“It’s Not About Me” by Alexis Johnson

Alexis Johnson is co-founder and former Executive Director of International Language Institute in Northampton, a non-profit school that teaches English, world languages and teacher training. She has a B.S. in Languages & Linguistics and an M.A. in Teaching English and Spanish. She’s written a book called “Playing with a Full Deck.”

“It’s Not About Me”

My first thought about my life during the pandemic is that it is much the same as it was before. My 97-year old mother has dementia and I share caring for her with Erica, our wonderful live-in. She’s on at night and in the morning. This means I can sleep and wake up to read in bed, enjoy breakfast in my office while I read the newspaper and do the puzzles. I take care of paperwork, pay bills, and play Lumosity (hoping to ward off dementia). I plug in the monitor when Erica goes for a walk and I pop in and out of mom’s living room to chat or get her food. From 4 to 8 I sit with my mother and we watch news and the Game Show Network as that is all she can follow as I mute the TV and repeat the question . At 8 I start to get her ready for bed.

But then I remember how Erica and I used to split up the day differently. My husband and I used to go for an early date – from 4 to 6. Drinks and/or an early dinner. If I was home by 6 my mother was okay. We would take rides and see friends. Friends would come to visit and I served drinks and tapas. I wasn’t able to attend later functions but at least we were out in the world and I saw people and enjoyed good food.

I would sometimes teach a Spanish course at International Language Institute and I loved being back at the school I started with my friend Janice in 1984. Although I didn’t want to retire at the end of 2015, it wasn’t an option with my mother being drawn more deeply into the dementia divide. Caroline took my place as Executive Director and I have to say I couldn’t handle the school as well as she does in this time of social media, online classes, and looking for money to protect non-profits.

So now I What’s App my friends in Spain, where I lived in the 70’s, zoom to writers’ meetings (thank you Jane), but I also spend more time dallying with Lumosity, reading and drinking more and enjoying it less. Am I still “playing with a full deck”?

Me. Me. Me. I keep thinking how my limited world has gotten smaller. I should be praying for those with the virus, praising the heroes who are on the frontline helping people, looking for ways to help out. Well, I am praying and I am praising but at the moment am focusing on keeping mom safe. My heart is warmed and my funny bone tickled by the international artists, musicians and comedians who have come together on You Tube. Maybe my world is getting larger! I know six people who have had or have it. They’re safe. At the beginning of all this I had pneumonia and the other symptoms. Did I have it? Sigh. Me again.