Pandemic Prison by
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(290 Stories)

Prompted By Prison

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I have never been in jail. Nor do I know anyone else who has. Nor have I worked with the incarcerated, although it is possible some of the kids I taught in high school ended up in prison. Aside from reading countless books, watching too many movies and binging countless series that involve prisoners and the abuses of our penal system, the closest I can come to feeling imprisoned is how the pandemic impacted my freedom starting in March, 2020.

The closest I can come to feeling imprisoned is how the pandemic impacted my freedom starting in March, 2020.

COVID changed my life, and I remember the exact moment I realized I would no longer be free to do as I liked. We had just purchased a condo were in Indianapolis for our grandkids’ swim meet in late February, 2020. It was hot, humid, and crowded in the bleachers, with people screaming encouragement to their swimmers. As we left the pool area, my grandson said, “Gramma, don’t push that door open with your hands. Use your elbow.” He had learned that at school to avoid illness, but I felt like he was a prophet of what was to come.

Of course, by March life as I knew it changed drastically. We purchased a condo in February and put our house on the market. Great timing. As our yearlong sentence to isolation in pandemic prison began, we were busy cleaning out 45 years worth of “stuff” — lots of things tossed after taking photos of them. Still, there was much to donate, but no place open to receive things. We created a mountain in our basement, hoping that Goodwill would open its doors soon (eventually they did). In those early days when we knew nothing about how COVID-19 was transmitted, no one wanted to touch anything. We stayed away from our friends, kids, and grandkids, but we were really busy preparing for our move.

In April, disaster struck. A pipe burst, resulting in a flood that forced us to let strangers into our house, many unmasked. In addition to the flood restoration team, we had to hire floor finishers and carpenters. I remember hiding as far from them as possible, terrified that my husband or I could end up hospitalized with COVID and on a ventilator. At the time, we were wearing surgical gloves and masks made from bandanas and doing all of our grocery shopping online. Of course, no one was coming to see our house and we were set to move May 15.

As Jefferson asked at the beginning of Act II of Hamilton, “What did I miss?” My granddaughter’s prom, which was “virtual.” My other granddaughter’s middle school graduation, which didn’t happen. Two of my grandson’s June birthdays. We were isolated and now consigned to hard labor, unpacking and setting up the condo. In retrospect, this was a good thing as it kept us busy for a month. We were still washing our delivered groceries, leaving mail unopened for three days, wearing surgical gloves to use the building elevators, and meeting our across-the-hall neighbors by propping our doors open and talking through the cloth masks everyone was buying that promised to be safe. We voted by mail for the first time and had our first ever two-person Thanksgiving. Aside from finally selling our house (for much less than we had hoped), it was a pretty bleak time.

Before the cold weather set in, we were able to visit with our in-town daughter’s family, masked and wearing winter gear, on their porch and in their backyard. On January 25, 2021, I got my first COVID jab after waiting in a long line at the Civic Center. The other thing that helped to mitigate our prison sentence was Zoom. I could now connect with my close friends and even reconnected with one I hadn’t seen in decades because we had moved to different parts of the country some 40 years ago. We zoomed our grandkids and siblings. We took classes over zoom. Our second lifeline during this time in pandemic prison was streaming. Who knew there was so much good stuff out there? Our favorite was an Australian series, Off-Spring, seven seasons about the antics of a Melbourne obstetrician and her chaotic family and personal life. She is funny and engaging and the series (still on Netflix) is both charming and moving. We also read more books than ever, and I continued to write.

Attempt at a zoom with some of our kids and grandkids

Finally, parole was granted as booster shots and N-95 masks made it safe to venture out of our year of isolation and fear. As we cautiously stepped back into an altered version of normalcy, years two and three of the pandemic brought increasing freedom. This past summer, we only masked in large gatherings and returned to restaurants. We saw family and friends mask-free. I was shocked by how much our out-of-town grandchildren, whom we barely saw during our year in prison and two more on parole, had grown. All but one tower over me now.

But COVID keeps evolving and lately I hear of many who are sick. As I sign up for my seventh jab, I hope not to be returned to Pandemic Prison. The time of isolation and fear changed me. Life is slower now. I have learned to treasure the time I spend with family and friends. I don’t mind having to be a bit more careful, but I hate the element of fear that is seeping back into my life.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Well-said, Laurie. COVID-19 put all of us (or anyone with half a brain) in isolation/prison. Test scores for kids remain lower, the population will never be the same (regrettably, believing in science and getting the vaccine became a divisive issue and now a hallmark of red vs. blue thinkers, and the stuff of conspiracy thinking).

    The fact that you were in the process of such a life-changing move only amplified the terror. But somehow, you got past it and can now see your family and keep getting those life-affirming boosters (I’ll get mine as soon as I go back to Newton in two weeks; can’t wait)!

  2. Laurie, your story captured the fear we lived with during those pandemic years.

    I too felt imprisoned, and – I must confess – felt full of self pity and had to keep reminding myself that we were all in the same boat waiting for that Covid vax life raft!

  3. A wonderfully sensitive story that could be applied to the lives of incarcerated prisoners who felt separated from their family, neighborhood, and the light of a free day. Your experiences could easily be the emotional model for may prisoners.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    COVID did drastically change life for everyone and you captured this well. Where we are now is uncertain—few mask anymore but more are getting sick and also getting repeated infections despite vaccines. The virus continues to evolve. Trying to find a compromise that doesn’t keep us in “prison” but still reasonably safe is an ongoing challenge. Good luck to us all.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Amen, Khati. We are all struggling to find balance here and to decide what is reasonable. As my granddaughter defiantly said recently, “I gave up so much of my life to COVID. I can’t go back.” I think a lot of people feel that way. As an older person, I’m trying to find compromises and follow the science.

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