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'Hey Grandma, Mind If I Record Our Conversation?'

Jenna Dooley
NIU student Joyce DeFauw of Geneseo, Illinois during a campus visit in 2019.

In Illinois, the pandemic means remote learning for college students. At retirement communities, it’s been weeks of strict social distancing. One Illinois woman is living in both worlds. Joyce DeFauw lives at the Liberty Village assisted living facility in Geneseo, Illinois near the Quad Cities. At 87, she’s also the oldest online student at Northern Illinois University. WNIJ News Director Jenna Dooley has a close connection with DeFauw and shared portions of their recent conversation.


[Phone rings]

JOYCE: Hello?

JENNA: Hi, Grandma. It's your granddaughter, Jennifer.

JOYCE: Hi, my baby.

JENNA: I wanted to ask your permission before our conversation continued. I've got a little doohickey thing on my phone, where I can record our conversation because I think I'd be interested in hearing about your experience and having the ability to listen back to it and maybe share it with some of the radio audience that I work with. Would you be okay with that?

JOYCE: Oh, I'll try.

JENNA: It just means you can't swear. [laughs] The reason I wanted to call obviously, is to make sure you're doing well. But I was thinking, you know, you're kind of in a unique situation because you're also trying to finish your degree as a college student.

JOYCE: It's been a blessing because had I not done that I would have never gotten a computer and with the way the world is now. It isn't that I couldn't have found something to do like puzzles or read or write letters or whatever. But there's so much with the computer. You can go from one thing to another and watch it day and night if you want to.

JENNA: You are already an online student. There are some students now at NIU who are trying to do what you've been doing for the last two semesters and they're trying to learn it kind of fresh. What advice would you have for them?

JOYCE: Well, I have that advantage because this is the only way I could have done it. So I don't have to change that part. So I'm really ahead of the game there. And so just keep learning because they have that ability. But I would say they are young and they are much more active than I am. But just stay with it. Because that's our only hope right now in my opinion.

JENNA: You've got a really big family -- you're used to having your kids and grandkids come and visit you. What has it been like where you're at now?

JOYCE: Now they can't come to see me and I can't leave, and I haven't been for about, I'd say six weeks.

JENNA: Can you tell me about how that's been? How that’s been going?

JOYCE: Um, it's okay. I can't go to church, I have to stay in my room. And when I go out, I have to wear a mask. I have to stay six feet away from anyone in front of me or behind me, [before] we can pass.

I don't like it. But I can change and I can learn. And I'm trying to obey rather than buck the system. I could complain. And we can complain if we want to, but I want to take the positives. And I don't know where this is headed. But we've had catastrophes like the Depression and polio. It took many lives, which this virus seems to be doing.

JENNA: It sounds like it's kind of, in your opinion, part of the greater good -- it's the shared sacrifice that needs to be done.

JOYCE: Right. And these blessed people that come in are, you know, workers every day and we all have to wear masks all the time on our face. And what they have to put up with, you know, bring all our food, come get our things, our laundry, or cleaning, all of that stuff is done for us. And so I really admire the workers that put in these hours of work for us.

JENNA: Well, I am glad that you're sounding good and you're being well and following rules and watching your mouth. That's good.

JOYCE: Trying to yes. Okay, Jen. Thank you. Yep. Bye.