about these days is the virus. Newscasters seem to have forgotten everything else happening in the world: wars, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, immigrant parents and children separated at the Mexican border, even the upcoming U.S. election. Jody Day, whom I wrote about last week, says comments have dropped off on her blog. The same thing has happened here. Have we become so distracted by the pandemic that nothing else matters right now? What is your thinking about having children in this crazy time? How are you doing? Please comment.

How Does Coronavirus relate to Childlessness?

Dear friends,

I can’t stop listening to the news, which is getting more frightening by the hour. The coronavirus/aka COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds. Events are being cancelled, schools shut down, and the stock market crashing. Last week, I decided on the way to the Portland airport not to go to my conference in Texas. The conference went on with greatly reduced attendance, but this week, everything is being cancelled. I have never typed the word “cancelled” so many times.

In Oregon, our governor is on the radio right now talking about the restrictions she is putting in place to prevent the spread of the disease—no large gatherings, no school events or field trips, no unnecessary visits to nursing homes . . . Store shelves have been stripped bare of hand sanitizer and toilet paper as people prepare to be quarantined indefinitely. This all sounds like a bad science fiction movie. I have never seen anything like this before in my life. I don’t know which frightens me more, the disease or people’s hysterical reaction to the disease, but everything else suddenly seems irrelevant.

How do I make this situation relevant on the Childless by Marriage blog? Maybe it doesn’t make much difference whether or not we have children. We are all in the same boat, except those of us without kids take up less room.

Some random thoughts I offer for discussion:

* If schools are closed, should we who don’t have children volunteer to help working parents take care of them? Is there a special role we might play because we are freer to do so?

* Are we less likely to get the coronavirus because we don’t have children bringing germs home from school?

* For those of us older childless people, who will take care of us if we get it? Because it’s so contagious, who will want to go near us? I have this image of friends leaving food at my front door and driving away as I crawl out to get it.

* Is it a relief to have only ourselves to worry about, especially if our jobs go belly up?

* Are we kind of glad we didn’t bring children into this insane world? Is your partner saying, “See? This is why we shouldn’t have kids.”

* Or do you feel like, in the face of this pandemic, you might lose your chance to ever have children?

It’s on all our minds, so we might as well talk about it. What changes have you made in your lives? Have you been forced to stay home from work or school? Are you cancelling trips, staying home, stocking up on TP and cleaning supplies? Are you worried about your older relatives and friends? What do you think will happen?

Stay healthy. Feel free to share your thoughts. We’re in this together.