Portraits of Resilience: Metro Atlantans Share their Stories of Life during the Pandemic
For adults ages 65 and older, the past two years have been especially challenging. As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a look back to see how the lives of metro Atlanta residents have been impacted. During the month of March, we will share the stories of older persons from across the region weekly.
For many, many years, Jonell Clark has hosted Saturday evening gatherings at her home. She invites women from all walks of life for fellowship and conversations on a variety of topics. She calls this group “Sister, can we talk?”
“I’m a people person, and I love to entertain,” says Jonell, who is 81. “I love to cook, and anybody who came knew they would have a meal of some sorts. We’d have a good time.”
But when the pandemic struck in spring 2020, the Henry County resident had to suspend her monthly socials. Even to this day, people still ask her when she’ll start hosting once again. They don’t like connecting via Zoom, Jonell says. They insist on meeting in person.
Jonell’s life has changed a lot over the past two years. With the ebbs and flows of the COVID-19 pandemic and her health deteriorating, most of her life now centers around her home in McDonough.
Jonell’s grown a lot of plants indoors, and she also plants rose bushes and gardenias in her yard. She’s taken to writing about her childhood in Alabama. Her relationship with her daughter Danice, with whom she’s lived for the past 15 years, has blossomed under quarantines and lockdowns. Before the pandemic, each cooked their meals separately. Now her daughter cooks meals for both. One of Jonell’s favorites is beef liver with gravy, rice, and green peas.
“Living with Danice has been really nice,” says Jonell. “We eat the same food, and we always eat together. The pandemic has brought us closer because we are concerned about each other, and we look out for each other.”
Jonell has also found joy in writing regularly on her yellow legal pad. “I write a little something every day. I am writing new a story titled “Daddy Is Home.” It’s about a man who left his family to go work in New York, and he was so discouraged, he didn’t come back for years. That happened with a lot of Black men during my childhood. It took place in the 1950s, it’s a little fiction and a little thing that I can remember when I was growing up in Montgomery, Alabama,” she shares.
It’s hard for Jonell to complete the story because she gets emotional reminiscing about her early years in a place that in her memory had no lights. “When the sun went down, it was very dark. We had no streetlights and no sidewalks.”
She sends these little stories to her friends via mail or email.
Jonell looks forward to resuming her monthly soirees, where the women spent time together eating finger foods and talking about their grandkids, goals in life, friendship, and other things. One of the most popular topics was “who’s loving you now,” she quips.
“When I was growing up, my mom had a club that met about once a month – it was a sisterhood. I remember very clearly when my mother had these meetings at our house sitting at the front porch while the children played around with lightning bugs. The women would go from house to house and meet weekly.”
She plans to celebrate her 82nd birthday later this month in her hometown, surrounded by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “They celebrate my birthday every year, but this is the first time I go to Montgomery to celebrate,” says Jonell. “I’m excited.”
Her health has been declining, and she’s not able to do as many things for herself. Last year, she was in the hospital three times. She was also feeling depressed because she felt isolated and misses seeing her friends in person.
Yet, Jonell feels optimistic about the future. “I feel like this too shall pass,” she says. “I think there will be an end. We will get together again with my friends.”
For more information about services for older people and people with disabilities in the Metro Atlanta area, check out our Service Provider page, or visit the Empowerline website to be connected with counseling.