ARNPRIOR – Long-time Kinburn residents Barb and Leo Enright have also been snowbirds for a long time.
Roughly 11 years ago, at a Kinburn neighbour’s suggestion, the retired couple headed to Florida for six weeks. Leo, at the time, would help the neighbours keep their driveways and walkways clear of snow in the winter. He remembers clearly the -41 degree Celsius day, despite wearing gloves, he nearly froze his fingers off. It was time to try something new.
“There’s something to be said for shorts and sandals,” Leo told West Carleton Online today (March 27).
He and his wife are on Day Nine of self-isolation. Leo in his late 70s and Barb, “the young one” is less than 75 (that is the extent of the details we were given). After the first year down south, the Enrights would spend three months, January, February, March, in Florida every year for the next decade. This year was supposed to be even longer by half a month. The couple, who make the trip by car, decided to pull the plug early on the southern trip. When news of the coronavirus spread slightly faster than the coronavirus itself, they knew it was time to head home.
“We left early because of the virus,” Leo said. “We were listening pretty carefully. I was as ready as anybody to make a joke. But we could tell it was coming our way. We worried about being able to cross the border. At first, I was kidding. Then it became more and more serious.”
It takes the Enrights about a week to make the drive from Florida to the Valley. They made it to the border at 9:14 a.m. on March 18. They did not know what to expect. Crossing at Detroit-Windsor, whatever they were expecting, didn’t happen.
The border was a ghost town. Including their own, there were only three cars in line. There was no waiting.
“Absolutely not,” Leo said. “They just waved us through, and we were on our way. They gave us some French literature about the coronavirus. I asked, how are you? and they didn’t even answer back.”
It took less then five minutes.
“They didn’t even ask us about alcohol,” Leo said. “They just wanted to get the old folks through.”
After 40 years living in Kinburn, right beside the corner store, the Enrights moved to Arnprior around five years ago. Leo is a retired teacher. He spent the last 10 years of his career teaching at West Carleton Secondary School in its first 10 years of being open. Barb spent two years as the Kinburn Community Association president. They both helped organize the former Kinburn Christmas Parade and the popular bed races during the winter carnival.
“We had a lot of fun,” Leo said. “We tried to give back as much as we could.”
Usually the Enrights take a leisurely return home stopping at friends and family for a visit. The reason they cross at Detroit is so they can stop in Whitby to visit their son Shannon his wife and two young children.
“We didn’t even stop to say hi to the grandkids,” Leo said. “We waved from the highway passing by. All that was curtailed.”
And once back in Canada, they were ready to self-isolate. On a day (March 27) when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to order at risk of jail-time travelling Canadians to self-isolate for 14 days because so many had refused the previous requests, the Enrights didn’t have to be asked twice. It was the plan after driving straight home from the border.
“We ordered our medications from Clancy’s (pharmacy in Arnprior),” Leo said. “We got them delivered. And Matt (their son) went and got the groceries before we arrived. We heard that self-isolation was going to be necessary, so why not? The virus is a ripple effect. You don’t even know if you have it. You can’t tell. You might be standing in line in front of someone. They might give you a smile and they might give you the virus.”
It’s been boring, but a necessary part of helping to stop the spread. After nine days, neither Barb nor Leo have shown any symptoms associated with COVID-19.
“So far so good, I guess,” Leo said. “I’m trying to stay busy playing computer games.”
Leo spent time chopping ice out of the driveway. Barb was working on the cupboards when West Carleton Online called.
“We’re not doing much, but we’re getting a few things done,” Leo said.
Their self-isolation ends April 1. Kind of a sick joke – no pun intended.
“We’re getting used to this,” Barb said. “We grew up in a time when there were only radios. Not even TV. We kept out of mischief by building things. I think this is going to be the new normal. Not for a couple of weeks, but months.”
Barb says, once their self-imposed self-isolation ends, they too will make changes to try to keep the herd safe.
“We will probably do one-person shopping,” she said. “We’ll do some shopping for our friends. You don’t take your family to the store or gatherings anymore.”
The goal is to keep people healthy, stop the spread and take the pressure off Canada’s health system.
“In the best of times people think they can just go to the Emergency Room instead of their doctor,” Barb said. “For things like colds and flus. It’s been overused for a long time.”