British Columbia

75 days and counting: Dale Edwards hasn't been outside since moving into her mother's care home

Dale Edwards has had lots of time to think about all the things she misses — growing food, culture, music — and how they all connect her to the world she's been separated from as she helps care for her 97-year-old mom at Vancouver's Point Grey Private Hospital.

Edwards, 71, hasn't tended to her garden since March. So, her friends threw her a virtual garden party

Dale Edwards watches via video chat as her friends plant vegetables in the garden outside her home in Vancouver. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Dale Edwards' face is so small that it's barely visible on the cellphone that's propped up against a basket on the edge of the tiny garden outside her home.

Still, her friends can see her smile as she watches them laugh and plant vegetables in her precious space.

This is the closest Edwards has come to the outside world since she moved into her elderly mother's care facility on March 15, just before Point Grey Private Hospital in Vancouver introduced a ban on visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edwards slept on a mat beside her mother Diana's bed for a month before she was able to secure her own bed in the facility, which has strict health and safety protocols in place that prevent her from going outdoors.

She loves that she can care for her 97-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia and constipation issues, but she really misses fresh air. 

"I do walk around as much as I can within the facility, but I can't even leave my second floor," she said.

"I've been pretty much confined to just a small little walk around, so my biggest issue is not getting exercise."

It's been a tough 2½ months with no swimming, gardening or face-to-face contact with her friends.

But Edwards, 71, has had lots of time to think about all the things she misses — growing food, culture, music — and how they all connect her to the world she's been separated from.

That's what the gardenside video chat with her friends Debra Sparrow and Anne Talbot-Kelly is all about: reconnection.

Anne Talbot-Kelly (right) offered to tend to Edwards' garden while she is caring for her elderly mother. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

'We've had to re-evaluate who we are'

For decades, Edwards has leaned on Talbot-Kelly for gardening advice, and has picked up an appreciation for food sustainability along the way.

That passion connects with her love for Indigenous culture, which she shares with Sparrow, a well known artist from the Musqueam First Nation.

Talbot-Kelly says it's sad that her friend can't physically visit the garden she loves, but she hopes Edwards enjoys her virtual visit.

"One of the most important things to her is her little, tiny garden that's ten feet by six feet," Talbot-Kelly said.

"I offered to tend to it because she's a good friend."

Sparrow says it's important, especially during the pandemic, to appreciate all the things people tend to take for granted, such as good food and good friendships.

"I think we've had to re-evaluate who we are as human beings," she said.

"We have to come back to this very piece of earth that we plant in our roots who we are as human beings."

Edwards' friend Debra Sparrow made a speech during the virtual garden party. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Getting out

Edwards is trying to get companion status at the seniors facility, which would allow her to occasionally leave the building.

If she's successful, the first thing she'll do is head for the water.

"If I had a way to jump out of this window and into the ocean, I would," she said, laughing.

"I'm a swimmer, so that's been the hardest thing for me for all of these weeks."

In the meantime, she passes the time by listening to Motown music with her mother and, if she really wants to put her mom in a good mood, she'll turn on some Sam Cooke.

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

About the Author

Jesse Johnston worked in private radio from 2004 to 2014 in Vancouver, Red Deer and Calgary. He spent the next five years based out of Surrey (his hometown) as CBC's South of the Fraser reporter until he joined the Impact Team in 2019. Jesse is a two-time recipient of the RTDNA Dave Rogers Award for Best Short Radio Feature. He loves radio, running and dogs. He also loves the Detroit Lions, but if you follow him on Twitter, you already knew that. @Jesse_Johnston

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