Waters on 50th resident: ‘Ronald had a Tommy gun and a hat, and I had a flask in my garter and a real fancy headdress’

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are edited for length and clarity.

Arminta and Ron Miller, residents, The Waters on 50th senior living community

Ron: Last week, we had our first night eating dinner back upstairs. They had wine and someone playing the harp. 

Arminta: There were scallops and risotto. They made it very special, but we’re 6 feet apart, even at the table. Ron and I can’t even sit together. We wanted to sit with this one couple, but they were so far away we couldn’t talk. Still, just seeing people’s faces again was nice. We’ve been going up every night; it gets us out of our apartment. They’ll still deliver, but it gets pretty boring.

We’ve had one more COVID case on the [nursing home] side and a caregiver, but they’re isolated. I think that happened in late October, but it didn’t shut us down, so that was good. After the case was announced, people went through the halls at night to check for the little table they put outside quarantined rooms. So we know it wasn’t anybody on the independent side. Ron went and verified. 

Ron: I walked four floors and didn’t see nothing! 

Arminta: That’s why I think we’re still open. We’re lucky. It’s so much more dangerous out there now. 

We had that nice Roaring Twenties party in the parking lot. They moved the cars out, and a three-piece band played songs from the ‘20s and ‘30s. We wore costumes. Ronald had a Tommy gun and a hat, and I had a flask in my garter and a real fancy headdress. They had great hors d’oeuvres. They had scallops wrapped in bacon and fresh shrimp. 

Ron: Arminta had a martini. There was a safe distance there, too.

Arminta: Everybody had to wear a mask except when we were eating. 

Ron: Slowly but surely they’re opening up a little at a time. 

Arminta: They’ve opened up the theater for Ted Talks and armchair travel. His favorite is on Wednesday mornings they drum to music. 

Ron: It’s amazing once you get old, what you find pleasure in. 

Arminta: My oldest daughter is upset she can’t visit her kids in Chicago for Thanksgiving. And of course we can’t get together. That’s hard on her, and she’s really upset about Christmas. When things settle down, we’ll have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner together. We don’t have to do it now. 

I took my brother’s funeral a lot harder than I thought I would. It was hard and it was cold — that cold, cold day. But it was very beautiful and very organized. The pastor spoke, they tapped, they shot rifles off and I got the flag put in a box for me. 

He served in the Navy during World War II. He was over in Guam and was going to invade Japan if the bomb hadn’t been dropped. He’d talk about it after the war but just funny stuff. My other brother was a medic in Germany and had a terrible time; he was one of the first to enter one of the camps and he didn’t like to talk about it. 

At the service, the pastor asked us to share memories, and one of my favorite memories of my brother was we’d visit him in California. In the redwood forest, he would always have a fancy picnic. He would have a lace tablecloth and candlesticks. Once there was a silver chafing dish with curried shrimp, once it was beef sandwiches au jus and a hot thermos. People would come by and stare at us. In the middle of the redwood forest, he would have these beautiful, elegant picnics. So this summer our family is going to get together and do a picnic in one of our parks.


VOICES FROM THE PANDEMIC

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