You Want to Give me What?

Each of us in our immediate family has begun to dip our toes in having our food delivered. I know we are lucky that we have been able to do so, and each of us has our own reasons for not venturing out into the grocery stores. I am grateful to the people who have shopped for us because they, like our doctors, nurses, and first responders are also heroes in our Covid-19 world. As I mentioned recently, this point was highlighted in an emotional news segment in which a mother wept as she spoke of her daughter—a grocery store worker—who had lost her life by simply doing her job.

Today I am writing about some of the laughs Dad and I have had while putting together our shopping lists, because these days, we all need to smile about something. For those of you who have not yet experienced home food delivery, I want to explain a little about how it works.

For us, we have used the Instacart App, which enable us to have our food delivered from Publix, Kroger, Sam’s Club, Costco, and CVS. The stores vary according to where you live. Since Dad is our family shopper, he has been developing a list and adding items before they are needed. The app informs him whether an item is available, and if not, it offers him a substitute. This is where the fun begins.

When he decided to cook some Mexican dinners, he added low carb tortillas to the list. The replacement was a fun alternative, but it did not fit in with his dinner plans. He was offered Breyers carb smart ice cream.

A Mexican dinner is not complete without some cheese, but when that was unavailable, Instacart’s response was a choice of Genoa salami or turmeric chili matcha green tea. The tea is allegedly full of antioxidants and is said to energize your body, but will it melt on my burrito? I don’t think so.

While we are still not needy in the toilet paper department, Dad is still on the lookout because he does not want to wait until the last moment. When he recently asked for the heavily desired bathroom product, he was told that he could have Reynolds wrap instead. Now there is no way in hell that anyone can convince me that this will work.

I can’t wait until he works on the next list!


What’s Next

Each day the Covid-19 cases and deaths grow, and as a mathematician, I can’t help but look at the numbers, update my own statewide charts, and make my own predictions despite knowing that the data is inaccurate. As an example, in my state, the reported cases were 2,792 yesterday, while the possible cases are estimated to be as high as 19,476. That is a difference of sevenfold!

Dad and I are personally remaining at home except for our evening walks, but I worry about what will happen on Sunday because religious services are not banned here in South Carolina. The changes by our governor are just recommendations rather than mandates. Is he kidding?!

“I can’t speak for other governors but this governor is not going to intrude on the First Amendment. That is an absolute right. We are encouraging pastors and others and any house of worship and any congregation of any kind to use social distancing. That is go online.”

Governor McMaster encourages churches to “keep doing it that way or have the service outside with social distancing or if you must have a congregation under a roof then use that social distancing. But that First Amendment right is very important, just like the others. We are respecting that.”

I have tried to find the humor in how we are all living under the order to remain at home, because if I don’t, I will do nothing but cry all day. But it is hard not to do so as I talk to Grandma and know how sad she is to be unable to have her regular Saturday visits with Aunt El and daily drop-ins by Aunt Ar.

I watch the pleas of our hospital personnel around the country, and yesterday I cried along with a newscaster as she spoke with a woman who had lost a daughter with cerebral palsy who had been working as a grocery clerk.

We get daily updates from my friend who was finally feeling well enough to drive herself to be tested even though she is still ill.  I worry about Uncle Dave, who is at the beginning stages of ALS and is now sick with what he believes is the flu. Last night he needed some Tylenol for his headache and something to help with his nasal congestion, but he could not climb the stairs to get his medicine. That makes me so sad and angry.  I am trying from afar to convince him to get tested, because his lungs are still strong and he may need medical intervention to help them remain strong.

I fear that Trump will open up businesses, and while many governors will disagree, I know that mine will not be among them, so Mark will return to work. As a result, Dad and I will not be able to interact with the grandkids for a very, very long time. While our two families have been maintaining our social distancing, we have been hanging on to the hope that we will soon be permitted to get together. But a back-to-work order will ruin that dream.

What will happen next?


Another Time, Another Quarantine

During the year that my grandmother was in quarantine for possible tuberculosis, my grandfather was also in quarantine, but for him, it was not TB or the Spanish flu that put him out of service. Papa was “somewhere in England” in isolation with four other soldiers in his ward. A total of thirteen other soldiers were ill with German measles. That vaccine was not available for another forty years.

In a letter to his sister Ann in mid-June, he wrote that he would be in isolation for twenty-one days after having gotten sick a week earlier. He was not feeling ill, and it was apparently not a big concern to the doctors because my grandfather mentioned that they were bringing in a piano “for us to have a dance… The nurses here are great for dancing. They are very nice but are not in with the girls at home. There is only one girl for me, Ann, and she is in Boonton, and you tell her to stay there and wait for me.”

I hardly knew Papa, so reading this letter gave me an insight into his feelings towards my grandmother when they were engaged and they were separated by war. It’s rather sweet.

Just a page of his quarantine letter.- 6-17-1918


The Elderly Will Get This

Now that we are following the latest “suggestion” of remaining at home until the end of this next month (I am a rule follower for the most part), I am adjusting to this new world by having my groceries delivered to my home. I was excited to learn of a family connection to a fresh vegetable dealer at a nearby farmer’s market. (Is this the same feeling of euphoria one has after scoring drugs?)  After paying with cash the first week, I decided I would follow the lead of one of my kids by installing the Venmo App.

For anyone ancient like me, let me tell you that it is a way to pay for items digitally, which I finally decided would be safer for my vegetable dealer even though she assured me that she has no problem with cash.

I spent too much time the other day trying to install Venmo on my IPhone, so I sent a note to the Venmo help desk. I received a list of six suggestions. I tried all but the most drastic measure, which was to restore my phone to its original factory settings. I finally gave up and sent my Venmo customer support person the following Goodbye Jocelyn email:

Hi Jocelyn.

 I tried all your suggestions except restoring my phone. That is not happening! I do not want to spend any more time on this project by doing that and then lose all my apps, contacts, etc. 

Being someone not willing to give up without a fight, I then tried to install the Venmo app on my IPad, but I had the same problem. It gets stuck after “click next to complete linking to bank” when I tried to add a bank account.

I did not want to do this from the start, but my children made me feel old for not having the latest app. I guess I can’t blame them, because I am sure I rolled my eyes when my parents got stuck in the past.

On top of being made to feel old by my adult children, I recently learned that our government considers me elderly and in need of extra precautions even though I am not on Medicare yet unless Bernie claims victory and convinces the world that he was correct all along.

So I will go back to doing what apparently is the way to pay for things by elderly people, but in this time of worrying about glitter-sized coronavirus germs, I will wipe down my cash with hard-to-get antibacterial wipes before paying the very nice woman who is getting me fresh veggie at the local famer’s market and hope she stays virus-free.

Now I have the remainder of the afternoon to settle down in my rocking chair with my latest book before my next Zoom session with my truly elderly mother.

Thank you for taking the time to try to help me, Jocelyn.

 So long Venmo and back to the days of yore when everyone used plain old cash!


Karen B.

“Elderly” mother, grandmother, and generally-good-with-technology citizen

  And that, my friends and dear family, is a wrap!




History Repeats with our Pandemic

I speak with Grandma every day. We just completed another family Zoom session with her. She is quiet, so we are trying to keep her engaged. Today I reminded her of the time her mother was quarantined around the time of the Flu Epidemic of 1918, which has been in the news so much these days.

Her father had recently died, and my grandfather had been called into service in World War I. My aunt believed all this sadness affected my grandmother’s health so she lost a lot of weight. The doctors at her job examined her and diagnosed her with “suspicious tuberculosis,” so they sent her to the company sanitarium in upstate New York. She spent six months there and then was permitted to return home. It was difficult, though, because like the asymptomatic coronavirus patients, Grandma felt fine.

She did not have the Internet to entertain her with Facebook Quarantine Karaoke or Facetime, Google Hangout (which I still have not figured out), or Zoom to keep her in touch with her mom like we do. All she had were letters home to her family, so I can’t complain.

When she finally was released, she was surprised to learn about the friends who were lost to the flu. Her mother did not have the heart to inform her of these losses via a letter.

I hope it is not six months for us, but if it is, perhaps we really will get a summer reprieve!

Our New World

We are currently living in a whole new world. We are scrambling for toilet paper, washing our hands until they are raw, isolating ourselves from our loved ones, learning how to homeschool our children, and having food delivered to our homes.

I am slightly ahead of the panic, because I purchased our toilet paper on March 9, when there were just 566 confirmed cases in the United States and 7 in my state. World Market closed its doors at the shopping center near me in December, so I was able to stock up on wine at 50% off. That was a particularly good score!

Dad ordered disposable gloves the day before we got our supply of toilet paper, and on March 11, we went to a restaurant where we ate in for the last time. We were a little nervous, but not everyone at our table was anxious. The proposed restrictions of March Madness was a hot topic of opposing views. The tournament was canceled the following day.

Since then, we began to get more cautious. I picked up a book from the library the day before it closed, and we got take-out from our favorite Asian restaurant. Dad had his gloves on when he picked up the order.

Our town was not so concerned, since it permitted a rib cook-off in the local park on March 14—an event which drew 2500-3000 not-so-concerned residents. I was furious when I saw videos of people eating their ribs with their hands and then grabbing the communal containers of barbecue sauce. But our state epidemiologist said, “There is no need to cancel public events.” Hmm! Will our state have an uptick in cases traced back to the event? We will never know, because it appears our state is not tracing the trail. There were 2800 positives and 58 deaths  in our country the day of the barbecue.

Obtaining groceries in a coronavirus world is different. During our final visit to the grocery store, we both wore our gloves and we maintained our social distance, something that was not the order of the day on March 17. On that day, there had been only 33 positives and 1 death in South Carolina, but nationally, there were 4500 positives and 88 deaths.

We visited with the kids several times through the window, once at our house and a few times at theirs. It was both fun and extremely sad. We threw leftover bags of Halloween M&Ms out the window to them, but Lily cried because she wanted to come inside. Bryce had to pee, so our plants got fertilized.

I hate this, but this is what we need to do for now. For Dad and me, we are not working in a hospital like my sister, we have a roof over our heads, and plenty of food and TP. While we miss you all and are disappointed that our trips to visit each other have been postponed, we really cannot complain. We will just continue to hide from the world until it’s safe to come out again.

A Wholel New World





They Are Talking About Me!!

After receiving my Medicare card, I thought that was the final nail in my “you are officially old coffin,” but I was wrong. With all the talk about the mysterious coronavirus infecting people on every continent but Antarctica, I started researching who is vulnerable.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that “the coronavirus outbreak is getting worse and warned elderly and sick people to avoid traveling or circulating in crowds.”

Well, that’s certainly not me, so I can just get on with my life while at the same time follow safe practices such as diligently washing my hands more often and for twenty seconds and fist or elbow bump rather than shake hands. Then I read that the U.S. Surgeon, General Jerome Adams, emphasized that people over sixty years old are the most at risk from coronavirus. By the transitive property, I realized that I AM ELDERLY! OMG!!

I called Grandma and informed her that her two first-born children are now in the elderly population. She responded, “Then I guess that means I must be ancient!”

I was not prepared for this shocking revelation.


Our Kids are Tuned In

Since we just finished our big presidential primary here in South Carolina, and today is Super Tuesday, I thought I would provide some updates regarding the state of the presidential race from the point of view  of our underage family voters. The conversation began at the polls with Mommy on Saturday.

When asked who he preferred, 7-year-old Bryce announced that he was behind Tom Steyer. His four-year-old sister disagreed with his choice, stating that she was an Elizabeth Warren fan. “A girl has never been president. Why wouldn’t you want a girl?” (Wise child!)

On Saturday night, Bryce wandered downstairs from his bedroom to be told that Joe Biden had won South Carolina and that Tom Steyer had dropped out of the race. That was enough for him to pivot to Joe Biden, but not Lily, who would not budge in her support of Senator Warren.

Bryce told her that choosing Elizabeth Warren was a bad choice because “she is not in a good place.”  According to him, he heard that from “breaking news.” (Boy, these kids sure are tuned in!)

We discussed this during our Monday afternoon playdate. We showed both of them our pictures from Saturday night, when we attended the Biden South Carolina Primary celebration. While they were both impressed with out Biden sign and photos  of the bus, Lily was unwavering.


“Did Elizabeth Warren drop out?” (Keep in mind that this child is FOUR YEARS OLD!!)  When I told her that she has not, then she told me that she still likes Elizabeth Warren.

She is a loyal trooper!

I am a Chicken!

Although my taste for fish was not ruined by Grandma’s distaste for fish, I think that I have not been as adventurous an eater as are my children and grandchildren. (Don’t tell that to Grandma!) As I have mentioned previously, my mom never served us exotic food. Thinking about the most courageous food that I ate growing up leaves me empty. We were a meat and potato/spaghetti and meatball family. I am happy that my children and grandchildren are far ahead of me in what they are willing to put into their mouths.

The latest proof of this was Bryce’s birthday trip to Myrtle Beach, where he sat down with his mom to split a plate of oysters with her. When ordering it off the menu, Kelly asked if he wanted them rare. “Yea,” he responded with a look, I imagine, that was something like, “do you think I would stoop so low as to have them cooked?”

He told me he loved them. Lily then turned to me and told me that she loves eating eel. “I tried it once and I didn’t like it, but my brudder (not a misspelling) made me try it again and guess what, Grandma? I loved it!”

I am just beginning to dip my toe into the sushi world. I stick only to maki rolls and even then, mostly cooked seafood or vegetables rolls. I have tried spicy tuna and salmon rolls a few times and admit they are not bad, but I am not brave enough to try nigari, which is the raw fish  sitting atop a piece of rice. The kids would just as soon skip the rice.

Perhaps if Grandpa had been more insistent on having us eat fish as kids, I would not have been such a culinary fraidy cat. I never saw him eat sushi, but I bet he would have if he had been given the opportunity. Maybe he did when he was in Japan on his return trip from Russia, but that is another thing about him that I will never know.

I Will Try to Stay Younger Than Spring

Sunday night was another example of showing me that old age does not necessarily mean the same for everyone. Not all seniors spend their final years in a nursing home or stuck in a wheelchair where they are dependent on someone else for their food, trips to the bathroom, and help getting bathed and dressed. Some, like our friend Gene, who at an age north of ninety can still drive a car, take themselves out to eat, travel, and perhaps engage in a sport such as golf, never seem as old as the calendar tell us.

Others can paint, learn the fine art of sculpting, and entertain thousands at a time, like Tony Bennett. This past week and weekend I got to know Mr. Bennett by reading his autobiography and then seeing him perform in Charlotte on Sunday night.

We had gone to his show with no expectations, because, well, he is ninety-three years old. I expected his voice to be weak or strained like other aging musicians I have seen, but I was wrong. While he performed for less than ninety minutes, it seemed like much longer because he sang nonstop.

He did not pause to tell an old tale or take a sip of water, but instead, went from song to song with barely a few seconds in between each tune. Nor did he sit, and it was apparent to all that he was thoroughly enjoying the evening as did the packed audience in Charlotte. He smiled a lot as he looked out and up at his adoring fans. He even performed a few dance moves.

His voice was a little raspier than the Tony Bennett on my playlist, but it was still strong. The words of one song in particular were a poignant reminder that the sands of the hourglass have many more grains in the bottom than the top.

Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunsets, stay a little longer with the lonely sea…

And let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing
And I will stay younger than spring.

After closing with his infamous “I Left my Heart in San Francisco,” he left the stage but returned many more times. While he did not sing an encore, he smiled and waved with appreciation. Yes, I am sure he was tired, but I truly believe he loves what he does and will continue to sing and paint and sculpt until the hourglass is empty.

 It was inspiring.

Tony Bennett- from Blumenthal Photo Gallery