CORAL SPRINGS, FL - Even though my mom Katherine lives 5.2 miles away in a retirement community, during COVID-19, that distance might as well have been on the other side of the world.

You read and hear about all the terrible things that families have gone through. I have several former soccer players that I have coached throughout the years who are first responders, nurses, doctors and some others who are police and fire rescue personnel. I have heard virtual horror stories of them holding a loved one’s hand during their final painful moments while Facetiming their families for their final goodbyes.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit back in March, I was also one of those affected. There was a 10-week period where my mom was literally boarded up in her independent living apartment in the facility, unable to sit and have dinner in a dining room and limited to back-and-forth trips to only pick up her mail downstairs. The dining room was shuttered, and food was delivered thrice daily to the residents.

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When you are 87-years-old, there are other important things.

“The biggest pain was not being able to get my hair and nails done,” she said. “I couldn’t go shopping. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t go out to eat dinner. I felt like a prisoner.”

When the restrictions finally lifted? “It was great,” she beamed.

“I wasn’t really worried,” she said, even after an early notice went out to the families that a resident had reportedly passed away at the facility, effectively grounding everything to a halt there.

It turned out the Broward County Medical Examiner had incorrectly reported a resident of another property owned and operated by the same group in Pembroke Pines had passed due to complications from the COVID-19 disease.

I have to credit the operators of the facility as they send out constant updates keeping us informed. They had immediately instituted social distancing and thermometer checks.

I was added to the list of essential personnel to help my mom in an emergency – she is unable to do a simple task like changing her clocks during daylight savings time, and I am her personal assistant and Uber driver to those hair and nail appointments as well as doctor appointments.

Those Thursday “dates” have returned where I am running her around town again. 

“This has been terrible,” she said. “I still don’t go to dinner in the dining room because I don’t know (all) those people. I wish it would be over with. I wish it would get back to what it was.”

Our daily phone call lasting 15 minutes a day or more didn’t seem like it was enough. I could tell throughout the summer months, and, even now, there is angst in her voice.

Even to this day, we still talk on the phone, sometimes once or twice daily. There isn’t much new to talk about, she is doing her word search puzzles at the kitchen table in her apartment, and I am writing stories at home.

This week, we spent Thanksgiving dinner together, although not at her favorite spot – Runyons in Coral Springs. She was afraid to eat in, and they had sold out of their holiday Thanksgiving dinners, so there was no takeout. We had the dinner prepared by the facility. 

Still, even in these times, there is plenty to be thankful for.

Gary Curreri is a Coral Springs-based sports writer and coach.