Susan D in Ottawa, Canada: March Anniversaries

March 3

One year ago we returned to Canada from France, a long awaited sojourn in our former apartment in Paris prudently cut short.  A friend we speak with from time to time on Skype always reiterates how wise we were to leave when we did.  At the time she thought our departure was precipitous.  Her comments underline how little we knew then what was in store for us as the virus swept through the world in the following months.

Now we are blanketed in snow that has been falling regularly, and I am drawn to T. S. Eliot and The Wasteland once again,

Winter kept us warm,

Covering earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers …

A beautiful blanket of snow covers everything, softening edges and muffling sounds.  But we are not forgetful.  Perhaps “a little life with dried tubers” could stand for our constricted life in this our current winter.  The image of dried tubers somehow describes life under year two of COVID-19.

March 9

One year ago Canada reported its first death from COVID-19.  The death of an elderly Vancouver resident of a senior care institution marked the beginning of an increasing death toll across the country as the virus spread its reach to all provinces.

March 10

One year ago I was sick in bed and sad to have left Paris.  This year my birthday was surprisingly a happy one.  The weather suddenly changed to sun and a bearable temperature for coffee-in-coats on the front porch. My sister ignored my dictate to ignore my upcoming birthday and mailed one of her charming theme gifts.  My granddaughters called, which is always very cheering.   Friends and family called and wrote, reminding me that they are still there, if not yet available in person.  My dearie cooked me two favourite dinners, one on Birthday Eve and one on my Birth-Day, and gave me chocolates and a new down jacket to ward off the winter cold.  My daughter called and sent flowers and humour, see note on bouquet.

March 11

One year ago, the World Health Organisation characterised COVID-19 as a global pandemic, alerting the world to its spread and the importance of taking action.

Marking this anniversary, Canadian political leaders remembered those who died and praised and thanked the health care workers and all those that have kept the country functioning.  More than 22,000 people have died of the disease, with roughly two-thirds of the fatalities occurring in long-term care facilities.  The Prime Minister marked the anniversary in House of Commons: “It has been a tough year, a heartbreaking year. But it has been a year we have faced together.”

March 12

One year ago Quebec declared a state of emergency.   By March 22 all provinces and territories had followed suit, with gradually increasing restrictions. Now we go back and forth between the colourful stages of constraint – yellow, orange, red – as new case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths rise and fall.  We still focus on those numbers.  We also note each new vaccine that is approved by Health Canada, the rate of expected doses to arrive in the country and the number of vaccinations that have been given and to whom.  The real focus is – when will my turn come?

March 14

The percentage of the Canadian population vaccinated is 1.6.

March 15

Ontario has just opened its vaccination effort to those over 80 (recent birthday not helpful). There were problems with the booking system.

March 21

Almost one year ago and for the first time since Canadian Confederation in 1867, the Canada-U.S. border was closed to non-essential travel.  At 8,891 kilometres, it is the longest undefended border in the world.  The partial closure has resulted in an 80% drop in traffic, and although there has been some pressure from several quarters in the U.S. the Prime Minister’s response was “Eventually, but not for today”.

A word of advice

The Prime Minister’s comment might be the best advice for all hopes for shots, for family stays, for friends at the dinner table, for travel – eventually, but not today.

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