My friend Dingwall has moved into an assisted living residence. When he told me, I said I didn’t think he was ready for assisted living.
“I’m not,” he replied. “I chose it to escape assisted dying.”
He explained that besides meals, light housekeeping, recreation, entertainment and transportation, the residence he chose provides spiritual enhancement.
“If I should descend into senility,” he said, “I’m confident my caregivers won’t let some euthanizing doctor help me commit suicide.”
He went on to say that his timing couldn’t have been better. To escape the assisted suicide epidemic, he made his move a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic
“When COVID-19 struck,” he said, “the residence went into lockdown and my caregivers not only assist me in living but, as I’m at a vulnerable age, help keep me from prematurely dying.”
“You like being quarantined?”
“Of course not,” he said. “I’m a layman, not a cloistered monk. When they closed the common dining room and fed us in our apartments, I felt like a cloistered monkey.”
“Your apartment seemed like a cage?”
“Either that or a cell,” he said. “When we went into lockdown, it was like being in prison. After they decided to leave the food outside our doors, it was like being in solitary confinement.”
“You make the caregivers seem like animal keepers.”
“Exactly,” he said. “I’m a rational animal and they keep me safe.”
“But you’re free to leave your apartment.”
“Not only the apartment,” he said, “the entire building, although they strongly advise us to practice social distancing of at least six feet.”
As he rarely carries a tape measure, Dingwall told me that he does a lot of guessing while socializing both inside and outside.
“Others do the same,” he said, “and we continually shift forwards, backwards and sideways in a kind of COVID-19 shuffle or a disconnected coronavirus conga.
“That must be disconcerting,” I said.
“Not nearly as disconcerting as entering a room full of caregivers wearing medical face masks,” he said. “I feel like shouting ‘Unclean, Unclean’ as lepers did in Biblical times.”
He told me that when he was due for a medical checkup, his doctor didn’t see him personally but surprised him with an itinerant laboratory assistant who took a blood sample.
“She looked like an alien from another planet,” he said, “fully clothed in some kind of protective gear with, of course, the inevitable mask,
“What did you say when she arrived unannounced?”
“I don’t know your name, but your face is familiar.”
He went on to say that it didn’t bother him when they insisted he avoid mass gatherings. It bothered him immensely, however, when they told him to avoid gathering at Mass.
“Missing Mass on Easter,” he said, “was like denying the Resurrection and made me feel like fomenting an insurrection.”
I asked if he had any underlying deficiencies that could make the virus more serious if he caught it.
“Two,” he said. “I’m neither a robot nor an angel. Viruses don’t infect the metallic and the immaterial. They’re immune. Viruses are only interested in flesh and blood mortals like me.”
“I see your point,” I said. “You’re robotically and spiritually challenged.”
I wondered aloud whether Satan had anything to do with spreading COVID-19. They say it originated in bats, which often conveyed a satanic message in the horror movies of the early twentieth century.
“The virus could indeed be satanic, “Dingwall said, “if the economic shutdown aimed at combatting it, takes and otherwise damages more lives than the pandemic does.”
“You think that might happen?”
“By far the most vulnerable are the elderly and the unwell,” he said. “Why not quarantine them and let the rest keep the economy healthy? Does it make sense to lock down virtually an entire society when the vast majority will escape or survive the pandemic no matter what we do or fail to do? Is it wise to sicken the economy, on which we all depend for our lives, health and wellbeing?
“Or consider this. Would it be prudent to quarantine virtually all cars and trucks because each year they kill thousands and injure many thousands more, often with life altering disabilities?”
“Those are good questions, Dingwall,” I said. “Do you have any good answers beyond justifiable complaints?”
“In my present location,” he said, “I may be a hermit. I hope my complaints don’t suggest I’m a hermit crab.”