It took me 45 minutes to set up online banking for my mother. Five days of convincing her to let me do this, and then 45 minutes to work through the process of creating her online account. My mother lives a 5-hour drive from Kingston – she’s a healthy and independent 79 year old woman, who is as sharp as a tack. But, she has never ventured into the online banking world because she doesn’t trust it. Doing her banking in person at a bank is also a reason to get out of the house. Her justification. In normal times.
Since we’re neck deep in a bizarro world and she has banking to do, she allowed me to set this up. On my end. I will do her banking for her for now… one step at a time. First thing needed was her bank card number. She wouldn’t say it out loud because ‘someone may be listening.’ So, she held up the card to the camera of her Mini iPad. Right up to the camera. So close that I could only make out 3 of the numbers. “Back it up a bit, Mom. Over to the right, Mom. A little bit more to the right, Mom.”
This was a huge accomplishment considering my mother has never video chatted before this lockdown. The view I’ve had of her during our recent video chats has been of her right shoulder, so this was a big deal. After major password deliberations, I set up the account, deposited some funds and paid her bills. That worked. Phew!
(I must warn any hackers to back the hell off and leave her account alone. I’d never hear the end of it, so work with me here. If you don’t, you should know that I have a ‘working knowledge’ of covert operations. This lockdown mode has channelled my inner spy and thanks to an endless supply of TV series on the workings of the CIA, I have the know-how to take you out!)
Back to my mother. I love her to bits, but we have never had this many conversations. Ever. Even when we lived in the same house. Our relationship has survived quite well over the years with occasional phone calls and lots of Messenger messages. I send cute photos of the dog and cat, tell her funny stories about her granddaughters. She updates me with gossip about people from her building who I don’t know.
The pandemic has brought out an unbelievable need to regularly check in on family members.
“How are you feeling? Any fever? Are you eating? What do you need?” Children have become the parents, lecturing stubborn seniors to stay home. We have people on stand-by to deliver food or whatever is needed. Yet, these parents of ours still venture out. “I’ll be fine. I’ll be careful.” I hate these responses. I recite everything I read from health officials and remind her that anyone over the age of 70 should simply stay home. Her replies: “I only went to the store to get a newspaper.” “I only needed a few things from the grocery store.” “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
Apparently, I really have nothing else better to do these days than lecture my mother. Or talk to my daughters, my father, and brother, and sister, and friends. I’ve spent hours upon hours talking on the phone and on video chats – checking in. These conversations are interspersed with following the latest news on Twitter and refreshing the Worldometers COVID-19 website way too many time. I search Facebook for funny memes, which have become less frequent as this lockdown continues. (C’mon creative and clever people – new memes are needed!)
I’m trying my best to heed the advice of every mental health professional out there to limit my online intake. They recommend 20 minutes a day. I’m at 20 minutes every couple of hours. I’ve been a proud work-from-home self-employed professional since 2004. I know how to get stuff done from the comfort of my home office. Or, at least I did. These days, I sit down at my desk and before I know it, it’s 4pm and I have accomplished absolutely nothing useful.
Useless. Exhausted. Sad. Scared. Angry. Anxious. There’s a wide gamut of emotions making the rounds in my brain. I do feel thankful though. Thankful that my family is safe. Thankful that my friends and fellow Kingstonians are taking this seriously. For the most part. I don’t get the need to risk others by ignoring the new rules of shopping etiquette, but these rebels seem few and far between. Of course, that’s the opinion of someone who rarely ventures out other than to walk the stir-crazy dog and do quick food runs.
I’m also thankful that we are living this new reality with electricity and heat. I felt much more ‘inconvenienced’ back when we lost power for 12 days during Ice Storm ’98. When we were preparing meals on a wood stove. When our frozen food spoiled. When our TV tower snapped ,leaving us with one channel on a clear day. When the internet and movie streaming services didn’t exist.
Despite today’s inconveniences, social media is filled with those who are taking full advantage of the stay-at-home time by baking bread and experimenting with new recipes. I know how to bake and cook – I simply don’t want to bake and cook. As an empty nester, I much prefer when others bake and cook for me. The take-out menus at downtown restaurants are wonderful and we’re doing our part to support local businesses. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I would love to take the time and read the massive pile of books waiting for me to crack them open. I start one, but my ability to concentrate is toast. I love movies, but you can only watch so many movies before it’s time to get off the damn couch. This upside down world is ruining my typical escape-from-reality activities.
Kudos to parents of young children. I can’t even imagine going through this pandemic having to entertain or engage with little kids. Or teenagers. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
The problem with this new reality is that we have no idea when it will end. Or, whether the next reality will be anything like our pre-COVID lives. The only way I can wrap my brain around any of this is to think that we’re simply hitting a re-set button. That everything will return to normal someday soon. That we’ll all be more conscientious of how the world has shifted and ensure we can better avoid a future shift.
This may be completely unrealistic or way too optimistic. But, it’s the only way I can sleep at night and not let all of this consume my every waking moment.
In the meantime, I look forward to future hugs. And handshakes. And dinner out with friends. And a post-COVID coif. And the re-opening of movie theatres. And never hearing the word ‘unprecedented.’ And Copper Penny fries. Until then, stay safe and sane!
Kingstonist Community Editorial Board member Lindsey Foster is a relative newbie to Kingston having only lived here for 27 years. She has worked in radio and television news, fundraising, event management, communications and rental property management. She also volunteers with several organizations, including Rotary. With two daughters in their early 20s, Lindsey and her husband, Lawrence, are enjoying their newfound quasi-empty-nester status living downtown.
The Kingstonist 2020 Community Editorial Board is made up of a number of local writers interested in community happenings offering well-researched columns on a wide range of topics, from municipal politics and local contentious issues, to personal opinions and insights into local matters.