Opinion: 112 days

This weekend, the country will celebrate Independence Day while several of our remaining veterans of World War II will be experiencing day 117 of mandatory quarantine. The men and women who did whatever they had to do to keep our country moving forward for future generations, like us, are once again carrying the greatest burden.

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Residents at Westminster Assisted Living in Cullman watch a drive-by parade of well wishers this spring. (Cullman Tribune file photo)

112 days. That’s how long our seniors, the members of the Greatest Generation, have been locked down inside assisted living and nursing homes. 112 days. That’s how long the senior centers have been forced to remain closed. 112 days. That’s how long the rest of the world has continually failed to take simple steps to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. How many more days will the seniors of our community be overlooked and left to endure the greatest inconveniences of this pandemic?

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have both come and gone during this pandemic. People smiled and waved from their cars as they passed by their loved ones, and in many cases, simply hoped their mother or father saw them. As sweet as the parades have been during this time, the time lost cannot be regained. Communicating via poster boards does not equate to sharing a story, a hug or a laugh.

The lessons a person can learn from sitting down with our seniors and listening to their experiences and advice is invaluable. Each day they are locked in quarantine is another day those stories go untold and another day they wish they could tell them. All residents in our assisted living and nursing homes are treasures we are ignorantly turning our backs on while arguing over the legitimacy of wearing a mask in public.

In the two years I have faithfully visited the guys and gals at Westminster Assisted Living, Hanceville Nursing Home, Folsom Center and the many amazing senior centers throughout Cullman County, I have absorbed their advice on love, parenting, faith, hard work, sacrifice and perseverance. They have a beautiful and loving way of conveying life lessons that one can’t help but implement in his or her own life. They’ve taught me patience and, most of all, what is important in life- spending time with family and loved ones. The aspect of life they cherish the most is the one they are being forced to live without right now.

Our senior centers are a tremendous resource, and this pandemic has shown a spotlight on their importance. The senior centers are where so many of Cullman’s seniors go each day for fellowship, meals, exercise and fun. For 112 days, seniors have been home and separated from their friends. At least once a week, we hear of the passing of another senior who was active in the senior centers. The saddest part of losing these amazing men and women is knowing their last days were spent away from the one thing they loved the most. They loved getting up each day and playing games with their friends. They enjoyed singing together and laughing. The senior centers were their livelihoods, and for 112 days, they have been cut off from that.

Finding a person who enjoys wearing a mask is likely rare, but this isn’t about our enjoyment. If wearing a mask, following social distancing guidelines and staying at home when possible is what needs to be done in order for our seniors to regain their freedoms, so be it! It’s the least we can do for the generation that sacrificed so much for us. Being asked to wear a mask is giving up nothing, comparatively. Until they have the ability to get back to their normal lives, it’s selfish to go back to ours.

This weekend, the country will celebrate Independence Day while several of our remaining veterans of World War II will be experiencing day 117 of mandatory quarantine. The men and women who did whatever they had to do to keep our country moving forward for future generations, like us, are once again carrying the greatest burden.

So, when you are headed to Wal-Mart for grilling supplies or stopping by the fireworks stand, put forth whatever effort is asked to make sure they are not forgotten. Wear the mask. Do it for them. Do it so they can see their families. Do it so they can gather with their friends again. Do it because you appreciate all they did for you.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com