Joan’s Taste of Freedom
Stripping COVID’s Stranglehold
Joan felt like a bird.
Completely naked, she flitted down the hallway of the 10th floor at Glorious Gardens, noting not-so-softly the closed door of each empty senior-living apartment along the way with the greeting, "Hello, Mr. Apartment 1020, Hello Mrs. Apartment 1022 ..."
She was effortlessly pushing her bright blue walker, and her husband, Dave, guiding a more sedate, black walker and also stripped completely naked, stepped more precisely and slowly far behind her.
"Wait up!" Dave demanded as he fell farther behind Joan's rush to the end of the block-long hallway.
"24 apartments!" Joan yelled, ignoring her husband's urgent request. "It's going to take years to fill this thing up."
It was midnight, two weeks after she and Dave had made the jump from 17 years of condo living to this new senior living section of Glorious Gardens so they could be near their family members in Kansas City. The pandemic held a grip on everyone. Completing two weeks of quarantine in their apartment. Leaving her condo friends without a goodbye party. Meeting family members only through Zoom. Joan had had it!
"Wouldn't it be a great story to tell people moving in as we get to know them?" Joan suggested with a girlish giggle during one of those previous nights of dead silence on the 10th floor. "A strange tale that, to break the boredom of the 2020 pandemic, we both ran down the top-floor hallway of Glorious Gardens with our walkers completely naked. It would be a stitch!"
"A story that would last for years," Dave agreed. "Definitely anti-institutional. But shouldn't we use our masks? It's in the regs."
"You're kiddin' me?" Joan countered. "That's the whole point. We're all alone up here. It's our one shot – probably the only one we'll get – to be free!"
"OK, no masks. No anything!"
"We'll do it at midnight, so we'll be sure no one else is around," Joan allowed.
"And we can take our time," Dave added. "No rush. No guilt. Just two people in the 'au naturel' during an unnatural time."
Yes, midnight indeed proved to be perfect timing. Joan reached the end of the hall and let out a loud laugh. It was fun feeling all of her body parts, unhinged by straps, seams, zippers and buttons, flap naturally in the hallway's cool air. We need to do this more often, she thought.
She turned her walker to get back to Dave, who was still taking his time step by step near the hallway's second set of elevators.
She held her head up high, pretending, in her mind, to be the Queen of Sheba. But it was then that Joan saw the small, black globe in the hallway ceiling, a camera perfectly positioned to view both the elevator lobby and the full length of the hallway.
"Oh, my god!" Joan yelled. "We're on tape."
They both scurried to turn around their walkers to get back into their apartment, but, just then, the elevator opened and a big, burly man with a face mask, head shield and ponytail popped out.
"Hi, I'm Bo, tonight's security guard," he quickly said. "I also work in the memory care unit. Is everything OK up here?"
Joan's face turned hot, and she tried to shrink herself into a body that could not be seen. How could she explain their situation? How could she defend herself? Only a toddler or an adult in need of help would run naked down a public hallway.
The words "memory care" echoed through her brain.
"I don't want memory care!" she heard herself saying. "No memory care! No memory care! No memory ..."
"Joan, wake up! Wake up! Wake up!" she suddenly heard Dave’s words break through the fog.
With Dave's help, she slowly sat up in bed.
"Oh, Dave," she mumbled. "I've had such a horrible nightmare ..."
Joan now realizes Paulo Coelho's words may be true: "... Yes, life is insane, but the great wisdom lies in choosing your insanity wisely." Or, at least choosing the one that offers the most fun.
Joan's takeaway tip from her story: Choose your insanity wisely.
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Here’s to elderhood and vulnerability!
Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF retired, author of “Opening Up” newsletter
“Story-guided Discussion for Finding Peace with Vulnerability”