A Community Member’s Reflections on COVID-19

By Linda Cory Bazowsky

Winter/Spring 2020

It’s Here!

We all knew COVID-19 was coming! The big question was “When?” Trailing close behind and of equal importance were the “Why,” the “Where,” and lastly, the “How.”

Let’s start with the “When?”

History has shown us that pandemics have occurred for as long as mankind has been in existence. We only need to look at text from old books, census records, cemetery transcriptions, etc. The pandemics caused disabilities & fatalities in all demographics. A couple of examples are the Black Death and the Spanish Flu. It seems every generation has had to deal with disease of great proportion and consequence.

The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg confirmed that a man in quarantine at Sunnybrook Hospital (Toronto) was the first documented case of the new coronavirus (January 27, 2020) in Canada. The following day, health officials confirmed the second case. The woman had travelled to Wuhan with her husband, who was the first case noted above.

The first death related to COVID-19 in Oshawa was reported in the news on March 24th. This brought home the message clearly: It was now in our community!

Why COVID -19? The answer to that question is still up in the air. Speculation is that it began in Wuhan, China where the first person we know of died of the disease. Researchers have delved into the genetic make-up and a theory is that it originally came from an animal, possibly a bat.

Where? It is everywhere, whether it be a developed or an undeveloped country. It seems to be prevalent in people who live or work in close quarters (nursing/retirement homes) and in those who have compromised immune systems but that is not always the case! It has also shown up in people (young & old) who are otherwise healthy. It knows no boundaries!

How? It appears that transmission has been mainly through our global networking – specifically travel, business and social interactions.

The pandemic is a reality check. It’s a precise indicator of our vulnerabilities and a reminder of who and what is important in our lives.

The question is, “What have we learned from it?” More importantly, “Have we learned from it?”

Due to the severity, strength and speed of the virus, our life has changed drastically. Restrictions of who we see, where we go, how we shop are just a few of our day to day challenges.

So how are we coping or perhaps I should say, adjusting to this new lifestyle?

Patience, understanding, self-discipline and creative pursuits are the strategies that I’ve used to adjust to the “new normal.” A fear of the unknown and the frustration of not knowing when the disease will be eradicated is a genuine concern.

Many people are spending quality time at home with their loved ones, and yet there are others who are denied the privilege due to the restrictions that had to be put in place. As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

We are going back to basics and finding out more about ourselves and others – more caring & more sharing. In the face of adversity, and in most cases, we have become one – one family, one community, one country, and one world. The virus has made us take notice of those who walk beside us, at a distance of course. It’s made us more open and friendly with others. We’ve tapped into our resources: creativity is in its full bloom. Just look at YouTube and you will find many song parodies, art projects, instructions for making masks and sanitizer, recipes, research – an endless list, really!

If anything, the “lockdown” has taught me to be mindful on a physical, emotional & spiritual level. I try to spend at least an hour a day doing physical exercise (walking) and am spending less time in front of a computer. That’s a good thing!

Most of my walks have been along the lakefront or in wooded areas. It feels good to take deep breaths of the fresh air. Unfortunately, the beach area was off limits shortly after the virus had reached our shore, so to speak. A few days prior to that I had started to collect “beach glass” with the intention of making a piece of art. (I learned of this craft from a friend in Nova Scotia who has made beautiful jewellery and pictures from “sea glass” that she collects along the seashore). Although my new interest was curtailed, I was happy that we were still allowed to walk through the park as long as social distancing was adhered to. My walks continued regularly for at least a month but the ‘old’ shoes were showing their “wear and tear.”

So were my feet! After a month of daily walks I had to put my routine on hold because I developed a painful blister. I did a small indoor workout in bare-feet, but it just wasn’t the same.

I resorted to giving some photos a touch of humour as seen in the next picture. It was a means of escape from the troubling news of the day.

Anyone I encountered along the lakefront trail or through the park stayed within the social distancing guideline. It pleased me because I was afraid that if the rules were broken then the privilege would be taken away. A few people had been on the beach, but I don’t think it was intentional. They just didn’t see the sign! In the beginning, I didn’t see it either but thankfully a kind man informed me of the sign as well as the presence of bylaw officers. If my memory is correct, the beach sign was installed sometime in mid-March.

The only downside of long walks at the lake is the lack of bathroom facilities.

I took the following photo a couple of weeks prior to the restrictions. Trust me, it wasn’t easy! My intention is to return and take more photos but it’s proving to be a rather long wait. That’s where patience comes into play!

Lakeview Park has been an important part of my family history; in fact my family’s fascination for it began long before it became a park. Since then, many happy events have been celebrated at the park. This year marks the 100th birthday of Lakeview Park. In recognition of this historical milestone I want to express my gratitude for the kindness of Col. R.S. McLaughlin and George McLaughlin. The brothers bought the land in 1920 in the name of General Motors of Canada Limited. It was then deeded to the Town of Oshawa for just one dollar with only one restriction, which was that the land be used as a public park for the citizens of Oshawa under the control of the Council and Parks Commission. They also provided the necessary funds to cover the initial improvements and a suitable park playground.

I made it a point to always visit the three museum buildings at the lake. I couldn’t resist taking photos of the daffodils at Robinson House. They were beautiful this year; in fact they were so beautiful that I decided to use one of the photos in an Easter greeting.

Midges & Magnolia Bud
Henry House – one of the three historical “Oshawa Museum” buildings.

I also walked through various neighbourhoods within the city. I don’t recall seeing as many pristine lawns as I have this spring. I suppose it’s partially due to the stay at home/workplace rules. Many families had leisure time and several hands to work on their gardens and yard. We rejoiced at the arrival of the first warm, sunny day. It gave us an opportunity to socialize outdoors with family, friends and neighbours at a safe distance.

I heard many power tools in operation, so new spring projects (planned or unplanned) have come to the forefront.

Other Signs of the Times

The Canadian Snowbirds Flying Over Oshawa “Operation Inspiration”
“The Empty Bench” – Usually the benches are occupied but not so much this spring.

Another past time is baking. I’ve been making banana and molasses ginger muffins forever, but I thought I’d try something different. My social media friends/groups have posted many recipes during the pandemic. Three of my favourites thus far are Amish molasses cookies, an apple fritter loaf and Hawaiian Banana Bread. I’ve even resurrected old recipes like marmalade coconut cookies.

My great grandparents would be proud of me as I was also doing my laundry by hand (minus a washboard that is) for several weeks. Some people might think that this is an extreme measure but really, it wasn’t too difficult as I wore the same thing (mostly of light material) over and over again. Nothing piles up but I sure missed wearing my jeans! My husband continued to do his laundry and the household linens in the communal facility.

I’ve done my own hair (dying & cutting) for many years as well as my nails so I haven’t missed those luxuries at all.

Moving right along to the present…

The beautiful month of May arrived and as restrictions are slowly and carefully been lifted, I’ve become a little less concerned and decided to go back to doing my washing in the communal laundry. Of course I use wipes upon wipes upon wipes on everything from the coin slot to the bottom of my laundry basket, all the while wearing my ever ready face mask.

My blisters have finally healed and I’m back to my daily walks. It’s surprising how resourceful one can be out of necessity. I have several gel inserts and have cut and glued sections in the worn out heels of my old runners. I’m also walking less heavy footed which has eased some of the pressure. So far so good!

I see spring slowly emerging from the shadows of winter. It’s great to see families out walking or biking the trails and paths. I take notice of all the signs of the season: the lovely gardens, children playing, painted rocks, chalk drawings on sidewalks, squirrels chasing each other, the birds chirping & rabbits hopping along their merry way. It’s nice to see dandelions in the parks, a sign that less chemicals are used in public spaces. Beautiful wildflowers and tulips are springing up everywhere. A healthy environment and lifestyle has become more important than it has been in a long time.

May also brought Mother’s Day – a time to celebrate & remember. It was nice to meet-up with our family after such a long absence. The day was bitterly cold and windy so I suggested we go for a walk on a safe wooded trail. We kept our six foot distance and the woods provided some shelter from the cold; in fact, the sun came out for short while. Due to the weather we encountered very few people.

Here are a few photos of the wildlife that I’ve seen on my walks:

The COVID-19 crisis has shown me the resilience of mankind. I admire the frontline workers and everyone else who has shown care and compassion for others. My respect and admiration of the parents, the caregivers and the children has only risen higher.

I thank everyone who has played a part in keeping us healthy and safe: healthcare workers, first responders, grocers, farmers, truckers, etc.

May 16th

I’ve decided to close now as I want to focus on Mother Nature. (That’s where the spiritual comes into play). It’s my favourite escape from reality albeit a temporary one. To be perfectly honest, I’m just tired of seeing and hearing about COVID-19. I was quite hesitant to write about it, but for history’s sake, I knew I had to!

Thank you to the Oshawa Museum for suggesting and encouraging Oshawa citizens to share their personal experience during these trying times. Be well and stay safe!

May 17th 2020

The news of one of the Snowbirds crashing in Kamloops was felt with much sadness. Capt. Jennifer Casey (Public Affairs Officer) died a hero – she was on the “Operation Inspiration” flight – a cross country tour to raise people’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot, Captain Richard McDougall is in the hospital in serious condition. My thoughts and prayers to Jenn’s family and to Capt. Richard MacDougall (Pilot) in his recovery from this tragic accident.

Please note that this write-up reflects my personal thoughts and experience of living through these challenging times. My intention is to keep a historical record for personal and local interest.

Sonya Jones: COVID-19 Photo Journal

Thank you to our friend and community partner Sonya Jones, Curator of Collections at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, for her recent contribution to our COVID-19 project. She created a photo journal detailing how she has personally and professionally experienced the pandemic. Thank you Sonya for sharing your stories.

Historical Comparisons

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

Last night was a hard one in our home. Our eldest had been struggling with missing her friends, tired of only seeing them through a screen, and she finally broke down in tears as she struggled with the emotional toil of the stay at home guidelines. Through her tears, she was also able to express her anger at the situation.  She was angry at her friends who haven’t been practicing social distancing, sharing photos of having fun with friends.  She was angry at their parents for letting them get together and angry at us for not allowing her to get together with her friends in person. She was angry, sad, and just over the whole pandemic and more than ready to defy the government and their stay at home order.

I have seen all sorts of memes floating around social media with the messaging that “in order to help our government, our grandparents were asked to go to war – we have been asked to sit on our couches at home.” I understand the point that this messaging is trying to make, but I just don’t think it is an accurate comparison. A more accurate comparison would be examining society’s response to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, but even then, it isn’t all that accurate given how different our society is today.

I follow several different historians on Twitter because, well, I am a history nerd and I find their insights rather interesting.  Recently one of those historians tweeted a rather interesting hypothesis, one I think has relevance to what is happening currently.  He stated that historians tend to examine the decadence, criminal activity, and subversive undertones of the 1920s through the lens of a response to World War I.  As he watched in real time people protesting stay at home orders, defying government guidelines and gathering in large groups, he began to look at the 1920s as, perhaps, a response to the flu pandemic and the societal impacts of stay at home orders during that time.

History is not a passive reciting of facts.  It is an interpretation of events through a lens. What that lens is changes.  I find it fascinating that current events may well shift the lens through which we examine that pivotal time between World War I and II.  Our understanding of what it is like to live through a pandemic may help us to better understand what life was like for those who lived through the 1918 pandemic.  Perhaps as we see people rail against governmental guidelines now, it will help us to understand the roaring ‘20s.

We are right in the middle of this historic event, so there is no way to know through which lens we will examine this time period.  The idea of the subversive undertones of the 1920s being directly related to the 1918 pandemic seems to be supported by the reactions of many to the current stay at home guidelines. My kiddo is more than ready to defy prohibition and visit her friends in person.