Coping and Connecting

June 2020

I was at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. It was Thursday, March 12, 2020.

The Gallery closed that evening. As if suspended in time, our GIANTs (Grand Individuals Aging with Neighbours in Thunder Bay) photo series, scheduled in the Community Gallery until March 22nd, is still, months later, still on its walls.

It’s unclear when it will be removed. I guess it will come down when the Art Gallery deems it safe to let folks in again.

During that afternoon at the gallery we were enjoying an opening celebration for our GIANTs show. None of us knew that things would be so different in just a few hours. One attendee, Susan Scowcroft, from Canmore, Alberta, was visiting her mother, Rosemary Collin. That afternoon, Susan and her mother reconnected with Judie Comer, who had been a neighbour years earlier. I realized then that good neighbours stay in your memory and your heart forever.

During the pandemic, I have found things to keep me busy. I got pretty good at jigsaw puzzles and at the beginning was committed to fitness workouts via my computer. Well, the weather got nicer and the jigsaw puzzles were replaced with some gardening and a regular walk and talk around the neighbourhood. (Those fitness videos once again sat on the shelf. Maybe next fall I’ll start again!) We have had lots of Zoom get-togethers, trivia contests and virtual book clubs. When one of my neighbours put a few chairs on her front yard, we started to have socially distanced, front-yard chats. I realized how much I missed talking to people face-to-face. During this time, I talked on the phone a lot. I called folks in town and out of town and I did the phoning with the old-fashioned land line! I knew that I was missing people when I found myself standing on my front steps and actually YELLING “Hello!” at strangers walking by! It was a bit of a social experiment. Many were happy to respond, while others started to walk a little faster! I am so grateful to the folks who stopped to chat. I’ve made some new friends and reconnected with old ones. I try my best to remember names, but I still called my new friend, Janet, “Jo-Anne”, until she gave me a tip: “Say Dammit, Janet”! I remember her name every time she walks by now.

I also remember March 12th, not because that was the day that I heard that Prime Minister Trudeau was going into self-isolation, or that Sophie Gregoire Trudeau had tested positive for COVID-19, or that the school boards were extending March Break. I remember it because that was the last day I got a real hug from a stranger. So many people have had their lives turned upside down the last months. It’s been a journey, but thanks to many people we’re getting through it.

I now practice social distancing. I give and receive virtual hugs on my walks in the neighbourhood. So, if you see me on the street someday and I’ve got my arms wrapped in front of my body, I’m probably not cold. I’m just sending someone a virtual hug. I send virtual hugs to residents behind windows in long-term care facilities, patients in the hospital, and staff in the grocery store. Most of the time, when I’m sending those virtual hugs, I’m smiling, but you may not know because of my mask. I keep sharing those smiles and virtual hugs anyway because it feels pretty good. We need to do anything we can to keep feeling good these days. We‘ll all get through this together. And what a journey it continues to be.

Nancy Angus is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Bayview. Contact her at

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