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Resilience in the Face of Pandemic Challenges

How her adult son is coping

By Laura Neikrug
"Telling Our Stories" graphic image, Next Avenue

Editor’s note: This essay is part of Telling Our Stories: Reflections on the Pandemic. We invited readers to share their experiences of the past year, and selected 12 essays for publication on Next Avenue. Read the full collection.

My son refers to himself as someone with special challenges. He lives alone. I feel terrified that he cannot understand the reason for the safety measures and thereby does not abide by them.

Mother and son wearing aprons cooking together in kitchen, Next Avenue
Laura Neikrug and her son cooking together, pre-pandemic  |  Credit: Laura Neikrug

First attempts of having my son wear a mask were not successful. I explained to him why and when he should wear a mask. He looks outside his window which faces a busy street and observes that many people are not wearing masks.

He tells me, "Other people aren't doing it, so I don't need to."

He lives in a complex where guidelines are posted for wearing masks. My son says he is not sick, so there is no reason for him to wear a mask.

My son does not like disruption to his routine. He feels less anxious when there is predictability.

My son does not like disruption to his routine. He feels less anxious when there is predictability. Before the pandemic, my husband made video recordings of my son and I cooking together at our home to help him with his living skills every Monday, on family night.

When I call my son to tell him our family cannot get together during the pandemic the way we used to, his voice gets loud and aggressive, and he hangs up the phone.

My son learns to wear a mask for some instances through quid pro quo. His stepfather tells him during a maintenance visit, "If you do not wear a mask, the technician will not stay to fix your toilet."

To make up for family night, we decide to buy our son a fast-food meal of his choice and bring it to him on Monday nights. We tell him if he does not wear a mask to get his food from our car, we won't give him the dinner. My son learns he is not allowed to do his grocery shopping at Jewel if he does not wear a mask.

He decides to comply in all these situations. He wears his mask at the recreation center where he works while cleaning the gym. He is required to wear it to keep his job. (His job is currently suspended, but he understands he will be returning to work after the pandemic.)

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My son understands there is nothing he can do about returning to work and visiting his family. He understands he needs to be in his home as much as possible.

He does not understand why he has to do these things, since it is all an abstraction to him. His not understanding about the transmission of the virus keeps me in a heightened state of worry. Of great comfort to me is that my son is keeping himself as safe as possible, given all his challenges. He says he is doing well in "staying away from people."

He also looks physically better than he had prior to the pandemic. He has a clean appearance. "I'm holding up fine" is what he says when I ask him how he is coping during this difficult time. He is more resilient than I imagine.

Contributor Laura Neikrug
Laura Neikrug 

I had planned to retire from my position as an occupational therapist in the public schools in June of 2021, but because of the pandemic and feeling unsafe in the schools for in-person learning I retired in October 2020, earlier than expected. I spent 35 of my working years as an occupational therapist while at the same time trying to raise a child with challenges as a single parent. I am fortunate to have remarried a man who has shown great empathy for my son and helps him as if he was one of his own. I recently started an occupational therapy consultant business in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
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