Gwendolyn Way Oral History


Title (Dublin Core)

Gwendolyn Way Oral History

Description (Dublin Core)

An interview with Gwendolyn "Gwen" Way regarding her experience living in a retirement home during the pandemic. Gwen discusses the changes made by the residence where she lives to prevent an introduction or spread of the virus, as outbreaks in Long Term Care facilities have been common in Canada, and how it has effected her life within the home and her relationship with the world outside it. She compares and contrasts this lockdown and pandemic with the 19 months she spend in a sanatorium being treated for tuberculosis (TB) many years ago. The fear of the unknown and desperation at the lack of a firm end date are ideas which Gwen returns to repeatedly.

Recording Date (Dublin Core)

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Partner (Dublin Core)

Controlled Vocabulary (Dublin Core)

Curator's Tags (Omeka Classic)

Contributor's Tags (a true folksonomy) (Friend of a Friend)

Collection (Dublin Core)


Date Submitted (Dublin Core)


Date Modified (Dublin Core)


Date Created (Dublin Core)


Interviewer (Bibliographic Ontology)

Hope Gresser

Interviewer Email (Friend of a Friend)

Interviewee (Bibliographic Ontology)

Gwendolyn Way

Location (Omeka Classic)


Interviewee Gender (Friend of a Friend)


Interviewee Age (Friend of a Friend)

75 or older

Interviewee Race/Ethnicity (Friend of a Friend)


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Language (Dublin Core)


Duration (Omeka Classic)


Transcription (Omeka Classic)

Gwendolyn Way Interview Transcript
Interviewer: So, my name is Hope Gresser. I am a Master’s student in the Public History program at the University of Western Ontario. Today I am in Ottawa, Ontario, and the date is the 7th- sorry the 29th of July [laughs]
Gwen: [laughs]
I: -2020. Now if you could say your name and where you are
G: My name is Gwendolyn Way. I’m at- I live at Bridlewood Retirement Residence-
I: You don’t need to give the address! [laughs]
G: Oh! Ok. [laughs] Ottawa
I: Ottawa, right ok. So, um, you and I have known each other for…
G: Oh, about four years I would say. [overlapping] Yes.
I: About four years, yup, when I volunteered at the retirement home.
G: Yes.
I: Alright, so, first question: What do you remember about when all of this started? Do you remember when you first heard about the virus and what did you think about it?
G: I’m not quite sure when I first heard but it would be, uh, sometime in February-
I: mhm
G: -of this year when it came on the TV but I can’t remember the date. But I’m sure it was February because we had to, um, uh, uh, they started shutting us down on March the 11th. Quarantined: like, nobody could come in. So, I would say the middle of February but I’m only guessing.
I: Right. So, um, what did you think about it originally? Did you think it was going to be a big deal? Or did you think it was going to be-
G: No. I thought it was going to be in China and then it would stay in China!
I: Right.
G: I didn’t think it would be over here ever! [laughs] I got quite a surprise when it was
I: Um, so, when they started shutting you down, how did that go?
G: Well, I think, we were very surprised because I was out having lunch with my brother, and nothing was said. And when we got back, I went to go in- I went to come home, and the door was closed. And we had to go through the front door and all the other doors were closed. So, we were surprised. And then they told us- asked us questions as we came through the door and one of them was “Have you ever been to China?”
I: Mhm
G: [laughing] And I said, “Are you out of your mind?!” [laughs] Um, but they had to ask that question. And, um, they took our temperature.
I: Hmm
G: And that was the beginning of our “quarantine,” I guess you could say. We couldn’t have visitors come in, and that was a surprise. Mmm.
I: So, how often did your brother come before all of this started?
G: My brother only, um, uh, comes once a month. So, he was coming on- came on March the 11th and thought he was coming the next month but as the door was closed and they told us, uh, they couldn’t have visitors.
I: Right.
G: Yup, but now he’s come back; it’s open. Yup.
I: So, when they started saying that you couldn’t have visitors, were activities inside the residence the same or did they start to-
G: Oh no, no. They had to start to stop. Um, we couldn’t all get together in the lounge. Uh, uh, so most of the activities were stopped. The entertainers couldn’t come in and we couldn’t go in a group or anything. We had to, uh, uh, well stay in our room, most of the time-
I: Right
G: Because they weren’t- they didn’t want people together and then they um, uh- We had been four to a table or six then they, uh, had two at a table.
I: Mhm.
G: And they, uh- So it was quiet, you know? You were in your room. But we could still have our meal downstairs, our meals. So that was wonderful-
I: Mhm.
G: Because I wouldn’t have liked it if we were in our rooms all the time.
I: Right so-
G: But an awful lot of activities were stopped, you know? [overlapping] Yup.
I: Yeah. So did, uh, when they started putting two people at a table did they have to add more tables or more sittings to the meals?
G: Uh, they took away quite a few tables, eh? Well, no, no! They separated the tables, so, uh, well, what was- [laughs] I’ve forgotten what we were talking about, about the tables.
I: Um, did you-
G: What did you ask me: I’ve forgotten?
I: Did they have to have more times for you guys to go downstairs? Or did they just pull the tables apart and there were more tables?
G: Yes, they just the tables apart and then there were more tables, yup.
I: Um, did you notice- the staff: Was it the same staff the whole way through or did people stop working or start working through all of this?
G: Well, we had the same staff and, em, at first, they didn’t have the masks on.
I: Right.
G: I can’t recall when they had the masks but wasn’t the first day or something, you know?
I: Right.
G: Uh, yes, ok.
I: Um, so next question. How does this compare to any other epidemics, pandemics, or health crises you have lived through or experienced in the past?
G: En [groans], well the worst experience I ever had in the past- I think was much worse than this. Um, I had TB and had to go into a sanatorium.
I: Right.
G: I was there for, uh, about 19 months. And I had pneumothorax, that’s sticking a needle between your ribs.
I: Ooh.
G: Worst thing I ever had in my life. And, uh, I had that for more than a year there and I left and had to take it for another year. It was putting a pneumothorax- I think, if I’m not mistaken, is putting air somehow with this needle into your lung that they collapse part of the lung so that it would heal.
I: Wow!
G: That was the worst thing that- that ever happened to me. [laughs] This, em, about the virus, was not as half as bad as that!
I: Right!
G: Mmm
I: Um, when you were in the sanatorium were the restrictions on what you could do and where you could go, and people wearing face masks- was it worse than this or similar?
G: Well, it was- it was bad because when you first went in, you were in the main, uh, pavilion?
I: Mhm.
G: Uh, and you had to stay in bed!
I: Right.
G: Because you were really sick! And I had three roommates, they were very nice. And some people would say they didn’t have TB but they had TB.
I: [laughs]
G: But, um, one thing that was better was that wha- you know something about TB, you see?
I: Yeah.
G: And you know you can get well. I find this virus is rather uh… makes you nervous.
I: Yeah.
G: Because you don’t know anything about it!
I: ‘Cuz I know that-
G: So, in the san. we were never nervous about, uh, our health because we were there and we knew they were going to help us get well.
I: Mmm. ‘Cuz I know you and I have talked about, in the past, the fact that we don’t know when all of this is going to end.
G: Yeah! That- that is the worst part of this virus: that we don’t know, really, what it is about, uh. I mean, you’re breathing and sometimes it- maybe, in your head. You know what makes me nervous? If you do have it, does it leave any bad things, you know?
I: Yeah, aftereffects.
G: Does it leave you with your lungs bad? Or your head?
I: Yeah.
G: It’s the not knowing that makes you nervous.
I: And we’re not going to know for years. [laughs]
G: Oh, I know but I don’t think I’m going to be around that long- [laughs]
I: [laughs]
G: -at 92: The Lord may be calling me! [laughs] Who knows!
I: Hopefully not too soon!
G: [laughs]
I: Alright, so what does a typical day look like for you now and how is it different from before you shut down?
G: Like what is my typical day?
I: Yup.
G: Yup. Well, it’s- it’s like the, um. Now it’s started to open up and, uh um, we can have the entertainers.
I: Oh! That’s good!
G: And um, we can go out. But, you know, some of us are a bit wary, [laughs] because were can we go?!
I: [laughs] That’s true.
G: You know what I mean?
I: Yeah
G: As -as- I don’t know what stores are open and which stores aren’t open. And, uh, so we’re kind of, uh- My brother will be coming to see me once a month. But, um, that- you know they still have to go through all this and ask them questions when they come in and take their temperature and… Uh, it’s getting to be a pain. [laughs]
I: [laughs]
G: But anyway, we have to do it and we realize, all of us realize, that Bridlewood has to be strict because we don’t want to get the virus!
I: Yup.
G: Yup. We don’t grumble to the staff because the staff have been wonderful, absolutely wonderful! So, we- we talk amongst-amongst ourselves but we don’t say to the staff that we’re fed up because I’m pretty sure the staff are fed up.
I: Um-
G: Ok?
I: Yup, so what- what are you doing, I guess you have a lot of free time, what are you doing when you’re in your room? When you’re not doing the activities that normally do?
G: Well, I do crossword puzzles. I do word research. I’m always on a project of the Bible. I read the Bible every day and I’m [unintelligible] I’m getting on so I have to do things with the Bible now while I’m around.
I: hmm
G: And I, uh, I usually have a project. I have one now: I have gone through my concordance and taken people’s names that I’m interested in the Bible and, uh, who’s who- what sons and daughters and all this.
I: Right.
G: I’m finished the New Testament and I’m on to the Old. And that takes time. And, uh, I talk on the phone a lot and I write letters a lot. I keep busy. I keep my head going, you know, mentally.
I: Yeah.
G: I read books, oh I read lots of books! Every night at about 10 o’clock I start reading a book, much more than before.
I: Yeah.
G: And I watch the TV only at night. [overlapping] So I keep busy you see-
I: [overlapping] A lot- yup. Um.
G: Anything else?
I: Yeah, I was just going to say I think a lot of people are reading books more.
G: Yes.
I: I know the answer to this [laughs] but I have to- I’m going to ask you: How are you getting supplies right now? How are getting things you need from the outside world?
G: Your dear mother is doing it for me! [laughs]
I|: [laughs]
G: So, you better say- you better just say- well, I don’t know you can say your mother’s name: Carol.
I: Yeah, you can say Carol.
G: Yeah, she-she does it, thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do without her!
I: Yeah, how are- [overlapping]
G: [overlapping] So she gets our groceries-
I: Right.
G: -My groceries. Well, I don’t need many groceries but I need, uh, something at the drug store or something like that.
I: Right.
G: So, when she goes shopping for her own, she gets something for me.
I: And how are the other residents are going that? Do you know?
G: Well, I think, uh, a lot of the other residents have, uh. See I’m the only- there’s only about two or three of us here that aren’t married.
I: Right.
G: So, everybody has children and their sons and daughters go and get the things for their parents.
I: Right
G: That’s how, you know, they get things. And then we have a tuck shop, which we didn’t have before, and you can go once, twice, or, three times a week and you buy things that you may need. And you can tell her if you need something.
I: Oh, ok.
G: So, everybody has their relatives to do that. Or their friends.
I: Right.
G: Mmm.
I: Is there anything you miss?
G: Oh, I miss going out in the van. We used to go once a week to do our shopping and we haven’t done that since March the 9th when we were closed. So, we haven’t used the van yet. So, I really miss that. And I also wish they didn’t have to wear the masks. They’ve been wearing the masks and I find, because I’m hard of hearing, um, I find, when- not so much when they’re talking to you but- about other things but, at the table, for our lunch and supper, when I don’t like the first meal that we have, the first food, I ask “what else do we have?” And some of them mumble.
I: Mmm.
G: And you can’t hear what they’re saying. [laughs] So my um, partner, uh, table partner, she’s deaf but not as deaf as I am, [laughs] and she’ll say “Gwen! It’s meatloaf!” or “Gwen, it’s, uh, chicken.” Uh, I find it’s very difficult to hear the girls telling you what you have to eat.
I: Right.
G: That’s one of the bad points because they have the mask on and they’re talking rather fast.
I: And do the residents have to wear masks at any point or is it just the staff?
G: Uh, no. Even when Alan and- when my relatives come up to see me, they, uh, come up to my room and they wear a mask. I don’t have to wear a mask.
I: Oh.
G: But if I have to wear a mask if I went out to the store just out the uh- just down across the way.
I: Right.
G: Yup.
I: Um, so what do you think your friends and family and the other residents are feeling about all of this?
G: My friends and relatives? Uh, my relatives are very pleased that, um, Bridlewood is so strict.
I: Mhm.
G: That- they say that it is for us, which it is. They’re being very strict and when they kept the people out, knock on wood, not one of us has had the virus here. And so, they are very pleased and sometimes I grumble- I find the first few months were ok… July [groans][laughs]
I: [laughs]
G: Because you don’t know how long it’s going on but you- you have to say to yourself “well just take it today; just get through today.”
I: Right.
G: If you start worrying about how long this is going to go on, you’re going to land yourself in the nut house! [laughs] So we-we don’t worry about tomorrow we just get through today.
I: Right. And the other residents? I know you said you’re grumblin’ amongst yourselves.
G: Yeah, well when we talk amongst ourselves, we say, “well how long is it gonna last” but uh, we’re all pleased that Bridlewood is strict. Because, uh, if they weren’t strict, we might get the virus; we don’t want the virus. So, uh, they’re all, uh, we can it if was all take it one day at a time. And it’s best that we talk to each other-
I: Mhm
G: -because once you speak to each other you feel better, I think.
I: Yeah!
G: But we don’t discuss it with that staff, because the staff are doing their very best to help us so we don’t want them to know we’re a bit discouraged sometimes. But I’m taking it one day at a time and when it’s over, it’s over. [laughs]
I: [laughs] yeah.
G: But boy! [laughs] It gets on your nerves sometimes. [sighs]
I: Um, if you were writing a book about this point in time, about the pandemic, what would you include?
G: About the virus or how we’re doing?
I: About how you’re doing.
G: How we’re doing. Eh-
I: Or about, how the virus is affecting other people.
G: Well, I think it’s affecting us all but, en, we know that it’s for our own good so we just kind of accept it. But we’d feel better if we know how long, which of course, we don’t.
I: Mhm.
G: But, um, I think we’ve kind of got used to it, if you know what I mean? [laughs] By five months, you know?
I: yeah.
G: But, you know, we’re just… we just carry one. And now the entertainers are back so that’s once a week, uh, so that keeps us busy. And, also, uh, they have the exercises now and everything like that.
I: Oh good.
G: But, uh, you have to mark everything down, like, uh if you’re going to go do exercise you have to put your name; they have to know how many are coming to the exercises and to the other things. So they’re opening up very slowly.
I: Well that’s good. What sort of entertainers? Have you- Have you had any so far?
G: Yes, we’ve had three. Uh, we had one yesterday but I had the runs so I couldn’t go. He’s [unintelligible] and he’s a wonderful singer. And we had Arleen [Crinn?] last week… no, two weeks ago, I think, and she’s very good and then the next week, we have it now every Tuesday, Jimmy… (I can’t remember his name) he came and I missed a see because Alan and [Lusanne?] came one day and I didn’t go to hear Jimmy and I couldn’t go because I had the runs. [laughs]
I: Hmm.
G: So I’ve only seen it once. But I- I- I didn’t miss the entertainment at all ‘cuz I was busy in my room.
I: Right.
G: You know? You keep busy. You read a lot and you write letters and all that stuff.
I: So, um, is there anything you’d like to talk about? Anything you’d like people to know about going through the pandemic?
G: Well, I’d like everybody to do what they’re supposed to do and maybe we wouldn’t be having this reoccurrence!
I: Right.
G: The youngsters I find, are going swimming and they’re going to the beach and they should- they are not paying attention to this distancing. You know?
I: Mhm.
G: Even in the elevator, uh, we’re only supposed to have two. I think if everybody, uh, did what they’re supposed to do the virus might end! Sooner or later! But it’s not going to end when you see them in the States on the beach and in Canada on the beach. Everybody is not doing what they’re supposed to do and if they did the virus might, uh, stop.
I: Mhm.
G: What do you think?
I: I think that it would still be happening but it would be happening a lot less-
G: Yes, that’s what I’m-
I: And we might be able to get it under control, for sure.
G: Gosh, yes! Yeah. So, we’ll have to wait and see.
I: Yup.
G: Yes.
I: Only time will tell, as they say.
G: [laughs] Yes.
I: Alright, well that’s all the questions I have, Gwen.
G: Oh, well, gosh! That wasn’t bad!
I: No, it went very fast.
G: Yup. And, my gosh, you have to send all this stuff out all the time?
I: Yup
G: Every time you have a q- somebody you talk to?
I: Yup
G: Oh, my golly! That’s keeping you busy. Well that was very interesting.

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