Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - She's Gone

The hardest part of any writing assignment is how to begin. When the writing assignment is your mother’s obituary, it might be best to work backward.

Rosie Hewitt was special. A daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, cousin, elected official, administrative professional, 4-H leader, home-ec club member, community volunteer, and friend. She’s been described as sweet, caring, encouraging, and kind.

To know Rosie Hewitt was to know her smile and her laugh. She loved to crack a joke.

An avid reader of mysteries, a watcher of cooking shows, a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, Rosie had the most beautiful penmanship I ever saw. She enjoyed quilting, crossword puzzles, and watching Rick Steves’ Travels on PBS. She loved taking drives as long as the road wasn’t too curvy because she was prone to motion sickness. But that didn’t usually stop her from going along for the ride anyway.

A few years ago, she was itching to get out of the house and volunteered to be my lookout as I drove around the countryside taking photos of barns. We had a nice drive through Switzerland and Jefferson Counties and stopped in Madison for lunch at the Key West Shrimp House. It was a lovely day. I’m grateful for the memory. I lived away from the area for many years and couldn’t spend much time with my parents, so these moments mean so much to me.

Mom loved food. She enjoyed cooking and baking and still possessed the same Good Housekeeping cookbook she used in the 1970s. Even so, she loved trying out new recipes and her Pinterest account was full of recipes to try. (Oh, how she took to social media once she got started!) She made delicious fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Her Texas Sheet Cake was legendary, especially when served with Dad’s homemade vanilla ice cream.

Rosalie (Rosie) Anne Lawson met Paul Hewitt at the Frisch’s Big Boy in Aurora in 1958. They were married on March 19, 1960, in Rising Sun, Indiana. Rosie followed Paul to France where he served in the Army. There they lived in Orleans until Rosie left in 1961 to return to the United States to give birth to their first daughter Denise.

Two other children followed – Lisa and David.

Rosie went to work outside the home in 1970 as Ohio County (Indiana) Recorder, an office she held from 1975 – 1978. She followed that position with four years as the Ohio County Auditor after being elected in 1979. Later she was the Office Manager and Bookkeeper for Paul H. Rohe Co. in Aurora, worked for the Dearborn County Division of Family and Children and served as the Executive Secretary to Rising Sun Mayor Mark Guard from 1995 – 1999.

Rosie was involved in her community and wanted the best for her adopted hometown. In addition to working at City Hall and for the County, she served on several committees throughout the 1980s and into the early 2000s. She was the leader of the Lucky Charms 4H Club in the 1970s and 80s and directed some of the best Share the Fun skits to ever happen in this corner of Indiana.

After retirement, Rosie spent time with her husband Paul catching up on all those years when they were both working and so busy. They enjoyed getting together with the graduates of Aurora’s Class of 1956 for monthly lunches. Early in retirement, they traveled. More recently, they stayed closer to home, but still enjoyed drives to Vevay for ice cream at Shell’s and trips across the river for lunch at Jewell’s on Main. And while Dad stayed home, Mom took part in her Home-Ec Club activities and loved a day out with her sisters Jan and Nancy.

Rosie pushed us to do better, be better. She wanted each of us to reach our potential. For me, that meant forcing me to enroll at Ball State against my wishes. I told her many times how much I hated her then, but how grateful I was for the push. Because of my mother, I got to see, do, visit, try, and be things I never would have imagined.

In 2019, our family suffered an unexpected tragedy when David died as a result of a car accident. He was 49. Watching one’s parents survive a child’s death is impossible to describe. But Mom and Dad endured and although I know they suffered privately, they put on a brave face and got on with it.

And now our father, Rosie’s companion for over 60 years, will do the same. It’s been hard to lose someone during the COVID-19 Pandemic because we’re not able to grieve or give comfort as we know it. My sister couldn’t spend some last moments with Mom. She has a chronic condition that leaves her compromised. The required physical distancing meant that Dad and I could individually see Mom for 15 minutes before she died. While I could be with her, it meant that I had to leave Dad alone in the car. It was bizarre and sad and frustrating. While we are not the most demonstrative family, it’s been hard to not at least give him a hug during all of this.

The staff at Highpoint Health in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, could not have been kinder. They gave me the opportunity to talk to Mom on the phone while she slipped away. For that, I am grateful, too. There are so many people who won’t have the chance to say one last I love you to their dying loved ones.

I had a text from a friend who recently experienced the death of his father in this time of quarantine. He wrote that it will seem as if Mom won’t have the funeral she deserves. For someone who touched lives the way she did and who provided a kind word whenever she could, it seems a shame that we can’t truly celebrate her life.

This is my small offering.

Here are the standard details….

Rosalie (Rosie) Anne Lawson was born August 3, 1938, in Milan, Indiana, to Carlton and Gertrude (McMullen) Lawson. She was welcomed home by brother Carly and sister Jan. According to an interview conducted by my daughter Sophia Golden a few years ago, she was named Rosalie after the song by Vera Lynn. Her brother Dan and sister Nancy came later.

Rosie graduated from Aurora High School in 1956 and went to work for a small bank.

Rosie married Paul Hewitt in Rising Sun, Indiana, on March 19, 1960. They had three children Denise (Russell) Taylor, St. Leon, Indiana; Lisa (David) Williams, Rising Sun, Indiana; and David (Donna) who preceded Rosie in death.

Rosie is survived by her husband and daughter, her sister Jan (Wade) Turner, Rising Sun, and Nancy (Bill) Parks of Aurora, and sister-in-law Betty Burgess.

She is also survived by her grandchildren: Kenny Orem, (Rising Sun, Indiana; Clay Orem, St. Leon, Indiana; Chloe Golden, Bedford, New Hampshire; Nathan Golden (Kade), Rising Sun, Indiana; Sophia Golden, Euharlee, Georgia; Olivia Hewitt, Vevay, Indiana; and Drew Hewitt, Vevay, Indiana.

Rosie was also blessed with bonus grandchildren. Also missing her will be Zach (Nichole) Taylor, Harrison, Ohio; Nick (Andrea) Taylor, Fairfield, Ohio; Haley (David) Core, Pueblo, Colorado; and DJ Williams, Rising Sun, Indiana.

A prolific bunch, she also had one great grandchild: Samson Golden, Rising Sun, Indiana; and great stepchildren Anna, Sadie, Oliver, and Ziggy Taylor.

Others who will miss her include a long list of nieces and nephews: Connie (Denny Baldwin), Doug (Cindee) Scott, Karen (Jeff) Chase, Andy (Theresa) Scott, Ed Turner, Lori Turner, Todd (Denise) Lawson, Curt (Amanda) Lawson, Megan (Charles) Dunn), Danielle Lawson (Ken) Miller, Chris (Brooke) Lawson, Bill (Michelle) Parks, Jr., Cindy Collins, Michael Parks, Veronica Foster, Douglas Parks, and Jeremy Parks.  And many great nieces and nephews.

In addition to her son, Rosie was preceded in death by her parents Carlton Lawson and Gertrude Lawson Heitmeyer, stepfather Horace Heitmeyer, brothers Carlton (Carly) Lawson and Daniel (Lynelle) Lawson, brothers-in-law Wade Turner, Jimmy Burgess, sisters-in-law Linda Lawson.

Donations in Rosie’s name can be made to the Ohio County Public Library in honor of Rosie’s love of reading.



Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - Wall

I woke up angry this morning.

I received some bad news yesterday. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I'm one of the lucky ones - I still have a job.


I'm taking a pay cut. It's a pay cut that creates a frustrating and, frankly, insulting situation.


I learned today that the largest employer in our little town laid off most of its workforce. As the Rising Star Casino wrote in the letter to its unlucky employees, should the casino reopen, the employees will be able to reapply for a position.

Ah, perspective.

I lost a good job in the economic crash of 2009. I was without work until March of 2012. It was a hard time for our family.  We lost a house, a car and eventually, a marriage.

I have never regained the salary level I lost in 2009.

My heart goes out to the people who have lost their jobs as a result of this crisis. Unlike 2009 when it felt like I was watching one friend after another slide over the edge from employment to unemployment, this crisis showed us what it would feel like to slam into a wall.


This kind of thing is traumatizing. Trust me on this. These people, like so many others, have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. None. We didn't see this coming.

I fear that harder times are coming. Please be kind to each other. Watch what you say and what you post on social media about jobs, the social safety net, people in need (they don't need you to broadcast your generosity if you help them out), healthcare, unemployment benefits (no one wants to be on unemployment), who works hard and who doesn't, who is deserving and who isn't.

You might think you're being funny, insightful, or clever, but take it from me - that stuff hurts. It's pointless pain. Keep your opinions to yourself because no one needs your shame right now.

When I was out of work, the economy was so bad that the Administration had to keep begging Congress to extend unemployment benefits. Every quarter was a nightmare while I fretted that my benefits would end and there was no job in sight.

One day I was scrolling through Facebook, having taken a break from trolling all the job posting websites, and I saw someone I'd grown up with posting about how all the lazy people who wanted more unemployment money should "just get a job."

I'd spent hours every day looking for a job. I'd applied for hundreds of jobs sometimes having to complete applications requiring so much detail that it took over an hour to complete.  In all that time, after all those applications, I had two interviews. One place didn't hire me, but the other did.

At half my 2009 salary and a much longer commute.

And I felt lucky to have a job.

I'm telling you this so you don't hurt someone with your words.

Sermon over.

Stay home if you can. Tell someone you love them. Make a plan for hard times. Wash your hands. Remember the Golden Rule.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - Life During Wartime

We're all thinking about and talking about the Coronavirus. We can't help it.

On top of the worry about the virus, we're watching our economy come apart at the seams as people are forced to stay home and not work. Restaurants and bars are closed or are only serving food via delivery and carry out. Many states have banned large gatherings. Houses of worship are closed. Shows and concerts are canceled. Tradeshows, conventions, and conferences aren't happening. Schools are shuttered. Colleges and universities are closed for the year. People are told to not travel. Most stores are closed. Casinos across the country have shut down. College and professional sports seasons aren't happening or are postponed.

March Madness did not happen. The 2020 Summer Olympics have been postponed until 2021.

These are hard times.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I still have my full-time job and continue to work from home the same as I have since 2014. Our entire staff team is now working from home which requires some adjustment for those who are used to working in the office at least three days a week.

To combat that isolation some are feeling, we're doing creative things like having a virtual happy hour every Thursday. We all log in to Skype for Business, fire up our webcams and cut loose. I mean, cut loose as much as one should in a work environment. We're a pretty careful bunch.

From many conversations, I'm learning that I am not alone in what I thought were my weird and over-the-top concerns and newly-acquired habits.

We wonder how to handle the mail deliveries. Spray it with Lysol? Let it sit for 24 hours before handling?

We have detailed conversations about how long this sticky virus lasts on surfaces. We Google for answers.

We tell tales of madness involving bags full of takeout food, what amounts to a decontamination procedure with clean dishes, hand sanitizer, and a group effort to not bring potentially virus spreading Burger King bags into one's home.

The dirty hands/clean hands swap.

We whisper about wearing latex gloves in public.

The pushing of Clorox wipes onto loved ones and strangers.

A dog who got a bath because a neighbor petted it right after returning from a trip.

It's only been two weeks.

On the flip side, this struggle is also showing us some extraordinary acts of kindness. People are pulling together while keeping their physical distance. Social media is full of stories about people pitching in, helping out, and doing good.

I had my own taste of that last night when I walked into my parents' house to find that they were Facetiming with all three of my children. My kids never had the chance to live near their grandparents so this was especially touching.

My dad marveled at the fact that they were right there - dialed in from New Hampshire, Georgia, and from across Highway 56. Mom and Dad can see the roof of Nate's house from their front windows, a fact that still rocks me back in wonder. Who would have ever guessed that would happen?

My grandson Samson gained control of his mom's phone at one point. He displayed his new phrase "night night." Chloe turned into a frog, a mouse, a giraffe, a monkey, a rabbit, and a chicken.

"And she's the educated one," Dad said.


Be well. Stay home if you can and especially if you're sick. Wash your hands. Tell someone you love them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - Bomb

It's here.

Indiana is now under a Stay at Home Order issued by Governor Eric Holcomb.

Just in time! Or too late? Our tiny county has its first confirmed case of the Coronavirus. I don't know who the individual is, but I hope they heal quickly and stay safely quarantined so our community spread stays small.

Because someone who shall remain nameless failed to stay home and I went into his house to drop off food, I now have to add more names to my tracking spreadsheet and do the math.

Seriously, people. If you read one thing today, read that link. Or this one.

Here's the takeaway:

Now, math was not my subject, but even I know what exponential means. More to the point, I know what explode and bomb means.

Be well. Stay home. Wash your hands. Wash them again. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - Physical Distancing

I saw somewhere - Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? - that perhaps we should call what we're doing physical distancing instead of social distancing. 

I like this. 

I like this because what I'm seeing on social media tells me that we're finding ways to remain social while practicing the physical distance to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. And much of that social interaction is positive. People are sharing links to free online access to the arts. Music. Museums. Books. People are sharing original content, photos, ideas for keeping busy, recipes, etc.

This is a refreshing break from seeing the same meme shared 28 times in a day.

Like the canals in Venice clearing, because the sediment has settled, and the Nitrogen levels over China decreasing, we're adjusting, too. Even if it's in small ways.

Over the last few days, I've talked on the phone more than usual. I've Facetimed with my friend Amy. I video-chatted with my daughter Chloe who is in New Hampshire. And Sophie who is in Georgia. I talked to Grandma Bea. I've talked to my sister. I've talked to my mother who relays my strongly-worded admonishments to my father, as necessary. (Still struggling!)

Everyone is well, but worried. You can just hear it in their voices. 

All this communicating. Talk about having to change habits.

Chloe had a puzzle delivered from Amazon. I dropped it off at Mom and Dad's today so they can stay occupied while they're stuck in the house. I stood across the room from them and tried to touch nothing as we talked about what's happening and how they're feeling.

They have concerns. Like most of us, they're trying to grasp just how long this time of physical distancing will last. I've worked from home for over five years. There have been times when I had to think really hard to remember the last time I'd left the house, apart from walking the dog. I'm good at this. 

But for most people who are used to being able to decide at the spur of the minute to go out to dinner or who remember what day of the week it is because of their weekly scheduled hair appointment, doctor's visit, or lunch with old friends, this is hard. This is habit changing. It's confusing. And, by extension, scary.

At the other end of the age spectrum, we're also trying to stay physically distant from Nathan, his wife Kade, and their one-year-old son Samson. We're taking the stance that the fewer contacts we have, the better. It also means I have fewer names to write on my list of daily contacts. I wasn't kidding in my last post. I'm keeping a list. It might be an Excel spreadsheet. I will neither confirm nor deny.

Because we're being extra careful, this means I can't get my hands on Sam. It's hard. I want nothing more right now than to have his soft cheek smooshed against mine. Instead, I have to settle for seeing him through a window. I'll take it.

Be well. Stay at home as much as you can. Wash your hands. Let's fight this thing.

Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - Taking Names and Buying Snacks

Day two of keeping track in a small way of what's happening as the United States' number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 begin a steep climb.

Here in our little corner of southeastern Indiana, we remain fairly isolated from the virus, but it feels like it's closing in.

Ohio County where Rising Sun is the county seat and sits along the Ohio River is the little red blob.

You can see how the counties with confirmed cases of the virus are beginning to surround us.

It's enough to make me want to lock everyone up in their houses to hunker down and hope that this scourge passes us by. A Rising Sun Passover, if you will.

Alas, and as I'm frequently reminded, I am not the boss of anything. Don't believe me? Check out any Adventures in Real Parenting post on this blog. You'll see.

My husband isn't even under my jurisdiction at this time. He's off to the University of Cincinnati Hospital every weekday for his job. He's not a healthcare worker, but he's there working and watching the triage tents go up and get busy.

This morning, I broke my own rule to venture out for provisions. I took my ration book aka my Discover Card (cash back!) and made a run to a local IGA for donuts and then braced myself for a trek through the belly of the beast - Krogers on Eads Parkway.

Sidenote - I would love to shop at our local IGA for all our groceries, but would need an increase on my credit card limit to keep us well-stocked in Mello Yello. That, however, is a post for another day.

Kroger can't keep up. The shelves and refrigerated cases still looked like the day before a blizzard is predicted to hit. I asked one woman stocking shelves how she was doing and she said she was glad she liked her job and noted she didn't mind the job security. I credited her for having a great outlook and wished her well. This exchange took place as we stood several feet apart.

I found myself holding my breath as I walked past other shoppers. I had a ziplock of Clorox wipes I used to wipe down the shopping cart and ran it over my hands every time I touched something. I had to remind myself to stop picking up packages of strawberries to look for the best one. Oh, and not touching my face? An ongoing struggle.

I ran into people from Rising Sun. No hugs, no pats on the arm. We practiced our careful physical distancing as we chatted. Everyone reported the same thing - all is well so far and yes, we're all worried about our parents who are trying to adjust to this new "normal."

I stopped at my parents on my way home to share some donuts with them. Guess who had already been out that morning to buy a newspaper? No, I didn't shout at him and I even let him have the one jelly donut I'd gotten. We had a rousing discussion about washing our hands, I bagged up some Clorox wipes in a ziplock for him to keep in his car (I know when I've been defeated) and then he mentioned they'd have to go to Walmart for some groceries soon.

What a joker.

They'll be handing over that detailed grocery list to me and I'll go. At least we settled that. Wish me luck that I don't choose the wrong brand of orange juice.

Last night before we fell asleep, my husband and I talked about how things have changed so swiftly. It's like the world is upended. I wondered aloud if it made sense for people to start keeping a list of where they've been and when and who they've had close-ish contact with.

David wasn't sure. Or maybe he was already asleep. His response sounded something like mmmmmm or hmmmmmm? I have never known anyone in my life who can fall asleep as quickly as that man does. But that's a post for another day, too.

Be well. Stay home. Wash your hands.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19 Diary - We're Not Having Any Fun

I yelled at my father today.

We live in a very small town and I have eyes (spies?) around town. My pals know I'm concerned about my father (83) and mother (81) because both of them have chronic conditions - heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Both are overweight. Full disclosure - so am I.

One of my pals mentioned she'd seen Dad out and about. I knew from conversations with my mother that it would be difficult for him to shelter in place during this time of COVID-19. I mean, he's a social guy. Rarely does a day go by that he doesn't go out tootling around town in his car, buying his lottery tickets, picking something up at the store, and driving by my house just for kicks.

But this is getting serious and I've asked him to stop going out just for kicks. I get it. It's tough. It's boring. It's isolating.

But Mom's health isn't great. She's had multiple heart attacks. Both of them caught every cold that passed this way over the winter. My kids and I still laugh at a mess of a Facebook Messenger video that included a wide shot up my mother's nose and both parents announcing that they were sick.

"We're sick here. We're not having any fun."

You don't say.

Today is their 60th wedding anniversary. I'm lucky to still have them. I'd like to keep them around to celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary.

"If you're out around people, you're bringing home germs and passing them on to Mom," I grumped at him.

"I'm going to do what I want."

"If she catches this thing, it's going to kill her. In Italy, doctors are having to choose who lives and who dies. They don't have enough medical equipment to care for everyone."

That got his attention.

Earlier, I'd watched a video of military trucks transporting bodies out of Northern Italy to somewhere else for burial and cremation. They are out of room for all the dead.

"If the hospital has 10 ventilators and 40 sick people who need them, what chance do you think and 81-year-old woman has?" It was a low blow. I'm desperate.

I rooted around in the closet for my extra hand sanitizer forgetting that I'd given it to my son and daughter-in-law a couple of weeks earlier.

"Wash your hands as soon as you get home," I bossed. "And stay home. I can get you whatever you need."

He left under a barrage of my nagging and a wish for a happy anniversary.

"I nag because I love!" I shouted at his retreating back.

I think he knows. He might not like it, but he knows.