Aunt Bo Braves the Lock-down

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

You may remember hearing about my Aunt Bo. I’ve written about her before because she is one of my favorite people, and she lived right next door to us for 8 years before she moved to assisted living.

I was used to seeing her every day, so I really missed her when she moved. I began visiting her every week or two. The last time I visited, in late February, I took her Valentine decorations down, and replaced them with shamrocks and leprechauns. A few days later her daughter, Trish, called to let me know I wouldn’t be able to visit for a while because the assisted living facility was being locked-down for a few weeks.

That was 8 months ago.

Aunt Bo and I have become good friends, and spending time with her fills a bit of the void left by my mother’s passing. So not seeing her has been hard. We talk on the phone, but it’s just not the same.

I’m a hugger and a hand-holder, and my *love language is “acts of service.” So if I can’t repair something, decorate something, find something that’s been lost, or provide some physical comfort, well . . . I feel as though I haven’t really done anything of value. This means talking on the phone can leave me feeling frustrated, knowing there are needs that I can’t meet.

When the lock-down began, Aunt Bo’s world—which was already pretty small—suddenly became even smaller. No in-person visits with family: only “window visits” and phone calls. No eating with friends in the dining room, instead having to eat meals alone in her room. Only seeing other residents in the hallway, or sometimes on the porch, while keeping a distance of 6-feet. (Bo and many of her neighbors are hard of hearing, which makes it impossible to chat from 6 feet away.)

She hasn’t been able to get her hair cut.

She’s had to miss family events, like birthdays, and even her grandson’s wedding.

She’s gotten no hugs, no reassuring pats, no physical touch of any kind, which to me is incredibly sad.

Aunt Bo’s eyesight has dimmed over the years, which means she’s no longer able to read. But she loves audio books. The Library for the Blind provided her with a very easy to operate player, which plays digital books stored on a unique flash drive cassette. The library sends her several books at a time. Listening to stories (especially those by Danielle Steele!) is her favorite way to spend otherwise boring afternoons. When the library closed because of COVID, my daughter and I searched the internet for other sources of these e-books. But apparently they aren’t available anywhere else, so Bo’s afternoons stayed silent.

So many changes: and none of them for the better.

But here is the amazing thing—and one of the reasons why I admire this lady so much:

When I call her, although she may sound weary, or under-the-weather, or sometimes a bit down-hearted . . .

I never hear self-pity.

Instead, I hear empathy.

When she talks about the current challenges of her world, she talks about how all the residents of her building are being affected. She talks about how very hard the nurses and aides are working to make up for those who are out sick or are suspected of having the virus.

She’s being so brave. She seems to be reaching back to the days of World War II, when each American had to be strong to help everyone get through an unimaginably difficult time.

She is being a trouper, and I’m so proud of her.

Bo wasn’t feeling well when we spoke two weeks ago. Trish called me last week to let me know that her mom had tested positive for COVID.

I knew she’d be resting a lot, so I waited until yesterday to give her a call. I thought she’d sound worn-out and weak, but she didn’t.

She sounded great!

She sounded strong and cheerful. She didn’t dwell on how sick she’d been; she didn’t complain about being shut away for so long, only to get sick anyway. Instead, she said she was relieved to know she’d gotten the virus behind her, so it’s not likely she’ll get it again.

She said she’s feeling better every day. She said she’s very happy to have finally started getting books again.

And the last thing she said to me before we said our goodbyes?

“I have so much to be thankful for.”

*The 5 Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman, identifies the ways in which we give and receive love, and how each person has different priorities for giving/receiving love.  

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