Writer Desiree Cooper has learned a lot about coping with uncertainty and isolation while caring for her elderly parents. Both have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In a moment when so much our day-to-day life has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Stateside turned to Cooper for some perspective, and advice, on adjusting to new realities.
The former attorney and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist spent many years in Detroit. Now, she lives in Virginia Beach with her parents as their full-time caretaker.
On coping with grief and loss
During the interview, Cooper read from the poem "Love After Love" by poet Derek Alton Wallcot, which resonated for her right now.
"There’s a lot of woe outside our doors. A lot of us are grieving a lot of things: the real loss of people that we loved, and the loss of the life we used to have, and the loss of the dreams we thought were on track. I mean I just feel so sad for the college graduates, the high school graduates, the proms, the things that were once in a lifetime things that aren’t going to happen now. But this poem says to me that there’s an inside self that’s been waiting to be met, you know, for you to come back to. If there is a way to cope with this, then maybe that’s the way to look at it—that there’s a new person for you to meet and that’s yourself.”
Her parents’ reactions to news about the COVID-19 outbreak
Cooper said she feels like she’s been practicing social distancing for years being at home full-time with her parents. But even still, the outbreak has started to change their lives and daily routines, too.
“It has taken a while for the impact to really sink in, and our biggest impact is that my grandchildren live nearby, their great grandchildren, and he’s [her father] started asking like ‘Where are they, and are they coming over, and who’s sick, and who’s okay?’ And he’s not thinking about the virus, he’s just noticing that time is now drifting away and he’s not seeing them anymore.”
Her thoughts on trying to teach kids at home during this crisis
“We complain that kids don’t know how to play anymore, they don’t know how to be bored. Well hello, here we are. So instead of trying to teach new vocabulary words, whatever, let’s teach them those soft, and what we’re learning now is the hard, survival skills.”