ATWELL: Ailing, Married, But Separated By COVID


Ailing, Married, But

Separated By COVID

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

All right, friends, I’m back on the metaphorical horse, feet in the stirrups, reins in hand, hands on the saddle pommel. Which is to say, I ready to write to you again. And so, I’ll clop on.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

Ours has been an interrupted correspondence lately. I never finished recounting my adventure at 15, when I traveled in luxury by overnight steam packet from Baltimore, Md., down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Va.

That account was interrupted abruptly (and painfully) by my plummeting head-first down the four steps from our home’s back deck to the asphalt driveway. Instinctively, I led with my right hand and so mangled my right wrist – compound fracture, protruding bone, etc.

Luckily l missed all that because the next thing to contact the asphalt after my hand was my forehead.

I was knocked cold.

Fast forward through blessed assistance by kind friends and neighbors, a rush trip by first responders to the hospital, two surgeries installing plates and screws that will henceforth devil any metal detectors I step near.

But, more to the point, that wrecked wrist also had another effect. It put me right out
of column writing for the duration.

Over the next weeks, I had lots of time to weigh accommodations to the problem. But something far more urgent quickly took over my every thought.

Under the same roof, Anne Geddes-Atwell and husband Jim were separated by coronavirus.

My dear Anne, who’d been fighting metastatic breast cancer for several years, was suddenly losing ground. That devilish disease, having wrecked several secondary systems, now found its way to her brain.

And when I was hauled to the hospital after my fall, my Anne was already there, losing ground precipitously. By the time my surgeries were complete, it was plain that all that could be offered to Anne was palliative care.

And so, on the same day and in the same vehicle, she and I were moved to Cooperstown Convalescent Center – I for rehabilitation of my hand, she to be given every comfort possible for as long as she lived.

And it was then that the pandemic came home to our marriage. The Center was under strict quarantine, and newcomers had to be in separate quarters from all others, and from one another, for the first two weeks after arrival.

This policy may sound draconian, but it has spared the Convalescent Center from having cases of coronavirus entering the Center to spread among residents.

Think of the county-wide horror stories of convalescent centers devastated by the virus.
At our Center, there have been no cases. None.

For Anne and me, though, the policy meant that my dying wife and I, though in rooms only 70 feet apart, could not see, much less kiss or even touch one another. Marital relations for us were phone calls several times a day, the best we could do.

But no one could have shown us more empathy than the staff who tended us. A nurse, standing behind my chair would squeeze both my shoulders.

“Your dear Annie asked me to bring this hug to you.” Her love, delivered second-hand. Bless such caregivers!

There’s more to tell. I’ll wait till next time.

One thought on “ATWELL: Ailing, Married, But Separated By COVID

  1. Glen and Resa Kuhne

    Hi Jim and Anne,
    Greetings from Glen and Resa Kuhne in Florida. We’re thinking of you and virtually sending our regards and prayers to you both. Jim you have a fantastic way of bringing to life the full breadth of emotions and feelings from just black and white. Always appreciate your family’s friendship with our family.
    Glen & Resa

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