A Coronavirus Chronicle for the Palis-Agers

Alice Gerard

We are living through the worst pandemic in a hundred years, and we live in the area that has the most cases in the United States. But so far none of us have gotten sick, and, as you can see in this newsletter, our members are navigating the situation with grace and courage.

There is even occasional humor, for example the story of my toilet paper purchase. At the beginning of April, fearing I would run out, I went on-line and ordered ten rolls of toilet paper from Amazon. But it didn’t come, and it didn’t come. When I tracked the package, I learned that my toilet paper had started in Saudi Arabia, then gone to Bahrein, then to Bulgaria, then to Germany, and then to Cincinnati. It finally arrived, perfectly normal toilet paper except for its incredible journey.

No one knows what the world will look like a year from now, and how our country will have changed. I hope that America will become a more equitable society, and that it will take steps to avert the climate disasters looming ahead, but I may be wrong.

In the meantime, I am more grateful than I can say to my family, especially my daughter Annie who has taken on the burden of shopping for me and warning me to be careful. And I feel very lucky to live in Palisades.

Gust Babalis

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well and safe.

In September 2015, I moved across the country to Santa Monica California to live with my daughter Mia and her husband Paul and our two dogs Django and Billie. For the past couple of months we have been under self quarantine like so much of the rest of the world.

My days all start the same way. At around 6am Billie and Django wake me up for treats that I keep in my bedside table. They are both very dear to me.

I have to leave the safety of quarantine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to go for dialysis. They are extremely careful at the clinic, checking everyone’s temperature before entering, masks are required, and there is plenty of hand sanitizer to go around.

On Thursdays I have a Greek lesson for an hour on FaceTime with a wonderful teacher, Athina. Greek was my first language growing up with my immigrant parents. I spoke Greek fluently enough to be selected to serve with the OSS, fighting in Nazi occupied Greece during WWII. This is the first time I have formally studied Greek! It’s fun and challenging and reconnects me to my roots long ago in Ambridge, PA.

I use a walker to get around these days but it doesn't stop me from taking my daily strolls. Mia walks with me to keep me safe from “mask-less” people. For the most part Santa Monicans have been good about social distancing. My favorite walk is in Palisades Park which stretches for miles along Ocean Avenue high above Santa Monica Bay. It recently re-opened after being closed for two months, just in time to see the rose garden in bloom. What are the odds that I would go from one Palisades on the East Coast to another on the West Coast?

The Jacaranda trees are blooming now, with beautiful lavender colored blossoms that cover the ground like a blanket of pale violet when they fall. There are blue Plumbago, purple and white Agapanthus, Hibiscus, Lavender, Rosemary, fragrant Jasmine, and bright orange Birds of Paradise, to name a few.

Another favorite pastime is sitting out on our sun drenched balcony in the afternoon watching the world go by. Colorful humming birds and finches visit to feed on our Salvia plants. I can see the ocean, mountains, or cityscape depending on which way I look. Sometimes I close my eyes and let my imagination take flight. I can travel great distances without ever leaving my chair. Marijuana is legal here in California and every now and then I take a hit or two off a joint. That really helps my imagination trips.

I still enjoy reading very much and have a stack of books on the desk in my room. Some of my favorites are: The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, The Man in the Shark Skin Suit by Lucette Lagnado, and The Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

The biggest restriction for me now is, of course, not having contact with any of the neighbors in our building. I especially miss my visits with my friend Anna, who is 101 years old. She is originally from Switzerland but has lived here for over 70 years.

Anna used to come up for dinner or to sit on the balcony and talk. Sometimes we’d meet in the spacious courtyard of our building to sit and chat and throw the ball to the dogs. At 101 Anna can still kick the ball across the courtyard. The dogs love her.

In February I turned 95 and my daughters, Lara and Alex, flew in from Idaho to celebrate with me. Lara made Greek Spaghetti, and Alex and Mia decorated. Many friends from the building joined us. Jordan and Kevin Kilner came all the way from Sparkill! It was the highlight of my year.

Recently I started using Marco Polo, an app on my i-pad, that lets me see and send video messages. It’s made me feel more connected to old friends in N.Y., and my daughters and grandchildren who all live in Idaho.

I’ve grown to really like it here in California. It is a very different world than the one I left behind on the East Coast. Of course I miss all my friends from Palisades and Rockland County, but we stay in touch as best as we can.

I lived through The Depression of the 30’s. I’ve seen first hand the devastation of war. This pandemic is as great an upheaval as I have ever witnessed. But, like those other events, I believe we will prevail. Whether we learn the lessons of this tragic and trying time is up to us.

Harriet Hyams

I never realized how many friends I have. Almost every day one of them calls or asks what they can do to fill my larder. I now have more of a variety for meals than ever before. I never enjoyed food shopping and realize how much time was spent driving for household products. Interacting with clerks, smiling at strangers and just walking around looking at stuff now would be a pleasant adventure. Besides microwaving the other day, I even cooked an entree for myself with a recipe off the computer. Flounder with fresh asparagus. Used an orange as the lemon had gone bad. I recommend it.

I don’t pick up my own mail as my extraordinary neighbors do it for me. It’s ongoing to be doing house chores like laundry, etc. and disinfecting. My hands which are used to wielding hammers, welding torches, glass cutters, brushes and tools of all sorts now are forever being soaped.

I’ve learned how to Zoom and although it brings me into contact with family and friends - I’d give a B minus for satisfaction. I’m tired of virtual hugging and yearn for a real one. I’m writing poems I don’t care to share, but always felt that way. My drawings, sculpture and stained glass are for everyone.

What’s depressing is not knowing when this pandemic is going to end. It feels like a marathon with no end in sight. On the other hand, I’m totally grateful to be living in this Paradise in my home overlooking the Hudson and the Palisade cliffs to the west. and being able to talk to a friend six feet apart at their place or mine. And as I complete this piece, I’ve discovered daffodils and honey left at my front door by a kind and caring neighbor. I’ll never catch up reciprocating.

Franny Breer

Time that I used to spend rushing around is now spent getting up from a chair, pulling on socks and shoes. Julie takes good care of me; makes lunches to find in the fridge. I spend time reading, jigsaw puzzles and listening to Governor Cuomo’s words of wisdom. I don’t clean. No one does since the ‘troubles.’

My daughter Sabelle brings the ‘grands’ up to my house along with two powerful labs. We sit outside and watch them play. My son-in-law Curt sends a homemade supper as a surprise. Considering, I am well taken care of, not antsy, looking at birds, flowers, squirrels, and rabbits on the property. My x-mas lights are still twinkling night and day.
How are all of you?

Judy Hata

I’m at my daughter’s in New Canaan Connecticut. I actually wanted to stay in Palisades, but my children worried about my being alone and insisted that I should come to Jackie’s.

All my scheduled classes and meetings are cancelled. Ikebana group’s board is discussing over the Zoom meetings what to do in the future.

I miss my home and garden. I hope all of the Palis-Agers are well.

Mei Hunkins

I am doing as well as that’s possible under the circumstances. Am grateful for the safety of my home and staying either inside its walls or venturing not far from it if outside. Am discovering how nice my town Tappan is, the quiet side streets with blooming gardens, and even though very few streets have sidewalks they are the most pleasant places to walk. No car traffic, bike riders or joggers to avoid! And what a great invention the internet is, enabling us to stay connected to family and friends.

The most difficult thing to adjust to is not having the freedom to do my own grocery shopping. How I long for the days when I could just hop in my car and get what I needed and whenever I wanted to…....How we took our life for granted, how entitled we felt. How I wish to get together with friends, a lovely lunch or dinner out. Our weekly chorus meets. It all seems so very long ago and almost unbelievable that there was such a life at one time. Looking out my kitchen window at my pleasant back yard with its many trees, looking so tranquil, squirrels scuttling about, a rabbit hopping around, a robin perched on a tree branch close to my window , the sun is shining like it always has, I cannot imagine that the world has changed so drastically. But feeling so immensely grateful for what I still have….....

May you all stay well.

Adriana Bartels

Indeed the reality of a long quarantine is depressing.

This spring is giving us a lot of beautiful days and nature is responding very nicely. My garden is giving me solace on long lonely days. The awakening of plants is like meeting returning friends and I am grateful that I can spend a few hours in the garden for exercise daily.

I wish all of you my very best and hope you remain healthy.

I send you a little poem someone from Holland sent me about two weeks ago. I found it inspiring. If you wish you may use it.

A Present: Thoughts during Covid-19 Isolation

Suddenly I am in tears
I feel endlessly alone
Fear has me in its grip

At other moments I feel positive
I see what the virus brings us
How we perhaps somehow needed this

The world turning faster and faster
The environment screaming for attention
People begging for some peace

Now it suddenly feels as if nature pulled
the emergency brake
Everything is at a standstill

Except for caregivers
pressure is enormous

People whom we for years took for granted, paid small wages, are now our heroes
We applaud them

Now we see what is truly important
Health, community, love and togetherness

The world will not be the same again
We learn how fragile we are
Nothing is sure in our lives

How ignorant we were
Our money, status and beauty
Counted for everything

Speeding, always driving our cars
Never considering our environment:
Now very few cars are still on the road

Exotic vacations were everyday pastimes
Everybody took part in it, far away and often
Now few people fly

Children went to day care and nannies
Our careers were so important
Mothers were ashamed to stay with them at home

Our seniors for whom we cared little
Are now protected, we offer them help
We shop for them , bring them contacts through Skype, FaceTime, Zoom when unable to see them

What will remain of our beauty?
We cannot visit beauty parlors, health clubs, nail salons
We do not care to stay young, but we want to get old!

Nature can finally breath again,
Nature that we so easily forgot and neglected
How small we are when nature speaks to us:
Tsunamis, hurricanes, forest fires, epidemics
We drop everything and all that remains is each other
Naked and vulnerable

I dry my tears and take a deep breath


Susy Felton

Hello, everyone! First of all, I am in very good health and keep myself at home past 4 weeks or so, although I walk around outside of house every morning.

On my birthday, April 16th, I officially became 89 years old. There’s no party this year but l received many cards and some beautiful flowers which of course made me very happy.(see the picture). One of my good Japanese friends is going to sell her house, sent to me about 50 or so old Japanese books.( some are fictions and some non fictions) I am enjoying them very much. I am able to read Japanese books much faster than English ones. At least I don’t need to consult a dictionary for Japanese books. I have about 15 more books left to read.

Some friends sent me planting flowers and many flower bulbs. So I made myself busy planting them. The bulbs will be in full bloom around July to August. I have 6 grand children [pictured with Susie above. The oldest who is 28 years old engineer married in Hawaii last summer. I have had a wonderful time. I am also busy making of an album for the occasion. Well, hopefully this pandemic problem will not stay around too long! Till then stay well!

Gerri Miras

Coronavirus musings:

  1. Having been in my own company so long, I can understand why people can take me in small doses only.

  2. We smile when we meet other people. Can they see the smiles under the masks?

  3. What do I do with all my lipsticks? We stay 6 feet away from other people. Why bathe every day?

Molly Samett

Dear good friends,

My message is that I am well and locked in at the Esplanade.

Luckily we have friends and food and can walk around -—but only inside the building in the corridor where our room is.

When do you think this lock-down will be over, dear experts?

I look at my old photo books! And I smile.

Would love to meet with you all again….really soon!

Sally Savage

7 a.m. emerging from twilight sleep
Ready for OWL day? YMCA day? CAN Friday? Farmers’ market?
Eyes fluttering open. None of the above.
Take coffee back to bed as usual; take meds.
Check local channel before Morning Joe. Our cases have grown from 31 to 45 in three days.
Back to the new world’s reality.
No-one will be visiting but I still make my bed, clean whatever one cleans and call a few friends who live alone.
I have bought paper cups and am itching to invite people to my deck (especially the OWLets) where we could respect the Six Feet of Separation rule. But perhaps we are peaking; I decide to be patient.
MY ‘LIGHT BULB MOMENT’ I seldom get through the Sunday New York Times over the weekend. But I always turn every page of the sections I like before they hit the recycle bin.
I was catching up; idly turning the pages of the most recent Arts and Leisure section, when suddenly it all became real, and an enormous sadness suffused me.
All those actors in all those plays, the movies, the concerts, dancers. All the hopeful artists planning reception in galleries. our wonderful museums. I said out loud : “My God; none of this is happening. Cannot happen now.”

(not to lecture, or be original at all):

We can be outside and all the parks have now free entry. We have much (so far) that millions do not. Telephone, computer, radio and television service. We have water, electricity, heat. light, and Elliot Forrest on WQXR. Unlike millions we have shelter, homes, shoes, food, indoor plumbing and are not stuck in a battle zone,or in a cage at an unwelcoming border facing an ever more uncertain future. We have our imaginations; creativity.

To me, music and humor are the essentials. Dance and sing to your favorites. Miss you all terribly and wish you and yours safe.

Sheila Asch

Hello there everyone.
Yes I am AT home & its ok because I live in a Townhouse Condo & have friendly neighbors 30 in all & so far we are all well.
My daughters shop for me because I am elderly & have a compromised immune system (10 days in Englewood Hospital during February).
I have a small garden which keeps me busy & if I need anything extra there is a garden center just around the corner.
I love classical music which gives me meditation moments.
I do drive Hither & Thither, the trees & flowers are beautiful this year & spring has lasted a long time.
I do hope this Corona Virus ends soon but in the meantime I live in The Day & definitely One day at a time keeps me grounded.
All the best to everyone.