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Helen Ryan, principal, Cork College of Commerce, writing a letter to her mother.Picture Denis Minihane.
Helen Ryan, principal, Cork College of Commerce, writing a letter to her mother.Picture Denis Minihane.
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Handwritten letters to her 92-year-old mum; Keeping in touch in the Covid-19 era

HANDWRITTEN letters to her 92-year-old mother Frances is how Helen Ryan is maintaining contact in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Helen, who is the principal of the College of Commerce, used to visit her mother regularly at St Luke’s Nursing Home with her dog, Seamus, who was a much-loved visitor at the centre.

Unfortunately, due to the visiting restrictions implemented to stop the spread of Covid-19, Helen and Seamus, haven’t seen Frances in some time and in an effort to stay in touch, Helen began writing letters to her mother.

Helen Ryan, principal, Cork College of Commerce, pictured with her dog Seamus as she was writing a letter to her mother.Picture Denis Minihane.
Helen Ryan, principal, Cork College of Commerce, pictured with her dog Seamus as she was writing a letter to her mother.
Picture Denis Minihane.

“My brother rings because he lives in Manchester, but I have found she associates phone calls from me with bad news,” Helen explained.

 “She always had this notion in her head that if Helen rang it would because she had something bad to say, so I don’t ring her I write.

“She keeps the letters in her handbag and I just put in stories about the dogs and pictures. She is a great woman for photos!” 

Seamus the dog with Frances Ryan.
Seamus the dog with Frances Ryan.

Helen admitted it has been hard not being able to visit, but she knows it is for the right reasons.

“You miss the things you normally associate with this time of the year, so that would be first time without the blanket or her gloves and memories come up on your Facebook page of previous years, first time out with the flowers, and you don’t have any of that, but she is safe and she has company and she is healthy and they are doing everything they can down there to keep them amused and occupied.

“She is not one of the elderly that is living alone and afraid, so there are plenty of positives to where she is, but we can’t see her.” 

The college principal said that she knows Frances is happy at the centre.

"I keep an eye on the Facebook page and she is involved in all the activities. They had their own St Patrick’s Day parade and people all over the country are writing to them."

While others have been seen on social media visiting elderly relatives outside a window, Helen said she would be concerned she might upset her mother.

“I’m thinking it might make me feel better to stand outside the window and be able to see her but I am not sure it would make her feel better.

“I would love to do it, but if she cried my heart would break because I wouldn’t be able to put my arms around her. 

"I am tempted, but I don't know would it be worth it.” 

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Helen also said life has been turned upside down for her four dogs, her rescue dog Seamus, her German Shepherd Murdock, her retriever Henry and another rescue, a collie called Dakota.

Helen, who walks her dogs twice a day, in the morning before work and in the evening, said their routine has been turned upside down.

“They are used to walking in perfect isolation, very quiet and private walks, now it’s like walking down Patrick’s Street.” 

Helen said the early mornings are not too bad, but the evening walks are very busy and Seamus has to be on a leash most of the time.

"The dogs had a very set routine for some time, but it is not too bad, we have space out the back and the weather is good."

The nursing home put out a Facebook request earlier this week for children to correspond with its residents and, on the first day received 200 letters and 100 emails.

They want to promote a link between the generations during these difficult times where they can be of mutual help to each other.