Who is that masked woman?

I’ve only seen my husband in person four times since COVID-19 isolated us and those visits were through the fence that surrounds the facility where he lives. We can’t share a hug or hold hands, but at least I can see him, and he, me, although he pretends he doesn’t know me.

Leslie, Martin and I visited Peter recently, a visit arranged by a nurse who urged him outside. We chatted about 30 minutes until Les and Mart had to leave. I stayed longer and tried to answer his questions about the virus. He wants to know if it’s “fixed” yet.  Hard enough to explain the enormity of a pandemic to anyone at all, much less someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease. He repeats his questions over and over and I reply with the simplest explanations I can. That particular day he was clearly distressed. I tried to reassure him that he was safe where he was, while we on the outside of the fence must wear masks and be extra cautious because the virus is so contagious.

As I drove away he kept pace inside the fence with my car. I did the Queen Elizabeth wave to make him laugh, but I was fighting tears. Maybe he was too. It was my worst day since the day he was admitted more than two years ago. I don’t know why it was so difficult. Maybe it was seeing him so uncharacteristically sad.

When I visited the next week he seemed more his old self. I’d meant to take a photo of him during the other visits but stopped myself. Did I really want pictures of my husband behind bars? So this time I decided a “selfie” of the two of us would be fun. It wasn’t easy to stand six feet apart, factor in the length of my arm and still get both of us in the shot. He turned on his usual Peter smile—he’s such a ham—while I snapped several pictures.  When I showed him the results, again at distance, he wondered what “that thing” was on the side of the photo.

“That’s me silly,” I said. I tugged at the mask I’d had on the entire the time we’d been talking.

“Why are you wearing that?” he asked, laughing. I explained yet again.

Then he wanted to know why his head was so small in the picture. I didn’t try to explain perspective nor remind him of the six feet between us. When I pointed out that we’d been photo-bombed by the American flag, naturally that spurred questions about why the Union Jack wasn’t there too. “Because, the Fourth of July is coming up. That’s when we celebrate our independence from you lot,” I said. At least we were both laughing when I left that time.


Header photo: Peter’s happy “photo face” and my masked chin, neck and shoulder.




2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 


13 thoughts on “Who is that masked woman?

  1. I can totally empathize with your sadness seeing him inside the fence and having to drive away. I always felt a little guilty walking a way from Mom and leaving her behind. But there wasn’t another alternative. It became a routine but I never excepted it as normal.

    • Thanks, Karolyn. I’ve thought since I posted this that I should added another sentence or two. Peter really doesn’t seem concerned about the virus for his own sake other than it means he can’t go out and we can’t come in. He probably really wants a good cuppa too. 😉

  2. Your writing touches and inspires me so. I send you my respect and a virtual hug. And if something should happen to make you laugh, here’s an appropriate new acronym: LMFMO (laughing my f***ing mask off!) I hope you get to use it soon!

  3. Again I want to thank you for your blog. I forgot to come back to it (too much stress right now) and I guess I have no way of knowing when you’ve written again. Although my David is still at home, Covid makes it difficult for someone with dementia. He doesn’t remember the 6’ apart social distancing and when I remind him to step back or away he gets mad. It’s easier just not to go anywhere, but not always a solution. I wonder what it would be like if David were in a nursing home. Would he remember me? Would he think I gave up on him? I have so much admiration for you and others that are struggling with Covid restrictions in an already difficult situation. But you seem to be able to make the best of it!

    • Now wouldn’t be a good time to move him to a memory unit because most are closed to visitors. That would be difficult for both of you. Peter hasn’t forgotten me although he doesn’t remember my name and hasn’t for a long time. He does ask often if he’ll be able to “get out” once the virus is “fixed,” i.e. cured. There are no easy answers in this journey. Unfortunately there are no maps.

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