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Separated by the pandemic part 5: Temporary relocation

Rachel Morin, a resident at Schooner Estates in Auburn, shows off some of the flowers she has grown while staying at her daughter’s house in South Portland during the pandemic. (Photograph courtesy of Rachel Morin).

The following story is the fifth of several interviews being done by Nathan Tsukroff of PortraitEFX to capture the effects of this pandemic on the people of Maine. 

Rachel Morin loves being a resident at Schooner Estates, a “Senior Living Community” in Auburn, Maine.

She loves visiting with fellow residents, enjoys the activities and adult classes that are offered, and loves taking advantage of the trips offered by the facility. She thinks the meals at the facility are wonderful.

However, she is now a remote resident, staying temporarily at her daughter Elizabeth’s house in South Portland, so she can see her family on a regular basis. She spends time with her friends at the facility only over the telephone or through email.

With the need to keep residents safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, Schooner Estates had to limit family visits to scheduled appointments for “window interviews”. Residents were only able to share time with their families through a closed window, talking by telephone.

A writer for the Twin City Times, Morin is sharing her story from the other side of the reporter’s desk. She has three adult children who have teenage and adult children of their own. Her sons live in Portland and West Bath. In the past, they could visit her at Schooner Estates on a whim and would visit throughout the week. With proper notice, they were even allowed to join her for meals in the facility’s dining room.

That has all changed with the pandemic. Even at her daughter’s house, Morin only visits with family outside, wearing a mask and staying at least six feet away.

For her birthday and for Mother’s Day, “My daughter has a large deck in her back yard, with all the flower gardens around. I’m up on the deck, with a mask. My children are out in the garden area, in chairs, with masks, and we talk back and forth, so they can see me in the flesh,” she said. “We have all our family meetings there! And that’s why they said, ‘Mom, this is where you should be’,” during the pandemic.

Morin said her decision to step aside from Schooner Estates was merely for family. “I’m happy there, and I was reluctant to leave Schooner.” There have not been any issues with Covid-19 at the facility, but “because my adult children wanted to see me more frequently, they’re now able to see me maybe once a week” she said. They always visit outside in the back yard, “so it works out pretty good, considering everything!”

Morin is careful to keep to herself during the week. While she and her daughter don’t wear masks indoors, she gets outside as much as possible. “I’m not out, going here, going there. She and I walk the neighborhood, socially distancing, wearing masks.”

When they go shopping at the grocery store, Morin stays in the car while her daughter puts on a mask and goes inside. 

Although she misses Schooner Estates, she and her daughter are working in the garden, planting both flowers and vegetables. “We’re busy enough with the gardens, let me tell you that!” They also have their walks in the neighborhood and enjoy the local walking paths and trails that are maintained by the town. 

They do plenty of reading and Morin helps her daughter with hand-sewing projects. “We’re certainly keeping busy. And I maintain contact with my friends by email.”

Morin continues to take classes at the Senior College at USM Lewiston-Auburn, although those classes are now via Zoom. The college campus has been closed during the pandemic. Schooner Estates is part of a collaboration with the Lewiston and Auburn public libraries, the college and had traditionally welcomed classes in-person for Schooner residents and other senior students. She recently took a course on the Civil War with Charlie Plummer, as well as a class in online banking, and a writing class. 

The State of Maine recently loosened some restrictions to allow in-person (but socially distanced) visits outside at the Schooner Estates facility. Morin, however, said that she had not yet heard from Schooner Estates and will make a decision on returning when she learns more about allowed visits by her family. 

“I do miss my home at Schooner” she said, emphasizing there’s “nothing wrong with being here. It’s wonderful with my daughter here. It’s wonderful with my extended family here, and also my grandchildren. We’re not hugging and touching, but at least we can see each other!”

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