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Posted: December 23, 2020

A letter home for Christmas

Kootenay Crust

By Ian Cobb

Op-Ed Commentary

Dear Mom:

It’s Day 287 of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s two days before Christmas.

The shutdowns and closures continue. Lives are being impacted in every way imaginable; from death and severe illness to the ruin of countless businesses, losses of livelihoods, soaring drug overdose rates, bankruptcies, suicides. The good old days we’ve always taken for granted, something you’d caution against from your experiences during the Second World War, are in abeyance.

The travel bug you so thoroughly imbued me with scratches the centre of my brain and the daily grind is so much heavier as we head to a pandemic Christmas, as a result. All work and no play has certainly become a thing. Luckily, a pandemic is extremely newsworthy so work has been steadier than usual, though coverage of local governments is difficult to achieve when access to meetings is restricted to video.

We don’t get off the mountain much. Trips into the city are for necessary supplies or appointments and that’s it.

Cabin fever has definitely struck, and I fear the long winter arriving will only compound that.

Yet, we’re so lucky to be riding out a pandemic in our lovely mountain town – free of large crowds. We’re also lucky to be living in a society that isn’t heavily impeded or impacted by the gratuitously selfish or recklessly ignorant types who have caused so much strife and suffering south of the border.

Your grandson is hanging in there; an essential worker not earning anywhere near enough. I worry endlessly, though.

I am now comfortable with the whole mask thing; in that I remember to take it with me now (I leave it in the car).

Carrie observed the other day, “remember the time when it was frowned upon to enter a bank with a mask on?”

If you weren’t completely wire-crossed with dementia, the commanding Dr. Cobb part of you would be threatening to “bash” anyone refusing to wear a mask in public places.

You’d have been my go-to for information on this damned pandemic; for the straight goods on exactly what is what. You’d be helping people, if you could, in your care home. Like you helped out at dad’s care home for so many years.

Instead, you’re stuck in a care home that is riddled with COVID-19; with 51 residents and 13 staff members infected. Your floor has been hit the hardest and you, my scrappy wee mom, have thus far managed to keep clear of this scourge.

They have moved you to another floor, which gives us hope. You are a true survivor. I don’t know if you can remember that. But the thought of your loneliness is heartbreaking.

You lost your entire family one horrible night when you were just 16; citizen victims of the Second World War – from the war over the skies of Britain.

That did not slow you down. You proceeded to earn a medical degree – a woman doctor in a vast sea of male doctors. How you loved to pop large egos with rapier wit. The paths you laid and doors you kicked open for women cannot be understated.

It is likely you have a woman doctor or two at your home who owe you a nod of respect for helping lessen the bullshit women have had to withstand for so long.

With an infant son, you and dad left your homeland behind and moved to Canada, seeking opportunities and you forged a fruitful and successful life. You survived raising David, Patricia and I. God knows you put up with a lot of crap! You also didn’t take it. I learned I could take a solid upper cut to the chin thanks to you. I dared you to take a swing; you did.

When you were in your early 70s you survived a head-on crash on St. Mary’s Road.

All through your 80s you watched dad disappear from Alzheimer’s. You visited him every day at the best care home in Winnipeg; fed him lunch, took him for walks in the gardens and helped out with other residents. Dr. Cobb also made damned sure the staff at the care home were on top of their games. Despite living in apparent oblivion for six years, dad knew he was cared for and loved.

A couple of years after dad died, dementia visited its damnable self upon you. You’ve been in care homes these last few years, as your loss of faculties occurred much faster than dad’s once it grabbed hold of you.

The last time we visited you did not show signs of recognizing us.

Whereas dad had visitors every day, you received them sparingly before this pandemic began and now you are all alone in a care home that is overrun with a dangerous virus.

We get updates every day. Seven of your fellow residents have already died from COVID. It’s an unsettling and disturbing time, I have to say.

Manitoba was doing so good and then boom, outbreaks occurred all over. Folks got lackadaisical after the first wave passed, here in B.C., too.

Hence, Christmas has been all but cancelled, with families being ordered to stay away from one another so as to try and slow the spread. It’s common sense.

I can hear and picture you lecturing people on why they should wear masks, stay apart and do their part. And they’d damned well hear you.

Your generation endured six years of savage war with dignity, grace and style. Our generations are having night terrors about being stuck at home for a few weeks, watching telly, noshing on bon bons and tormenting the squirrels.

Some are flipping their lids over being told to wear a mask into a store. The dandified flakes think their rights are being trampled by some new age Illuminati. Along with the Trump and Trudeau times – 2020 has been one whack job of a year.

I wish you could know that.

You are probably a little more confused than usual today – in a new room, hopefully safe from the spread of the virus. I haven’t received an update yet today. So, we hold our breath… and we try to celebrate the holidays without our families and friends among us. In that regard, we will have similar Christmases. We can’t visit you, nor can our kids visit us.

“Well, you have to think of the long term good,” you’d say.

I hope your home has tried to cheer things up with some Christmas décor. Such things could strike a memory chord or two in you.

The last time we visited it seemed your mind was stuck in a time when you were a little girl. “Jimmy” was being “a bugger,” you kept saying.

It is said memories are all one has left when one reaches the final years of life. I hope your memories are keeping you company and happy within, mom. May you be among the warm embrace of your mom and dad and family back in Selby.

Merry Christmas, happy anniversary and happy New Year to you from all of us.

– Ian Cobb is owner/editor of e-KNOW and he wishes everyone a safe, healthy and happy Christmas and New Year.

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