By Sally Barnes
My dear Prime Minister:
This unworthy servant has a suggestion for how you can quickly and easily bolster your public opinion ratings and strengthen Canadians’ resolve to battle the pandemic:
SHAVE OFF THAT BEARD AND GET A HAIR CUT! And while you’re at it, ditch that funeral director’s woeful coat and show us your kinky socks!
As a successful politician and former drama teacher, you understand the importance of a good performance and making a favourable impression. (Well, let’s admit you overdid it on the India trip but that’s another story.)
At a time when depression and other mental health issues are skyrocketing in Canada, surely you understand that it doesn’t help when our leader and highest ranking elected official in the land looks as bad as the rest of us.
Many of us have nightmares about the big door opening at Rideau Cottage and this unshaven and rapidly greying fellow with unruly hair and dour duds walks to the microphone to announce how many more of our fellow citizens have died overnight. Vaccine? What vaccine?
All that’s missing is the sound track from the movie Jaws.
Prime Minister, you were once our international rock star. Today, you make the UK’s Boris Johnson look like a shoo-in for the cover of Esquire magazine.
And whose brainchild was it for you to stand outside in all kinds of weather for your televised pandemic meet and greets with the masses?
It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the U.S. (1933-45) who pioneered his regular “fireside chats” to address the fears and concerns of Americans at a time of great wartime struggle. Granted, FDR had only radio at his disposal, but he was smart enough to have people picture him neat and tidy and statesman-like instead of scruffy and shivering in snow up to his tush.
Let’s face it: none of us will escape this pandemic without some scars. But you look like you’ve just spent a year in the bush searching for the Lost Ark.
My friends and I have concluded that if we think we’re going a little crazy from the pandemic, we’re probably right.
According to mental health experts, all forms of mental health issues are on the rise as the pandemic drags on and agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces and leaving the house, is becoming increasingly common (with various levels of severity).
We have acquaintances who have become so scared by the virus and health care warnings that they have become hermits and family members fear they may never recover and come out of their homes.
Usually well-adjusted people tell of venturing out to the LCBO and grocery store and scurrying back home to be safe from abuse for going up a down aisle or letting their mask slip when they reach for a bag of carrots.
The pandemic’s effects on me are many. I have become such a lousy housekeeper that I will probably never return to the days when I cared about things like paw prints and a stack of unwashed dishes. I have a “to do” list that never shortens and countless projects everywhere that were started and abandoned. This could be a good thing. As me dear olde mither used to say, no one on their death bed ever said, “oh, I just wish I had washed the kitchen floor.”
It has been so long since we had a full table for dinner that I wonder if we will ever be able to cope in the preparation and serving of a fancy meal with all the trimmings. Time will tell, I guess, when the opportunity finally arises.
The well-stocked wardrobe? Pshaw! I was shamed into getting a bit tidied up for a Zoom call this week and I was reminded of the discomfort of it all and how probably no one even noticed. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that we are learning to live with less fuss and that we really don’t need many of what we once considered necessities.
I do notice, however, that a lot of us have aged this past year. This confinement, isolation, worry, and lack of physical contact have taken their toll. We are social creatures who need to hug and kiss those we love. Phone calls and emails and Zoom contacts just don’t cut it when trying to show and feel affection.
I’ve always enjoyed a good, firm handshake and bumping elbows is just plain silly. Unable to see and touch young grandkids is the cruelest cut of all.
It breaks my heart that we have been robbed of so many great opportunities this past year—occasions that are important for maintaining and celebrating relationships and building memories that we need to sustain us in the so-called golden years.
Family photo albums are starkly bare in recording these last 12 months of our lives. Time just disappeared somehow. Weddings, funerals, graduations, reunions, and other celebrations… all postponed or cancelled, along with the joy, comfort, and cherished memories they would have produced.
There is one theory that seniors are especially resentful of the time lost because we recognize that our time may be short and we have little time to lose. Some prognosticators suggest those in this age group may decide to make up for lost time by indulging themselves and spending instead of saving money to pass on to kids, grandkids, and others.
It would certainly be a way for some oldsters to avenge all those grandkids who never call, are no-shows at family gatherings, and consider thank-you notes for holiday and birthday gifts just a silly, old fashioned custom unworthy of their time and effort.
Only time will tell whether the old folks who are lucky enough to have some money and good health at the end of this may just shout a big “wahoo”, rewrite their wills, and go on one helluva spending spree.
Such spending would certainly help repair our wrecked economy and remind younger generations that they should never mess with old folks. Age can make you mean.
Think about it: while the kids are left to pay off our staggering pandemic debts, the old geezers will be in some idyllic resort drinking martinis, playing pickleball, and remembering the good old days.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister, if we must all be in this together, please give some thought to giving your barber a call.
Sally Barnes has enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer, journalist and author. Her work has been recognized in a number of ways, including receiving a Southam Fellowship in Journalism at Massey College at the University of Toronto. A self-confessed political junkie, she has worked in the back-rooms for several Ontario premiers. In addition to a number of other community contributions, Sally Barnes served a term as president of the Ontario Council on the Status of Women. She is a former business colleague of Doppler’s Hugh Mackenzie and lives in Kingston, Ontario. You can find her online at sallybarnesauthor.com
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