Is laughter quarantined too?

Laughter has been as scarce as toilet paper and hand sanitizer these recent months. There are glimmers of good news now and then, but the bad far outweighs the good. March 14 the facility where Peter has lived for two years closed its doors until further notice due to COVID-19.  “Further” has yet to be determined. Still, who am I to complain when tens of thousands of families will never see their loved ones again?

Oh, Peter and I have talked on the phone and FaceTimed. He always sounds quite jolly when we talk, but it isn’t difficult for me to get him going. I say something silly, he laughs and comes back with something sillier. We’ve been doing that for years. After we’ve talked, whoever facilitated the call—Haley, Brandi, Jordan—lets me know that he smiled the whole time. I appreciate them telling me. Smiles work wonders when reasons to laugh are so scarce.

Peter understands that there’s a serious health crisis, though it would be a stretch to think he understands what a pandemic is or the devastation it has wreaked around the world. His world is limited to the locked doors behind which he and 15 others live. He’s safe there.

When we FaceTimed last week, aided by Brandi, I happened to be sitting outside in the sun—sunlight destroys the virus, they say—and I didn’t have time to corral my flyaway hair. “Is that you?” Peter asked, frowning. He had her phone pressed close to his face the better to decide if the image on the screen was indeed the woman he married.

“I look different with all this white hair, don’t I?” I asked.

He hooted. “Oh, is that you?”

I nodded. “I look like my grandmother.”

“Well how old are you?” he wanted to know.

I sighed. “We’re both over the hill, Pete. I’m eighty-one, and you’re…”

“SIXTY!” he blurted.

“…Eighty-two.” My turn to laugh.

Thursday we visited through the garden fence, again with Brandi’s help. She made sure Peter was outside at one o’clock. He wasn’t quite sure about the masked woman standing near the gazebo. He walked toward me hesitantly. “It’s you!” he said finally.

Leslie and Martin arrived a bit later. We three stood in the sunshine, at distance from Peter, and chatted as if it were a normal day. Peter’s grasp of the virus’s severity is fleeting. “Is ‘it’ just here?” he asked circling his arms around. “How long will ‘it’ last?” he’d say every few seconds. Again and again we told him that the whole world is affected and that no one knows for how long. Each time he’d roll his eyes, shake his head and repeat, “‘Is it just here? How long will it last?”

He took some comfort when Martin told Peter he was safer inside than we were outside. Finally, I encouraged him to go see if there was a cup of tea in the dining room with his name on it. Certainly tea won’t cure this pandemic, but it can’t hurt.

Header photo: I forgot to take a photo of us at the fence, but Peter hasn’t changed much since this one was snapped two years ago when he was only 80.



2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

10 thoughts on “Is laughter quarantined too?

  1. Thanks for writing – I am in a similar position, with visits restricted for almost 2 months now. In some ways, it has relieved me of the decisions about how often and how long to visit, and the strain of coming up with things to do and to talk about. Until this, I had not known how to limit visits without seeming unkind. (And I hadn’t realized how much sheer work it was…)

    The dilemma is that J is constantly being reminded, sadly, of her old life and who she used to be, at every visit. I wonder if, without that constant reminding, she may actually be more comfortable in some ways. Don’t know – but I do wonder.

    Take care in this strange time!

    • You’ve said exactly what I’ve experienced and thought about these past two months. Does my not being able to visit four or five days a week make it simpler for Peter? I actually think it does. He was happy to see the three of us the other day, but he was ready to go back inside to his cuppa when I suggested it. We just do the best we can! Stay safe.

  2. So glad you all got to visit face to face!! And so glad you and Peter still have your sense of humor!!❤️❤️

  3. So glad you got to see Peter….it helps doesn’t it to see him face to face even though you can’t hug. Keep on making each other laughing.

  4. Smiles, smiles and more smiles!
    One good thing, sort of in a strange way…now we know for sure you can go away for a bit and all will be okay!!

    • Yes, and as I said in my reply to Jabberwalky, I actually think he does better not seeing me so often. Perhaps my visits remind him that he’s there all the time and I’m only there some of the time.

  5. Glad you got to meetup. It helps in its own way! This darn virus .. we don’t understand it, how can Peter? Stay safe .

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