Home Alone

Living solo in the era of Covid-19

June 25, 2020 | | Over the Next Hill

My cell phone chirped promptly at 6 p.m. Perfect. I was ready. That night my quarantini was made with vodka, a tiny drop of vermouth and a twist. I was looking forward to a nice long Skype chat with a good friend who lives far away. Together, but apart, we would sip before-dinner drinks.

I’ve come to cherish the routine the two of us developed during the Covid-19 turmoil. It’s a coming together that probably wouldn’t have happened if both of us hadn’t been stuck in isolation, with an abundance of time we could use to touch base with people we don’t see every day.

Quarantini with a twist: Writer Gail Grant settles in for a Skype chat with a distant friend. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Quarantini with a twist: Writer Gail Grant settles in for a Skype chat with a distant friend. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Living alone does have its challenges. Engaging in one-way conversations with the dog or the houseplant can become dreary. But the compensations are numerous, and in the context of a reeling world, I believe they are downright positive. Mostly.

No one complains when I crank up the volume on my favourite radio station, and there’s no debate about which station that will be. I can sing along, again at whatever volume I choose, and even dance as if no one is watching – which is the way I like to dance anyway.

I can choose which Netflix movie I’d like to see, again no debate, and I can leave my clothes hanging around until I feel like tidying up. If I feel like staying in my PJs til noon, who’s watching? And I don’t have to listen to never-ending news feeds either – unless I choose to.

As my friend Jim Garrow, who also lives alone, said during his time of social distancing, “So far, I’m getting along with myself okay, but that might change at any moment.”

As our population ages, many of us are either choosing the single life or finding ourselves there by default. The 2016 census showed that about 26 per cent of Canada’s 5.9 million seniors live alone. Single seniors have, mostly, learned to give rhythm to their days, to set agendas and to follow through. We have come to grips with our circumstances, and we know how to avoid sinking into tedium, lethargy and boredom.

We don’t have to deal with the spouse who sits in front of the TV watching CNN (and sinking further into a funk) hour after unending hour. I recently saw the wife of one of these husbands energetically digging in her garden wearing a furious frown. I wasn’t sure whether she was planting herbs or preparing his final resting spot.

I have an acquaintance whose husband is medically compromised, in his 70s and quite frail. But he insisted on heading out on errands every day, even during the most contagious time of the virus outbreak. She was beside herself with worry, both for him and for herself, as he came breezing back into the house, a human vector. Because they each had a different attitude about appropriate pandemic behaviour, the home atmosphere grew increasingly tense.

Some believe the pandemic is no big deal. Others are very judgmental of those who break social distancing rules. It has crossed my mind that the practices of divorce lawyers might see an uptick in the coming months, although I have no way of confirming this. Yet.

But most of us have used this time to take a break. Without the usual demands on our time, we slept more, ate more, tweeted, blogged and thought more, loafed, exercised, created art, whined, mooched, dozed, cried, binge-watched, and wallowed with books downloaded on our iPads. We closed our bubble and sucked it up.

My spice drawer has never been tidier. The basement has been sorted through and culled, as have my closets. Somehow I haven’t made it to the garage yet. To keep my mind from seizing up, I got into some great reading and rebooted my Spanish lessons.

Constant human contact might add interest to the days, but those of us who have our health and have been on our own for any length of time cashed in our experience points and quickly adapted. We value our solitude, but we also treasure our connections, both real and virtual.

The Skyped quarantini was a far cry from the cocktail parties we hosted and enjoyed in our 40s and 50s, but it was right for the time. As we struggle toward normalcy, I remind myself that hope is the foundation of sanity – and that hardship is part of the journey.

When stressed, it’s a good idea to float awhile. And remember, we are all weathering the same storm.

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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