Stories about how Forest Parkers stuck at home since Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order took effect on March 21 are as diverse as the residents themselves.
Kate Webster, like many of her neighbors, was making the best of a challenging situation. She’s been working at home on her full-time job at Rush University Medical Center as the director of Diversity and Inclusion.
“The extrovert side of me,” she said, “is using a lot of Zoom meetings with the ‘video on’ feature to help with that side, and the introvert side of me is needing more than usual silly reality shows to ‘take me away’ from reality and deal with things.”
But coronavirus was not the only challenge impacting her life.
“In January of this year,” she said, “I unexpectedly lost my 56-year-old brother. I was just at the tail end of being swayed under by the grief when the pandemic hit. It’s been hard and I’ve been giving myself a great deal of grace — for those ‘Costco Big’ bags of potato chips, for needing an extra hour of reality shows, for snipping at my wife, and for those extra 10 pounds.”
And then COVID-19 became a personal reality in an unthinkable way.
“My dad, who was in a high immune-compromised category, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and he died this morning. He lived with my mom in New York City. I had shared with them three weeks ago to wear masks and gloves and they didn’t see the need. We will have a toast to him via Zoom.”
“I want people,” she added, “to please, please, please stay inside.”
Amy “A.J.” Altheimer is facing a double challenge: being out of work since last year and recovering from a respiratory illness that put her in the hospital recently. The good news is that she does not have COVID-19. Still it was scary to have something similar and trying to look for work in an extremely depressed job market.
For Commissioner Jessica Voogd, being out of a job could become an issue. The Chicago Film Office placed an eight-week moratorium on issuing film permits, so she and her husband, who both work in the film industry are furloughed. They are prepared for two months without income, but they’re scaling back their budget.
Other residents still have jobs but are nevertheless feeling the pinch. Omar Vides works in the ultra-high-end car business where “it’s definitely a tough time for us as business is down considerably.” Melanie Kincaid still has her job as a personal caregiver and feels fortunate not to be one of the 40 percent of Americans for whom an unexpected bill of $400 would be devastating. Having insurance through the Affordable Care Act helps her sleep at night during this crisis.
Teresa Molina is a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County and is sheltering in place because the courthouse is shut down.
“I am well aware,” she said, “that in this difficult time I am one of the fortunate ones.”
Likewise, Bria Douglas will be working from home till at least April 30, and is receiving her full salary. Her biggest challenge is that “my online shopping has increased because I’m bored and I shop when I’m bored.”
Jonathan Shack is a general contractor who has shut his office down and manages his job sites from home for the most part. Luckily, he hasn’t seen many layoffs in the construction industry because it is considered “essential work.”
As for the $1,200 check promised from the federal government, Douglas replied that she will use it to pay for a trip to Greece next year, while Shack, Greta Nekrasova and Hermie Balanon said they would put it in the bank.
A resident who requested his real name not be used is in the middle of “multiple weeks of unpaid leave due to the recent pandemic.” He plans to use the $1,200 to pay a few bills, replace his phone and take his mom out to dinner when the restaurants open up again.
Some folks in town feel the loss of intense physical exercise more than income. Jim Michael, for example, a two-time world champion in jiu jitsu, misses sparring three times a week with his fellow martial arts enthusiasts at the Valco Academy in Chicago. Nekrasova, who played on the Lithuanian national soccer team from 1994 till 1997, like Michael, has resorted to “lifting weights and doing planks” at home.
Like most parents of children enrolled in school District 91, Michael said having his kids at home has created some difficulties. “I enjoy seeing my kids,” he said, “but it’s much more challenging to find things to keep them busy and entertained.”
Some Forest Parkers are planning to give a portion of their $1,200 check to, in Tanya Friese’s words, “those in true need.”
Some residents in town are not only giving some money “back” but also some of their time. Sandy Byrnes, for example, [see last week’s Review] has made over 300 cotton masks “to help protect people from spreading the COVID-19 virus.”
Some of our neighbors are able to see the pandemic glass as half full as well as half empty. “Spring has sprung,” said Friese, “so I am thankful I do not have to socially distance myself from our garden.”
Jim Murray said, “I am also thinking, meditating, and praying more and am looking at the meaning of life differently than a couple of months ago. I think this virus will change the world, or at least my perception of it.”
“I see a huge silver lining in this pandemic,” said the resident who wished to remain anonymous. “I view this extra time spent at home in isolation as an incredibly rare and valuable gift.
“It has given me an opportunity to reach out to old friends, to catch up on a long to-do list, start new projects, and re-adjust future plans and goals. I have a huge pile of books that I’ve always wanted to read. Spring cleaning, getting organized, cleaning out my car, finishing old tasks, getting old business done, crossing things off the to-do list … all at my own leisurely pace has been nothing short of fantastic. It has changed my life in ways that I have yet to discover.”
Three Forest Park residents have a more global view of the pandemic. Hermie Balanon grew up in the Philippines and Sasin Tuangiaruwinai was born in Thailand. Both speak frequently to folks back home who report that the situation is as bad or worse than here.
Captain Paul Roach is a Navy surgeon who spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan and is presently testing new recruits for the corona virus at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. When asked if this virus battle reminded him of his time in Afghanistan he told a story.
“In a recent Skype with my good friend Andy, who is a pulmonologist, we were talking about preparing for this upcoming wave of COVID-19 patients and waiting for it to land. Andy said, ‘Kind of reminds you of waiting for the battle to start, doesn’t it?’ And that was exactly how it felt! Well not ‘exactly,’ but just as close as anything else has ever felt since Helmand, Kandahar, or Mosul.”