David Prince, my 96-year-old Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor father, lives alone, around the corner from me. During 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world and the people of Victoria were locked down, my concerns over caring for Dad became more and more acute.
Dad’s many activities were cancelled. He had few friends left. He no longer drove. He was not online. I feared for his mental health. What could I do to alleviate Dad’s boredom and inertia?
We began to spend every afternoon reading together at my place, on the couch in the lounge room. We needed to get comfortable – we were in it for the long haul. (Not that I knew that this long haul would morph into a mighty marathon.)
I brought out blankets. Dad wanted to sit up straight, with a cushion behind his lower back and a footstool upon which to stretch out his legs, covered by a blanket. I preferred to sprawl along one length of the couch with my pillow behind me, covered by two blankets. So our reading ritual began.
What did we read? Mainly Holocaust memoirs. Perhaps this does not appear to be an appropriate genre. But for us it was. Reading aloud to Dad about prewar Jewish Polish childhoods induced him to remember and talk about his own early days growing up in Lodz.