We’re all having trouble coping with the health and economic ramifications of the coronavirus, but some are having more difficulty than others.

Of course, there are the folks getting sick and dying. At last count in Maine there were about 75 people who have succumbed and about 1,900 who have contracted the disease.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

Then there are the tough folks on the front lines: the health care workers and first responders. Behind them are the supply lines made up of grocery store clerks, delivery drivers and any other “essential workers.”

The third line, admittedly well back from any immediate danger, are the people staying at home trying to isolate themselves. Among this group are people of all socioeconomic striations, educational backgrounds and health histories. Some are coping well, others aren’t.

The people I worry most about as they quarantine at home are the elderly. If they’re married and have some social support, that’s one thing. But many live alone and must be getting lonelier each passing day.

Whenever I’ve written a political column for this newspaper during the past few years or wrote editorials or news articles during my 15-year newspaper career, the people I had in mind as my audience were the elderly – specifically elderly women. (Someone early on in my career told me to write with an elderly woman in mind. And it obviously stuck.)

Likewise, during this pandemic, whenever I imagine the population most in need of our collective thoughts and prayers – and more tangible aid – it’s the elderly, especially those who live alone.

Fortunately, conjuring an image of such a person isn’t difficult because such a person exists for me in my small world: my 80-something mom.

My mother, Nancy, who taught junior high school English for 39 years, is doing amazingly well through this pandemic, although she has her days.

She gets to the grocery store every now and then, but for the most part she’s home alone. She’s making the best of it by pursing her hobbies as well as making and receiving plenty of phone calls, video conference calls, emails, cards and letters. Her social life, while in isolation, is amazingly active.

Most impressively during the pandemic difficulty, my mother, the old English teacher that she is, put out a writing challenge to her family members. The challenge, with a $25 reward to sweeten the pot, was to create an acrostic poem using the eight letters of “pandemic” as the beginning letter of each line.

There were two categories: her children and their spouses, and her grandchildren and their spouses. She competed as well. We sent her our poems and she then sent them off to a friend of hers, who served as judge.

Of course, my mother, who has a way with the written word, won the contest. (My eldest nephew, Nathaniel, won the grandchildren’s contest.)

Her winning entry follows:

“Probing the resources of all nations,
And scaring me with grotesque scenes, the virus
Nets my full attention, dislodges comforts.
Distressed by confinement, postponements and news, I
Emerge masked to replenish staples and snacks to
Maintain stashes of Raisin Bran and Hershey Kisses.
Inspired by the constancy of the stockers and cashiers, I
Carry on determined to keep calm.”

Way to go, Ma. You’ve once again turned life’s lemons into lemonade by giving your family something to ponder during these bleak times and then showing us all up as you claim (keep?) the $25 winner’s purse. Don’t spend it all in one place (since nothing’s open anyway).

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