(AP) – Rosa Otero is preparing her dinner for another solitary dinner.
This pandemic Christmas Eve turned an extremely scarce moment when she was supposed to be with her family into another daily part of her life as a single widow.
83-year-old Otero normally travels to north-west Galicia across Spain from her small, neat apartment in Barcelona to spend the winter holidays with her family.
But travel restrictions and urge from health officials for infections to rise have persuaded Otero’s family to cancel their vacation plans for this year.
“I don’t feel like celebrating,” said Otero as she sat down to eat a plate of salmon and potatoes. “I don’t like Christmas because it brings me bad memories. My husband died in January seven years ago. Since then I have felt very alone. “
Otero is one of countless elderly people who are mostly poor and hidden indoors and who feel even more isolated than usual the night before Christmas.
Otero misses the camaraderie of her neighborhood’s publicly run senior citizen center, which she and many others often meet to hang out with friends, chat, or play a game of cards. This island of society was cut off due to the pandemic.
The only connection that keeps her fragile life connected to the world is the local primary care clinic. Medical workers, who have carried the heavy burden of fighting the virus in Spain as elsewhere, have done all they can to maintain home calls for the elderly who lack the means to fully support themselves.
The lifelong home of 80 year old Francisca Cano has become a warehouse for miscellaneous items. Cano knits, does cross stitch, makes paper flowers and constructs collages out of wood, plastic and paper, which she finds on the street.
The pandemic has resulted in her only being able to speak to her two sisters by phone.
“We missed each other this Christmas vacation,” Cano said. “When I got older, I went back to my childhood and did handicrafts like a girl. That way I can keep loneliness at bay. “
Then there are those whose social connections were already deleted before COVID-19 made socializing a threat.
José Ribes, 84, has been used to being alone since his wife left him. He kept the Spanish Christmas Eve tradition of eating shrimp. He peeled and ate them propped up in bed, where he has all of his meals and smokes cigarettes, which give his house a lingering smell of stale tobacco.
“My life is like my mouth,” said Ribes. “I don’t have any of my upper teeth while all of the lower ones are still there. I’ve always been like that, had all or nothing. “
Álvaro Puig also barely noticed the effects of the virus that have kept many families from gathering together.
81-year-old Puig lives in the old butcher’s shop, which specializes in horse meat, which he ran after inheriting it from his parents. Closed for a long time, the counter on which he looked after customers, the scales on which he weighed meat, the cash register on which he called bills are all intact. The no longer used walk-in refrigerator has become a miniature living room for its existence as a bachelor in the monastery. There he watches TV with his pet rabbit that he rescued from the street.
“I feel lonely these days. I often feel depressed, ”said Puig. “These holidays make me sad instead of happy. I hate them. Most of the family died. I’m one of the last ones left. I’m going to spend Christmas at home alone because I have no one to spend it with. “
AP author Joseph Wilson contributed to this report.