Life After 50: A year In The Life Of The Virus

Dressed as the doctors of Faith, Hope and Love, LARSO Executive Director Bernadette Lauritzen and staff members Amy Vigil and Elizabeth Coons. Courtesy/LARSO

Executive Director
Los Alamos Retirement & Senior Organization

Well, it started a year ago this week, when we went from a normal day, into the unknown. An invisible enemy was at hand, with no idea of what was in store. It sounded simple in the beginning, we would serve lunch outside, but our doors would be closed to the public.

There have been many fun stories along the way, but I may have to publish an article after my death, in order not to get in trouble. We’ve been elated to be working, and in the service of our seniors. Although we’ve been doing this for almost 52 weeks, the rules are changing constantly, in many different areas.

It was challenging in a variety of ways, but mostly because we couldn’t be the one known, in the lives, of so many seniors. It was very hard when we lost our first seniors, and there was no ceremonial way to pay our respects, give someone a hug or try to help ease their pain. That seemed like just the start. Then came Mother’s Day, and in a regular walk with my husband, we passed The Beehive, and I saw children, older than we were, talking to their parent, on the other side of the glass. I wept as soon as we got past the home.

We had some beautiful moments, planning 100th and 101st birthday parades for Marjorie Porter and Loring Cox and the grand planning for the 100th of George Best. It gave us so much to smile about and allowed us to raise funds to make goodie bags for every senior citizen in our assisted living facilities. When we had something fun ahead, it made all the difference.

Our annual Festival of Trees fundraiser, was huge bust and some thought we shouldn’t even do it, if it wasn’t an actual event. To me that would have been sacrificing a piece of history, in the life of the senior center. The holidays came and went in a whirl, but we did really great things. It was a ridiculous year, and nothing felt normal. It was wonderful, that the community aided our ability to deliver gifts. The stories of spirits lifted were many.

The losses continued, and when the world returns to a place where we can gather, we will mark the occasion. We will do so, in a special way for the families of any seniors, that want to participate in it. We’re currently collecting photos of those that would like to share.

How long does it take to break the director of the senior centers? Well, I would say about 10 months, or 9-1/2 days to be exact. After October, things went from routine to hard, harder and never ending. It came from COVID exposures, even if just a scare. Then came the vaccine hubs and the most amount of work in one week, that we had experienced, since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

There was a chance when I thought my staff might not get vaccinated, and in a heartbeat, I was done. How could my people work so hard, be told all along the way that they were essential, and then made to feel like not only not essential, but not even important. It was never said, it was something I not only felt, but took personally.

The vaccine hubs were not only an honor but made us feel like an important part of history. How wonderful senior centers could share, in something so momentous, to so many.

Now here we are, a few days from marking one year. Last year, even though the thief stole the day, we were determined to celebrate Pi Day, through the drive thru lunch venue. We were dressed as the doctors of Faith, Hope and Love, but didn’t want to be seen as clinical. This Friday, that Pi will be Frito Pie, for those members over 60, with a reservation and hopefully a $5 donation. One lucky lunch recipient will win an actual pie. Reservations must be made by calling the center where you will receive lunch.

I believe we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and this time, I don’t feel like it is a train.