Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Portrait in a pandemic June 20, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, May 15, 2020.

 

EVERY TIME I AM IN PUBLIC, I am reminded that we are living during a global pandemic. But even before I leave the house, I do a mental check list. Got my mask? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Hands washed? Check.

I admit, even after several months of this new way of living, pulling two elastic bands over my ears to hold a cloth face mask in place feels unnatural. Uncomfortable. Odd. But it’s necessary to protect others and to reduce my risk.

And then I need to remember to use hand sanitizer. Upon leaving a store. Before I re-enter my vehicle. Back home, no grocery bags set on counters. Hands washed. I’m learning.

A month ago, while attending the May Faribault Car Cruise Night, I took the above portrait of a man walking along Central Avenue in the heart of our downtown. I appreciate the story this image tells. It represents, to me, the portrait of a pandemic.

In my city of some 24,000, there have been 653 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, June 19. That’s a fairly high number for our population, in my opinion. County-wide, we’ve had 743 positives, according to information on the Rice County Public Health Services web page. Our state prison accounts for 26 percent of those cases. We have the sixth highest incidence rate of the virus in Minnesota. Four county residents have died.

This virus knows no boundaries. Rural-ness offers no protection. We are all, by the fact that we are human, part of this pandemic. Part of the story. Part of history. Portraits in a pandemic.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Giving blood during COVID-19 June 18, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’VE NEVER GIVEN MUCH THOUGHT to donating blood through the American Red Cross. It’s just something I’ve done, off and on, for years, after finally following Randy’s lead. I discovered that donating was easy. Drink plenty of fluids on donation day. Show up, healthy, at the appointed time with my RapidPass health screening paperwork in hand, go through a brief pre-donation physical screening and then move on to the table to start the donation process.

But the familiar routine of giving blood all changed with COVID-19. Suddenly, I thought twice about donating. Did I really want to do this in the middle of a global pandemic? Donating blood requires being up close with those screening and drawing your blood. But then I decided I needed to trust that all necessary precautions would be taken to keep me safe. They were.

I arrived masked, as required. Just like everyone at the community center donation site. My temperature was checked twice, once before I even entered. Tables were widely spaced in the former gymnasium. The foam form I squeezed during donation was covered. And only one worker tended to me, unlike in the past. Or, I should qualify, a sole Red Cross employee took me to the point of inserting the needle into my vein. It was then that everything changed. And it had nothing to do with COVID-19. Pain shot through my arm. Pain so intense that I had to muffle my outburst. I don’t recall my exact words. But they were something like, “Either you need to fix this or take this needle out.”

Let me assure you that I have a high threshold for pain having broken two bones, suffered from severe osteoarthritis in my hip and undergone eight surgeries in my lifetime. Blood and needles don’t scare me. But sharp pain like this, that bothered me. The supervisor took charge, professionally assessing that the needle likely needed to be pushed deeper into my vein. She made the adjustment and the pain eased to soreness. The likely cause of the problem, she explained, was scar tissue build-up on the vein.

My blood flowed freely into the bag. Soon I was done and sent to the refreshment table for juice and/or water and individually-packaged snacks. Then I was on my way, my first blood donation during a global pandemic successfully completed. Nothing to it. I considered that the new precautions put in place likely should always have been part of Red Cross protocol.

 

From The Gaylord Hub article.

 

For blood donors in one Minnesota small town, though, the changes due to COVID-19 reached beyond masking, social-distancing, more screening, etc. According to an article in the June 11 issue of the weekly, The Gaylord Hub, a recent blood drive in Gaylord “proved challenging.” And that wasn’t only because of deferrals and no-shows. The newspaper story states that “Gaylord coordinators were unable to serve the usual sandwiches, chips, pickles and beer.” Yes, you read that right. Beer. I’ll allow you to decide whether drinking beer right after giving blood is a good idea.

 

My blood donation card, now filled. I recently received a new one in the mail. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

One new idea announced this week seems like a really good one. Starting June 15 and at least through the summer, all blood donations will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Positive results indicate the donor may have had previous exposure to the virus and could thereby be eligible for the Convalescent Plasma Donation Program designed to help those battling COVID-19. That screening makes sense and is just one more way donors can help others. So, next time I give blood, I’ll learn whether the crud I experienced at Christmas with a temp, fatigue, feeling down and out, and a severe cough that lingered for weeks was just a routine seasonal virus. Or more.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts on the pandemic, from sleep to reality June 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

Dreams roil storms into my sleep. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2011.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this post several weeks ago and kept it in-draft. So, when you read this, remember that as I have not updated this from the original writing. My feelings about the need to take this pandemic seriously and to think beyond ourselves remain unchanged.

 

FOR THE FIRST TIME since the COVID-19 crisis broke, I dreamed about the pandemic.

I expect my turbulent emotions of that day and the day prior prompted the dream. Anger and disappointment framed my thoughts as did a converged weariness over a pervasive attitude of self-centeredness in this pandemic.

 

Our face masks. Please, people, wear masks. And if you already do, thank you.

 

And so I dreamed of a long-dead neighbor and of extended family converging on our property, no one wearing face masks, none social-distancing. They got too close, in my face. And when I told them they would need to leave, some turned on me. And then I awoke from my nightmare. Or did I really?

 

On one occasion, I left the house without my hand sanitizer. The planned trip inside a local convenience store did not happen as a result.

 

Life, some days, can play like an ongoing bad dream. If I let it thread that direction. It depends on the day. Trips to the grocery store frustrate me. Employees are now wearing masks—finally—in the local places I shop for food. But too many customers still are not and I don’t get it. I skirt those people (if possible) in the too-narrow aisles.

While shopping at a big box store, I thanked the masked cashier for the store’s requirement that all customers and employees wear masks. I could see her eyes smiling. “All we hear are complaints,” she said. I’m not surprised.

Recently I stopped for ice cream at a favorite independent shop in a neighboring town. The teen behind the walk-up window was not masked. The same for curbside food pick-up at a favorite local restaurant. The woman who handed me my bagged and boxed food was unmasked. I was masked. Both situations surprised me and made me feel uncomfortable. Health and government officials recommend we wear masks. And in some cities, like Minneapolis, masks in public places are now mandatory. And when restaurants re-open, servers will need to don masks. Why not now, during walk-up or curbside pick-up?

 

A message posted on the marquee of the Paradise Center for the Arts at the start of the pandemic. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo edited.

 

I’m not sharing these stories to call people or businesses out. Rather, I’m frustrated by the “me” mentality. This pandemic is not about us individually. This is about us collectively. Decisions we make affect others. We can unknowingly carry this virus, perhaps give it to someone who is in the vulnerable demographic. There’s no guarantee either that, if we become infected, we won’t get really sick. We just do not know.

Our thoughts need to stretch beyond ourselves, to thinking of others. And then acting and choosing behaviors that show we truly and deeply care about our families, our friends, our neighbors, even the people we encounter at the grocery store.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Pool ready to open in Kenyon as COVID-19 restrictions ease June 10, 2020

The Kenyon, Minnesota, swimming pool opens on June 12.

 

SUMMER IN MINNESOTA. It’s synonymous with water and the outdoors and community events. County fairs and small town celebrations. Parades. Summer camps and trips to the lake cabin. Hiking and camping and anything that takes us into the woods, to lakes and pools. Family reunions. Togetherness. Because our winters are so harsh and long, we Minnesotans delight in summer.

 

Picnicking at Depot Park in Kenyon on Saturday.

 

But this summer looks much different due to COVID-19 and the restrictions in place. Most celebrations are canceled, camps closed, etc. I’m of the cautionary camp, recognizing the very real risks of the virus and the need to protect not only myself but others. I’m careful, avoiding situations that raise the risk of exposure or that aren’t, by health standards, particularly safe. There will be no attending family reunions or similar at-home gatherings for me. (Such gatherings are currently limited to 25 anyway.) I’m closing in on the high risk age, just barely under it. And I have friends who’ve had family members with COVID-19, including one death.

All of that said, I can only imagine the difficulty right now of parenting children from preschool age to teen. Most kids by nature are social creatures. Preschoolers play together, grab toys from one another. Grade schoolers and teens just want to hang together. Play sports. I’ve seen plenty of teens congregating at parks in my community and nearby towns, including crammed onto basketball courts. I understand their innate need to connect. And that includes hanging out at the lake, pool or aquatic center. COVID-19 doesn’t top their list of concerns.

 

Behind the fence, the Kenyon Pool fills with water on Saturday for opening on June 12.

 

Today, June 10, indoor and outdoor pools in Minnesota are allowed to reopen to the general public at 50 percent capacity with a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in place. That includes social distancing, encouraged use of cloth face masks when not in the pool, employee health screening and much more. The State of Minnesota details requirements and recommendations at Stay Safe Minnesota.

 

The Kenyon man who tipped us off to the pool opening, pictured near a playground and the pool in Depot Park.

 

Quite by happenstance, I learned last Saturday that the city swimming pool in Kenyon is reopening. We were picnicking at Depot Park, a park complex that includes the pool and Randy chatted it up with an elderly gentleman who lives nearby. He mentioned the city was filling the pool and, sure enough, water funneled into the larger of the two pools. The filling process, he noted, would take several days. A check of the city Facebook page shows the pool opens on Friday. That includes for open swim, swimming lessons, lap swimming and water aerobics.

 

A building at the Kenyon Municipal Swimming Pool.

 

It will be interesting to see how this works in practice. Will pool users social-distance and will (mostly) teen employees “enforce” rules? Will parents watch and monitor their kids? Or will kids be kids and mingle and play together as usual, pandemic or not? I think it will be tough, really tough, to assure safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in such a setting. But if individuals, families, and cities, are willing to take the risk, then that’s their choice.

 

Filling an above ground pool in Elysian on Sunday afternoon.

 

The following day, I saw a family in the community of Elysian exercising another option. Randy and I, out for a Sunday picnic and drive, had just pulled up to the recreational trailside center when we noticed a water tanker truck from the Elysian Fire Department in a yard across the street. The “firefighters” were filling a backyard above-ground pool with water. It was so small town iconic. And a reason to pause and smile in the middle of a global pandemic. Ah, summer fun in Minnesota…

 

The water tanker drives toward downtown Elysian.

 

TELL ME: How do you feel about the reopening of swimming pools and aquatic centers to the general public? Please be respectful in your comments. Do not make this political. I monitor all comments and reserve the right, as author of this personal blog, to not publish comments. Thank you.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A child’s perspective on face masks with notes from Grandma May 28, 2020

Some of our face masks, crafted by a friend in Texas.

 

“I like your face mask, Grandma.”

Her words nearly broke my heart. But I didn’t let on to 4-year-old Isabelle who sat behind me, buckled in her car seat, waiting for Grandpa to exit the convenience store with a gallon of milk.

My cotton print mask, dangling from the cup holder, was in her favorite color, pink. I grabbed the mask and pointed to the colored circles thereon—yellow, green, white, pink, blue, orange.

“Mine has lady bugs,” Izzy said. “And the other is brown.”

I knew about the masks, which had just arrived in the mail from my granddaughter’s great aunt in New Jersey. I was grateful for that gift. But, still, the thought of a preschooler aware of face coverings made me profoundly sad. Her parents had already talked to Izzy about COVID-19 in terms she could understand—that people are sick. She accepts that as the reason she can’t see her friends, go to the library, visit Como Park or the Minnesota Zoo and much more.

 

Izzy rides her scooter along the trail in North Alexander Park in Faribault.

 

I followed that same simple explanation when we were at a Faribault park with Izzy. I kept a watchful eye as she zoomed ahead of Randy and me on her scooter. When I saw others approaching on the trail, I called for her to stop. She listened. We moved to the side and I formed a barrier between myself and passersby. I feel an overwhelming need to protect my sweet granddaughter.

Isabelle never once asked to play on the playground. She understands that, for now, for her safety, she can’t.

 

Baby ducks are so so cute.

 

Mama duck watches her babies.

 

The drake swims nearby.

 

We tried to make our park visit as ordinary as possible, pausing to watch a family of ducks along the shoreline. It was a moment of grace, observing downy ducklings guarded by their mother. Not unlike me with Izzy. We listened to their incessant cheeping and I wondered what they were communicating to one another. Warnings perhaps.

 

A long row of lilacs in various shades grows in North Alexander Park.

 

We stopped also so Grandpa could clip a spray of lilacs.

 

There are plenty of picnic tables alongside the Cannon River.

 

And we picnicked beside the Cannon River, listening to the noisy chirp of birds. Izzy nibbled at her turkey sandwich, ate too many grapes, tried a few of Grandpa’s chips and enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie we’d baked the day prior. When she was done, I wet a napkin with an ice cube pulled from the cooler and wiped away the melting chocolate circling her lips. I love that sweet little face.

On our way home, we stopped at the convenience store. And had that conversation about face masks. When Grandpa pulled open the van door to set the jug of milk and bananas inside, Izzy watched as I squirted hand sanitizer into his open palm. “I don’t like your face mask, Grandpa,” she said. His is black-and-white checkered like a racing flag. No pink anywhere on the fabric.

Preschoolers are, if anything, honest.

And they need us to protect them and those they love. Like their parents. Their siblings. Their grandparents. Their aunts and uncles and cousins. Their friends. They need us to wear face masks.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota & my thoughts May 6, 2020

The marquee at the Paradise Center for the Arts, photographed on March 17, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A SERIES OF PHOTOS I’ve taken in historic downtown Faribault represent, in many ways, a visual timeline documentation of the progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Just three days after touring the annual Faribault Area Student Art Exhibit and shopping the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market at the Paradise Center for the Arts, I photographed this message on the PCA marquee:

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 17, 2020.

 

That was 10 days before Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued his initial Stay-at-Home executive order. On the date of that first photo, March 17, the state was already shutting down due to the global pandemic that has changed every facet of our lives. Among the closures, our local center for the arts.

 

PCA marquee photographed on April 11, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I next photographed the marquee on April 11, when the “closed until” date had changed to May 1.

 

Photographed on April 19, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And then, only eight days later, I stopped to photograph the marquee message again. This time no “closed until” date was noted. Rather, the posted words offer encouragement. That seems the best approach. One of hopefulness, of unity and of strength rather than focusing on dates that continue to change.

None of us really knows how long COVID-19 will be around, although every indication is that it will be here for a long time. Infection and deaths are rising at a rapid rate here in Minnesota. Yes, testing has increased, resulting in higher numbers. But so has the spread. Just ask my friend who lives in Worthington. Or my extended family who live in Stearns County. Even in my county of Rice, which still has a low rate—30 positive cases as of Tuesday—in comparison to many other counties, numbers are on the rise.

 

A helpful reminder posted on the Paradise Center for the Arts marquee. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

 

These are difficult days for so many of us. My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Like my friends Raquel and Bob. Randy and I are concerned about my mom and his dad, both in the high risk elderly group living in care centers. But worry doesn’t fix anything. So we do what we can to tamp our fears, use common sense, and try to keep ourselves and others safe. We aren’t gathering with family or friends. We limit our travel to local. Shop only for necessities. Wear masks. Social distance. Wash our hands often and use hand sanitizer.

 

Posted in the front window of the Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2020.

 

But this is about much more than just our individual behavior. The current marquee message at the Paradise states, WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Our choices, our actions, our decisions affect others. Our families, friends, neighbors, strangers… That, I believe, is especially important to remember during this global pandemic. This is about the health and safety of all of us.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lean on me or let me lean on you April 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:06 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

A portrait I took of my mom during my last visit with her in early March. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

 

I HIT A WALL late yesterday afternoon. Maybe you’ve reached that point. Maybe not. But, after weeks of shelter-in-place and concern for loved ones, I felt overwhelmed.

A health update on my mom, who is in hospice in a care center 120 miles distant, caused sadness to sweep over me. I long to see her, to be there for her in the final stages of her life. But I can’t. And that breaks my heart. Then, I thought, how selfish of me. She is the one without family surrounding her. Not me. She is the one who is alone. Not me. So I re-framed my thinking, feeling gratitude for the last time I visited her, the weekend prior to care centers closing to visitors. What a gift.

 

I love this message in the Second Street pocket garden in downtown Faribault. It’s a wonderful reminder to love one another. I photographed this just the other day.

 

And then I called my uncle and updated him on his sister and talked to him about my aunt, his wife, who is undergoing chemo for terminal cancer. We discussed the challenges of this situation during COVID-19. And, in that conversation, we talked also about Zoom and mashed potatoes and gravy, and phoning his cousin, a pork producer. Laughter mingled with near tears.

I thought of his hog farmer cousin and all the other farmers facing unprecedented challenges now with regional meat processing plants shutting down and no place to send animals. And I considered my friend and her family in Worthington, a community in southwestern Minnesota hard hit by COVID-19. Nobles County, with a population of some 22,000, had 399 confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, most traced to a local meatpacking plant. No place is exempt. I worry about my friend…

We are all dealing with something, right? Missing family. Job loss. Concern about loved ones living in care centers with diagnosed cases of COVID. Grieving, like friends who last week lost a sister/sister-in-law to COVID and an uncle to a farm accident. It’s a lot.

 

My prayer list, written on a whiteboard propped against the entertainment center in my living room. This photo is from a few weeks ago. I update this list nearly daily with some names/concerns removed, others added.

 

In all of this, the need to support and love one another seems more important than ever. I’ve found myself reaching out and connecting every day with friends and family dealing with situations that are difficult any time, but even more so now. Mental illness. Cancer. Unemployment. I try to listen and encourage. And I continue to pray, updating my whiteboard daily by adding new names of those in need of prayer.

We’ll all get through this. I know we will. But there are days when we will struggle, when we will feel overwhelmed, when we will grieve and even feel angry. On those days, especially those days, I reach out to others. Not for sympathy, but to be that person they can lean on.

TELL ME: Are you struggling at times? How do you handle those moments? And how are you helping others? I’d like to hear, because we can all learn from one another as we continue to deal with this global pandemic and the resulting challenges.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My story: Insights learned from whooping cough April 16, 2020

 

The gravestone of Deloris Edna Emilie Bode, my aunt who died of highly-contagious whooping cough at age nine months. A great aunt, Ida, also died of pertussis at the same age. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FROM THE BLOG ARCHIVES

In the summer of 2005, when I was 48, I came down with what I initially thought was a bad cold. Turns out the horrific sore throat, followed by the equally horrific cough, was actually whooping cough. After three doctor’s visits and a misdiagnosis of bronchitis, I was correctly diagnosed with pertussis, the first case my physician had ever seen in his longtime career.

When he informed me that pertussis is also known as the 100-day cough, he was not joking. I was racked by uncontrollable fits of coughing from around July Fourth until well after Labor Day.

For me, the summer of 2005 was spent languishing on the couch, feeling like absolute crap, exhausted from lack of sleep (ever try sleeping when you are constantly coughing), utterly worn down, unable to barely function.

The worst, and I mean absolute worst, moment came when I awoke one night gasping for air, my windpipe narrowed. In retrospect, that asthmatic type attack warranted a 911 call and I now consider myself fortunate to have survived. Yes, it was that bad and necessitated another visit to the doctor for a regiment of the inflammation reducing steroid prednisone and an inhaler.

I don’t know why I experienced a particularly bad case of whooping cough. Typically the young and elderly are most harshly affected. Unvaccinated infants can even die.

Nor do I know how I got a disease I thought had vanished decades ago and which claimed the life of my Aunt Deloris in 1935 at nine months old. My doctor speculated that I could have been exposed waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store. I’ll never know.

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2020

Why do I share this experience, which I first blogged about in 2010? I reblog this because it’s a very real example of how easily I became infected with a highly-contagious bacterial disease simply by being out and about in public. To this day, I have no idea where I picked up whooping cough and then passed it along to two family members. Since then, I’ve learned that the vaccine for pertussis, a serious respiratory tract infection, wears off and re-vaccination is needed.

When I consider how ill I became from whooping cough at age 48, I can only guess how the much more serious COVID-19 might affect me 15 years later at age 63. I recognize the two differ—one is bacterial, the other viral, for example, with many other differences. But some similarities.

Having contracted pertussis via community spread illustrates and underscores the importance of social distancing, of staying at home, of recognizing how quickly and easily the highly-contagious and potentially deadly COVID-19 virus can spread.

 

WHAT I’M SEEING

I shop at the grocery store weekly because, you know, I eat. I’ve seen too many people who don’t seem to care about social distancing. I can tell right away. They hog the aisle, don’t move over, come too close. In all fairness, many people are being safe, careful and respectful and I appreciate that.

While en route to the grocery store or to a park (about the only places I go now days), I’ve observed groups of obviously unrelated people chatting, even leaning into car windows. No social distancing. I’ve seen landscapers clustered around the back of a pick-up truck.

I recognize that we live in a free country and that people will make choices that are unwise, unsafe and not in the best interests of their health. But when those decisions affect the health of the general public, it’s different. We are all aware that COVID-19 is highly-contagious, even deadly. Every single one of us ought to care because our lives, and the lives of those we love, of our friends, our neighbors and, yes, even the woman in the grocery store, depend on us caring. Whether we live in New York or Minnesota, this virus does not distinguish between rural and urban. No one is immune.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thankful Tuesday: Here’s to you, blue collar workers April 7, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015, northbound on Interstate 35 with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance. We depend on mechanics and automotive machinists to keep our vehicles running.

 

MONDAY MORNING I PULLED a whiteboard from the closet. And then I started a list. Of everyone and everything I need to pray for daily. The list numbers nine categories already and I expect will continue to grow. Typically I wouldn’t need a written list as I have a good memory. But I find myself needing a recall prompt. And, in some sense, physically grabbing a black marker and writing on a whiteboard helps me.

Last evening I added three more names to the prayers for friends and family category after a sister-in-law asked me to pray for a friend’s son, who is infected with COVID-19, and his young family.

On that prayer list I’ve written thankfulness as a reminder to thank God for the many people—especially in healthcare, emergency response, law enforcement and military—who are on “the frontline” serving others.

 

Randy at work in the automotive machine shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Today, though, I want to focus on thanking essential blue collar workers, those men and women who don’t have the option of working from home. That includes my husband, Randy, an automotive machinist. His employer has taken steps to protect customers and employees. Customers (mostly) are no longer allowed inside the store or inside the shop with doors to both locked. Rather, they must stay outside, call and then await curbside service.

 

The door to the automotive machine shop is now locked and signs posted on social distancing, business hours and new customer services practices.

 

But for Randy, it’s not that easy. He sometimes needs to help customers carry heavy auto parts into the shop so he can perform tasks like turn brake rotors, resurface heads and much more. That means close contact then and as they discuss the needed repair work. I don’t like it. But he reports customers are getting better at social distancing. Still…

Randy is not alone. All across Minnesota and across this nation, automotive machinists and mechanics are working hard to keep vehicles—from tractors to cars to trucks, including semis—running. There’s concern in those garages and shops where employees must drive customers’ vehicles into bays. Imagine stepping into a semi cab driven by an over-the-road trucker who’s traveled who knows where. There’s real fear, with extra precautions needed to clean those cabs and protect the mechanics repairing them. Yesterday I talked to someone with a family semi truck repair business. She’s worried about exposure to COVID-19 and understandably so.

Yet, these hardworking men and women—just like those in grocery stores—continue to work. (And, yes, I’m grateful Randy still has a job.) They work to deliver products, goods and services to us. Thank you, truckers and delivery drivers. Thank you, grocery store employees. Thank you, mechanics, automotive machinists and those working the counters in parts stores. Thank you, all blue collar workers. We need you, and that is evident now, more than ever.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Another birthday party missed… April 4, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:25 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My granddaughter, Isabelle (“Izzy” for short). Photographed when she was about 17 hours old in April 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MY CELLPHONE PINGED YESTERDAY with a notification. For my granddaughter’s fourth birthday party. Today. At an interactive indoor play area in the northern Twin Cities metro. The party was canceled a few weeks ago, but I’d forgotten to delete the notice from my phone.

So today, instead of celebrating with my darling Isabelle, her parents and little brother, and a whole bunch of Izzy’s friends, I am home. Separated from the ones I love because of the COVID-19 crisis. I have no reason to complain. Everyone in my immediate family is healthy and in the extended family, too, although we had a bit of a scare recently. My mom remains on hospice in a care center 120 miles distant.

We are all making the best of this pandemic which now shapes our lives. We do what we must to stay healthy and to keep others healthy. While out grocery shopping earlier and then on to a Big Box store to buy a garage door because, you know, the garage door just had to break right now, I saw some people with masks. Not a lot. But I noticed more social distancing signs and the larger retail store banning anyone under age 16 from entering. I also saw too many folks not heeding social distancing. I steered clear of them, including employees at one local grocery store which has no COVID-related signs, nothing.

 

Izzy’s first birthday cake. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2016.

 

Yes, I should have been hugging my granddaughter today instead of grocery shopping and buying a garage door. I should have been watching Izzy blow out candles while singing happy birthday to her and celebrating with gift-opening and cake. The year before last, I missed her party because of a blizzard. In retrospect, that is nothing compared to missing a birthday party due to coronavirus.

Isabelle, in a video chat earlier this week, seemed unfazed by the change in plans. She excitedly shared, “I’m celebrating with my family!” She told me about the planned pink birthday cake—her favorite color—frosted and decorated with unicorn sprinkles. I inwardly thanked her parents for stressing to their daughter what she will still have, not what she’s lost in the postponed (until October) party.

 

One of my favorite photos of Isabelle is this one I took of her in September 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I decided to add to Izzy’s celebration by reaching out to friends and family with a request to send birthday cards to my granddaughter. Many responded and for that I am grateful.

This afternoon, while returning home with the $470 garage door strapped to the top of our van, I saw a family celebrating what appeared to be a birthday. A clutch of colorful balloons decorated the front stoop and people stood in the yard. Social distancing. The scene made me think of my sweet Isabelle and how much I miss her. Especially on her birthday. And I wonder just how long it will be until I can hug her again.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling