So, COVID-19.

It’s enough to drive us out of our heads. I fully appreciate the need for hand sanitizer and soap and wipes and alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and pasta and rice and canned tuna and toilet tissue and and and…

We need to stock up, the experts have said, and I’ve taken them as seriously as everyone else who is freaked out by the virus, but….

Lately, against my own self-interest, I’ve ventured out of my head in a way that’s brought the number of seniors in my life into sharp focus, and I started wondering if they had enough hand sanitizer and soap and cleaning supplies and non-perishable foods and personal hygiene products to last for a couple of weeks, since I know, as I know for myself, spending time in a crowded grocery store, on line next to someone who is coughing or sneezing, would put them at risk. So, I started checking in with them.

I don’t generally like to give advice. My mother, may she rest in peace, used to say, Advice you give for nothing is worth exactly that. Judging by how many people have taken my gratis advice over the years, she had a point. But, because she also taught me the value of sharing, and being of service, I would like to offer the following…

If you have people in your lives—parents, relatives, neighbors, or friends—who are at high risk for serious infection, take a minute or two to see if they need anything. And if they do, and it’s within your power to help them get it, please do.

Thank you.

Stay well.

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“Old and Young Woman” Ernst Ludwig Kirchner—1921

She looks upset, doesn’t she, the old woman. While the expression on the young woman’s face suggests…concern? Surprise? Maybe both. Maybe more.

Clearly, something is amiss.

Perhaps the old woman is in pain. There are scissors on the table. Did her hands stiffen and fail when she attempted to use them? Is that why her fingers are curled? Or, was she suddenly stricken in a way that alarmed her young companion? Perhaps she lashed out at an unintended slight, a reaction that caught the young woman off-guard.

It’s impossible to tell, as suggestive as the art is. The dynamics between people, especially old and young, can be complex and prone to misunderstandings. An old woman’s advice can feel irrelevant and judgmental to a younger one, while a young woman’s assistance can feel condescending and demeaning to an older one.

I’ve been young and certain, and now I’m older and acutely aware of youthful certainty’s unfortunate side: assumption—that older people are unable to learn and adapt, that they are all hearing impaired, and must be treated like children, and addressed as “Honey,” or “Dear,” and have their seat belts fastened for them. And I can’t help but wring my hands, and sometimes lash out…to their surprise.

Old and young woman. I know them both. They stare back at me from every mirror.

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