COVID-19 story by Denise Maddox, July 20, 2020

Denise Maddox shares her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in Madison. Denise talks about homeschooling her grandson and the lifestyle changes her family has made in order to stay safe. She talks about her mental and physical health, and the loss of several loved ones in her community.

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  • Identifier: covid19-058
    Narrator Name: Denise Maddox
    Interviewer Name: Andres Torres
    Date of interview: 7/20/2020

    [00:00:03] Start of interview
    [00:00:30] What have the last several months looked like for you?
    [00:02:55] Taking care of your grandson
    [00:05:23] What kind of thoughts or reactions were you having when this all started, in March?
    [00:09:17] Who is Craig Werner?
    [00:09:57] What was your family life like when things shut down?
    [00:10:48] As this pandemic has progressed, has anything changed for you about your feelings about it?
    [00:11:56] Are there any other moments in particular that stand out?
    [00:13:56] Are the losses you’ve experienced related to the pandemic?


    Interviewer: Hello. My name is Andres Torres, and I'm here with Stories From a Distance, which is part of the Living History Project, an archive of stories and testimonials from Madisonians. And now, today's narrator will introduce themselves.

    Denise Maddox: My name is Denise Maddox. I'm a grandmother, a mother, a Madison⁠—lived in Madison twenty-two years now.

    Interviewer: Oh, wonderful. Well, thanks for being here with us, Denise. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience during this pandemic and what the last several months have looked like for you?

    Denise Maddox: The last several months of the pandemic, I homeschooled my grandson, who is a senior at (unintelligible) charter. So, it was interesting⁠—his senior year. We planned for many things, and a lot of his events have been cut short. He was an essential worker⁠—he still work, but he was an essential worker⁠—and at home I made sure it's a lifestyle change. We got disinfectant by the door, hand sanitizer by the door. You come in, take the mask, take our clothes off. It goes straight to the⁠—what do you call that?⁠—washer. Wash our hands, you know, stuff like that. So it's changed our life dramatically. Spray down the door. (laughs) Yes.

    Interviewer: Definitely, there's a lot of new habits that we're all getting into, as far as keeping our hands clean and making sure we have a mask when we leave the house now.

    Denise Maddox: Yes. At first, I did not have a mask at all. It was very hard for us to obtain masks. My friend's daughter-in-law started making them. And so I ordered them. They were $3.50 apiece. That's how we got our masks, and I found out a lot of seniors (unintelligible) did not have masks. I tried to buy some, and a lady donated all the senior masks.

    Interviewer: Oh, wow.

    Denise Maddox: That was good. Yeah. Then another thing, I’m always a person who plan ahead, so when they had food shortages, I didn't run short of nothing. The only thing I was running out of was the Lysol. And I learned the concentrate and made it myself.

    Interviewer: You didn't have any problems with toilet paper or anything?

    Denise Maddox: I'm a person who always plans ahead. (laughs) Yeah.

    Interviewer: Very smart of you. You said you were helping your grandson, is that right?

    Denise Maddox: Yeah, I had my grandson for five and a half years. He was homeschooled during that time, and he graduated tenth out of 221 students. He was high honors. Yeah.

    Interviewer: Oh, that's wonderful. He was being homeschooled even before this pandemic?

    Denise Maddox: Yes. Yes, I love him.

    Interviewer: So as far as that goes, not much changed in that respect.

    Denise Maddox: Not much changed, but I found out my neighbors, they really struggled with their children. Homeschooling.

    Interviewer: Yeah, I think that sounds like something that's been across the board. People with kids in public schools, having a lot of difficulty figuring out, you know, how to handle that.

    Denise Maddox: Yeah, this is⁠—I-4(??)⁠—is a public school, part of the public school system, and I recommend it. I mean, it's excellent. Really. Like going to college. It's double or triple-time the work.

    Interviewer: Wow.

    Denise Maddox: Had to keep him challenged. And also he was in therapy, because (unintelligible), and I've been in therapy since I was nineteen, so since I got him I had him in therapy. I had a (unintelligible) worker, had a social worker⁠—I had all that in line already. But I did get greatly depressed during this time. Because I got sick. You don't know where the pain and stuff was coming from.

    Interviewer: Was this at the beginning of the pandemic?

    Denise Maddox: It started when Julie and I had received a flu shot on Halloween. And that following Monday also the beginning of my shingles shot. Shingles is a series of two, three months apart. I had precursors of high blood pressure, diabetes. I have arthritis, neuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

    Interviewer: So that probably puts you in a little bit of a higher risk group, huh?

    Denise Maddox: Right, and so they recommend every year I take a flu shot.

    Interviewer: Do you remember⁠—I would say I think it was around mid-March, when things kind of started getting serious here in the United States, as far as the pandemic goes, what kind of thoughts or reactions were you having a few months ago when this was all kind of becoming very real for all of us?

    Denise Maddox: Well, I started seeing evidence, and I look at international news on PBS⁠—I love PBS (laughs)⁠—and I think it was mid-December⁠—they started broadcasting. So I knew about it mid-December, and I said, Oh my. They got⁠—I think it’s a city of thirty million people, something like that, and then by the time end of the year came, I knew about it. They said, like, fifteen million people left the city. I was like, Where’d they go? (laughs) I knew it was gonna happen. They allowed fifteen million people to leave the city. I knew it was gonna happen.

    Interviewer: Yeah, it was interesting how the focus kind of went from all these other places in the world, and then all of a sudden it became a very real thing here in the United States, and then we didn't really hear so much about what was happening in the rest of the world after that.

    Denise Maddox: Yeah I heard about it, because I watch international news. I don't watch American news. And in the international news, it was already there and there was a lot of stuff happening there. People falling dead in the streets and stuff like that, and reporting it, and then they started reporting all around like that. I think because I was in the [UW] Odyssey Project, and I think it was a professional cook⁠—no, Craig Werner⁠—he really enlightened us how to do our own research, so that's what I did. I did my own research, so I knew about it in December.

    Interviewer: Okay.

    Denise Maddox: So that's when I really blocked my—I started getting sick, but I really stopped myself—I didn't go out unless I had to. Washing my hands. And my grandson works on the weekend, so I was really cautious. I think the store Pick ‘n Save started getting real clean—I started smelling bleach the second week in February. They started being cautious and stuff—Pick ‘n Save, right there in Fitchburg. And right away, they was on it.

    Interviewer: Yeah, I remember at the library, we started becoming very diligent about disinfecting things, and I think that would probably be mid-to-late February as well.

    Denise Maddox: Mid-to-late February, yep. Because it got all over. The first case, when it came to the United States, I’m like, How can they not stop this case? They can stop people coming in. It just happened—the way it happened, I'm like, Something ain't right. To this day, I'm like, Something ain't right. And the first thing Craig Warner always told us about history, pinpoints in history, is that when they want to do something, there's a shortage of something, and this time it was toilet paper, paper products, and disinfectant, right? And I said, Wow. Do your research.

    Interviewer: So can you tell us who Craig Werner is?

    Denise Maddox: Craig Werner is a teacher from the Odyssey Project. I was in the first year, 203/204 class, and he was our history teacher—US history, oral history. So he taught us about what really happened (laughs) when emancipation happened, when slavery happened, going all the way down to World War I to Civil Rights to today, our present time. So he taught us to do our history.

    Interviewer: That's great. So if you don’t mind, can we go back and talk a little bit about your family life? You said you were homeschooling your grandson. Do you all live in the same household?

    Denise Maddox: Yes

    Interviewer: Were you all kind of quarantining together?

    Denise Maddox: Yes, yes, but during this time he was an essential worker. He worked. So he'd get in the house, he'd take the clothes off, wash everything. Go straight to the bathroom (laughs).

    Interviewer: And were you also working from home, or—?

    Denise Maddox: No, I stay at home. I've been retired. I’m disabled, legally disabled.

    Interviewer: Okay. So as this pandemic has progressed over the past several months, has anything changed for you about your feelings about it?

    Denise Maddox: Well, I know it's not over (laughs) and I lost weight, because I ate more healthier. We ate healthy, very healthy. Drunk a lot of lemon juice (laughs), and yeah, I lost about a good twenty pounds (laughs). I ain’t gain no weight.

    Interviewer: That's fantastic. A positive side effect.

    Denise Maddox: Yes, and my grandson—because I was older, he was very cautious, because I’m the one who would get sick. He would hit my back like the nurse show you how to do, you hit the back. Like I said, hot water and lemon juice, garlic you know—did a little research. My chest felt a little burning. I put a little hot water, lemon, little baking soda real quick—just a little baking soda—drink it. It goes right away; the pain, clogs and stuff.

    Interviewer: That's good to know. Well, is there anything else, any moments in particular that stand out or any kind of experiences that you would like to share with us?

    Denise Maddox: Yes, my [grand]son, when he worked—a lot of teenagers' parents did not allow them to work. A lot of people did not work. It was interesting, and to be on the frontline, to teach him about how serious this was—because for a moment there, I went to his job—I didn't see him with with a mask. I’m like, “You're gonna wear that mask, wash your hands, that glove, or you come home with me.” I went up there and got him for real, and I told him he don't got options—okay? And from that point, I put my foot down.

    Interviewer: Sometimes you have to.

    Denise Maddox: Yeah, as a parent you really gotta be diligent—I'm a grandparent—of making sure the kids are safe, and anytime I take my kid back to school how diligent is that teacher gonna be? She got her own family, you know what I'm saying? So I know me with this one child, it's like—and making sure he do his work and who he's socializing with, you know, making appointments through phone, learning how to use Zoom—oh yeah, technology. I learned how to use Zoom (laughs)

    Yeah, experienced death in the family. I was grieving very heavy. I lost my—first week of March, I lost my auntie, my mother's youngest sister, and my cousin in less than twenty-four hours’ time.

    Interviewer: Oh no.

    Denise Maddox: A lot of my great cousins, they died. I mean, we had a lot of death. This past week, I know at least twenty deaths.

    Interviewer: And that's just unrelated to the pandemic?

    Denise Maddox: Yeah—it's related. A lot of people—I found out a lot of people, how it’s happening is people having kidney failure, heart attacks, aneurysms, lungs—it also got something to do with covid, because it’s thickening of the blood. So we got a lot of deaths I’m dealing with. I was grieving, I didn't even want to answer my phone.

    Interviewer: That's understandable.

    Denise Maddox: Yeah, yup. I'm in therapy (laughs) and we've had to figure out how—I do phone calls, now I do Zoom, but—grieving. It's hard to deal(??). And my body hurts every day. Don't know why it hurts, especially here. I'm not around nobody. I'm going there, I got my [holds up face masks]—I keep me two on me (laughs) Yeah.

    Interviewer: Yeah, you gotta have those masks close now.

    Denise Maddox: Yes.

    Interviewer: Well, Denise, thank you so much for being with us today.

    Denise Maddox: You're welcome—and anything you want to ask me before you leave?

    Interviewer: I think I've covered the questions I wanted to cover, so thanks for sharing your experience, talking about your family, and helping your grandson through school. It's been great to hear about everything, and I just wanted to say thank you and I hope that you have a great day today.

    Denise Maddox: Okay. Only thing I get out of this is that people need to do more research. Our American news is not covering good, if you look at the international news. Do your research. It's always the pinpoints in history repeating itself. Right now history’s repeating itself. That's all I’m gonna say—it’s just, it’s crazy.

    Interviewer: Yeah, sources of information are very important in this day and age.

    Denise Maddox: Yes, and I think people should not live in fear, they should live in smartness. Like, Hong Kong never shut down. There's places never shut down, because right away they got the mask, right away—you know what I'm saying? So I think if we—just be more cordial. And then lets get through this.

    Interviewer: I agree. Thanks again, Denise.