Lockdown gave this 83-year-old a surprise social system. Will post-pandemic freedom take it away?

Margo Krasne

Margo Krasne rebooted her life at the age of 50. A dyed in the wool New Yorker, she worked as an actress, an ad gal, a sculptor and started over again at 50 as a communications coach. She is the author of Say It With Confidence, I Was There All Along: A Memoir and What Would I Do Without You.

“Aren’t you excited?” friends asked a few days before my second shot of Moderna.

“Of course,” I answered, hoping they wouldn’t hear the heaviness in my voice or notice the forced smile on their phones’ screen. How to articulate the apprehension I was dealing with when I couldn’t fully explain it to myself? 

For months I’d looked forward to restocking my larder with favorites from Trader Joe’s unavailable on Instacart. A pedicure wouldn’t be half bad either. And oh, how I longed for a meal that I hadn’t prepared, served on dishes I wouldn’t have to wash and put away. Bliss!

And yet, here I was wanting to stop time from moving forward. It made no sense.  

I hadn’t expected to survive the year. When the pandemic began, I was 82 with COPD—two underlying conditions that didn’t bode well for my well-being. I became so convinced of my demise that I filled a bag with my medical history, meds, extra masks for the EMTs who would cart me away and hung it by my door almost as an amulet. 

I started 2020 praying it would be better than 2019. The year my niece and one of my closest friends had died—one from cancer, the other ALS. But then COVID hit. And I, like everyone else, went on alert. From screaming at the dead for having left me, I went to searching for Clorox, alcohol wipes, toilet paper, even washing grapes in soap and water. And those calls! “Did you hear. . .” “Do you need. . .” “What’s the latest. . .” “OMG!”  I rarely turned off the news, applauded out my window at 7 o’clock, gave to food banks aware how fortunate I was to have money for food and a secure roof over my head. And I wept.

I became so convinced of my demise that I filled a bag with my medical history, meds, extra masks for the EMTs who would cart me away and hung it by my door almost as an amulet. 

I also holed up inside. That was easy. I’m basically an indoor cat who prefers to take my sun through the window at my desk than join those strolling the streets below. Besides, for the first time in memory, no one was nagging me to get out in the fresh air. FaceTime dates and Zoom meetings became the norm. My calendar began filling up with others in need of connection—casual interactions in shops and lobbies no longer available. People whom I would have only seen or spoken to occasionally, began to check in on a regular basis. Friends were making specific times to chat. Dinner and lunch dates were set as were sessions with clients. Life seemed fuller than it had been. 

Was that the reason I wanted to stop time?  That each shot in the arm threatened my newfound community? It became clear that I’d interpreted each, “Aren’t you excited?” to mean that they couldn’t wait to return to their lives and therefore no longer would need to be part of mine. The heaviness I felt was no different than what I experienced at the end of every long consulting gig. For weeks I’d be immersed in a job, building relationships, sharing stories, confidences and meals. Then suddenly it would be over—my presence no longer required. The transition back to my own life had always proved difficult. Just as it portended to be again.

I’m basically an indoor cat who prefers to take my sun through the window at my desk than join those strolling the streets below. Besides, for the first time in memory, no one was nagging me to get out in the fresh air.

A dear friend just went back to work full-time. We’d spent hours over the last year chatting on FaceTime. Often, she would prepare dinner for her family as I baked a batch of scones. No more. No longer would I accompany a friend who’d gotten stranded out West on her walks. She was already back in New York immersed in reclaiming her life. No wonder thoughts of the future had filled me with apprehension.

Having lived alone my whole adult life, I learned early that to make and have friends took work. People who are coupled do not have the same needs for company as someone who is alone. They always have a date for dinner. It’s built into their lifestyle. While this is the life I’ve chosen, one that suits me, it has not always been easy. Moving forward just means that once again, I will have to reach out to others if they do not reach out to me first. To not allow myself to get so wrapped up in my own concerns that I forget others might be in need of a connection as much as I. (Whether I will dismantle the bag by my door is another story. Maybe once we have reached herd immunity.)

And oh! Last Friday, at the end of our now regular FaceTime dinner date, I asked if my friend wanted to continue our ritual once life resumed. “Of course,” she said. “I’d planned on it.”  I hope she caught my smile.  

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