77-year-old couple have their chins up despite isolation due to COVID-19 and comorbidities

*EDITOR’S NOTE* Names in this article have been changed and last names have been omitted by request of the subjects for the case of anonymity.  

Fortunate — that’s what James and Mary of Southern, Ont., constantly remind themselves of everyday — that they are fortunate while they’ve mostly cooped up inside during COVID-19.

They met in the 1960’s at a Halloween party and then got married in Scotland in 1970 — they recently just celebrated their 50th Anniversary. 

“I think it was supposed to be a Halloween party, but I don’t remember dressing up for anything, you know wearing a mask or anything — I was introduced to four Scottish young ladies and Mary was the cutest and I asked her to dance and that’s it — within a year we were married.

“We realize how fortunate we are in our situation. It’s not something we should probably take for granted. But we do recognize that we are quite lucky,” James said. 

See, as they’re 77 years wise, they are high risk for the virus — especially James, who fortunately finished radiation treatments for this Cancer prior to the drastic changes our country has gone through in the last many months. (He finished treatments in late January of 2020).

James went through radiation treatments for his prostate cancer. He was put in the 40 treatment category and began treatment near the end of November, 2019. 

Eight weeks later and he was cancer-free.

They mentioned how lucky they were that James finished treatments when he did since they said the shuttle service to the hospital has been cancelled as far as they know. 

“I imagine they would’ve stopped that service … for a minimal fee, it’s $100 for a year. You can have someone drive you to your appointments in Hamilton — which was really a wonderful service.”

He had to go for a backup appointment about a month ago, he inquired about the service and was informed that it had been stopped.

As they have been cooped up inside all this time, his wife, Mary, has had to do much of the shopping alone — since she isn’t at as much of a risk.

“I think I remember feeling shocked the first time when I saw empty shelves — that was like — whoa, whoa, let me re-adjust here, plan what we’re going to have or what we can get,” she recalled. 

Without her husband, she still managed to carry her groceries, but it was still a struggle — especially the first time.

“I’m not very tall. So when I would be packing my groceries from the counter into a bag, I found that somehow awkward and a bit difficult. And so I’d be very exhausted. Actually, I suppose just the whole aspect of COVID and no protection no — none of the plexiglass that’s up now,” said Mary.

Apart from packing the bags, it was the weight that really got her. 

“That was one of the hardest things, was the weight of the bags … loading the bags myself,” she explained.

“Your husband’s not with you,” James chimed in.

“That too, yes of course, because you always do that — but the assistance up till the register. They (the grocery store workers) weren’t allowed to load the bags. So it was a little awkward for me, but beyond that, things were fine,” Mary recalled.

From roughly March 20, 2020 to roughly just over a month ago, James hadn’t really left his home.

“We basically stayed in until very recently, we finally went to a restaurant outdoors … That was a breakthrough,” he said. 

The Crepe House, Port Dover, Ont.

They dined outdoors at the Crepe House on Park Street in Port Dover, Ont.

“It reminds me of Van Gogh’s painting of a cafe, who can get the bright colours and everything. So it’s really very pretty and we, you know it’s sort of — it’s a treat,” he said.

Left, Le Café Van Gogh, a French restaurant in Arles, France | Right, Café Terrace at Night | Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

When it came to shopping, he had only been in a grocery store once this year alone.

“Mary wouldn’t let me go shopping, so I think I’ve been at a grocery store once in the last — well I mean well in 2020 — that’s probably pretty true,” he recalled.

But, once again, James doesn’t like to complain because he thinks about what it would be like for those less fortunate who were stuck at home during the lockdown.

“I think of it, you know, as someone

less fortunate living in an apartment — I play around with woodworking — time flies — I try to play guitar, never get any better,” said James as Mary laughs in the background. 

“I think of this COVID thing — say if someone didn’t have that opportunity and maybe their only hobby was going to the local pub and having a beer or two every now and then he’ll take that would be really — that’d be extra depressing. I can go down to the basement, I’ve got a little bit of a workshop, I could do that, I could tinker around with the car, you know that kind of stuff … If I didn’t have that — that would be really stressful,” James said.

While James has his guitar and workshop, Mary likes to spend her time Tatting, an old craft for making lace and beading (making Jewelry).

For them, they’re on the upside of things. They aren’t taking the isolation hard mentally or anything — but they do want others to take care of themselves as well as they can. That’s why Mary says she likes to plan. 

“You have to plan kind of a schedule for yourself so that you keep yourself active and busy throughout the day.”

“We realize how fortunate we are in our situation. It’s not something we should probably take for granted. But we do recognize that we are quite lucky.”