Blog Update 2/2/22
Who knows what day it is, or rather how many days in we are? The time is counted in years now, not days. But the numbers of the infected are still noted, the numbers of the dead still rise. I sat here two years ago to start a blog on the lockdown – to pay attention and immortalise how we coped when we stayed in together, hunkered down, isolating at home to avoid catching Covid-19. I wanted to remember. I wanted our son to remember. I wanted to bear witness, to capture those moments and pass those memories on. Perhaps as a positive, a ‘we did this’ and a reminder of our part in history, ‘we coped with this’, ‘we got through this’, a perspective for our son when he looked back.
Only we have never left the ‘going through it’ bit since. We have left the lockdown yes, but everything else has remained the same to cope with. The isolations, the second lockdown, more isolations, and the different variants evolving to be named and avoided with masks and hand gel. We have tried to go back to work and school, tried to carry on, but we have experienced a depressing new normal. Face masks are abandoned in gutters in every town and city and are caught like lost flags in village hedgerows - hanging forlornly but never innocuously next to the thin, small black plastic bags of dog poo found adorning tree branches like another decaying decorations of a diseased society. We argue over vaccinations, are wary of civil liberties being gathered up with the need to protect society and lost to us forever - like the green fields churned up under bulldozers where planning applications were granted in quiet utility as people shifted their gaze for a moment. Their urge to protect thwarted by advantageous expediency, their sorrow compounded by violently uprooted trees and homeless birds flying helplessly around the fields they remembered making their nests in and raising their young.
A pandemic still then. We are dealing with the threat of the coronavirus or the ‘caronaplague’, as someone called it in an email to me recently. We have gone from fearful avoidance to resigned acceptance and everything in between. Perhaps we have to learn to live with it now? The media liberally showers us with opinions – ‘people need to catch it so we can all build immunity and get back to normal’, ‘there is no virus, it’s all about government control’, ‘this new variant isn’t as dangerous as the original’, ‘we need to treat it like we do the flu – people will catch it, and some will die’. I listen to the noise. Because that’s all I hear, noise. It feels empty, dull, devoid of humanity or humility. I think of the people who have lost their lives to this deadly virus, of the families left grieving and the harsh reality of the circumstances they found their goodbyes lost in along with their loved ones. I think of all those thankfully but slowly recovering from their experience of catching the virus, whichever mutation that might have been. Of all the lives affected by fear, isolation, neglect, illness and loss due to this pandemic. The strain on families, relationships, businesses, incomes, mental health and our children.
I think of the second pink line appearing on our son’s lateral flow test that he took Sunday evening. It was so faint I could hardly see it, I peered at it from all angles as in some lights it wasn’t even visible. But in my heart, I had known it would be there. He had been feeling ill all weekend – he had developed a cough and was hot all over. He has tested positive for Covid-19. That’s why I picked up my blog again. I could remember feeling so scared of this moment, back in that lockdown, when I blogged about walks and games we played as we stayed together and watched the virus take hold across our nation, throughout the world. And here now, I have been logging our son’s details on a website to order a PCR test so it could confirm the test we had already done. I felt sick and anxious. I watched our son for signs the symptoms were getting worse as I heard his cough abate only to take hold again. The height of the symptoms seemed to be on Saturday, the day before he tested positive – a sneaky virus, it doesn’t let itself be detected until it has done it’s worst, infected not only it’s host but those around it too. There seems to be so many things I have to read, to fill in, send off and remember. I check the calendar, double-check all his activities so I can log the details for track and trace – I wonder when he caught it, there seems to be dates the website is more interested in and I pore over his movements.
I blame myself for going back to work – for having face-to-face therapy clients, perhaps I have been lax? I had gone back to wearing masks in sessions but perhaps that was not enough? I had been out for walks and met up with friends…had I brought this into our home? Our son had worn his mask diligently at high school, even when the rules said he didn’t have to. I knew he worried about bringing it home, giving it to his parents. I wanted to reassure him that he couldn’t have done more to keep us safe. We have gone through everything as a family together but now we need to separate up somehow, the advice on all the emails that ping back to me urge us to sort this out and calculate the day this isolation can end. Ten days. Or, if from the fifth day he does two negative lateral flow tests then he can be with us again. Then he can go back to school. Then he can stop being bored. But will he stop being worried? I doubt it. Children are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in so many ways – their experience of school and family life shaped by it. I want to tell them how proud I am of them; how much they are coping with and that they should never feel alone or burdened. There should always be someone to talk to, to help them. I wonder at the reality, their reality. I know they are resilient, but this doesn’t mean they don’t need help, or guidance, or a listening ear or a caring word. I hope my son feels he has all these things in his parents, his friends…
Our son has made a den of his room. We laugh and call him ‘Biohazard 1’. He wears a mask, and we take him his lunch, snacks and evening meal upstairs. He hasn’t much schoolwork to do – the teachers haven’t set it as they haven’t the children at home in the huge numbers they once had. But as I ring in to keep school updated, they tell me they have more pupils off again, teachers too. The numbers ebb and flow – some of my son’s friends have caught the virus numerous times, he was one of the last to have caught it for the first time. Yesterday, Wednesday he admitted how bored he felt as I checked in on him from his bedroom doorway and we had a muffled, masked conversation.
‘I just miss you both. I miss the hugs…’, he shrugged forlornly.
‘It’s the things we do every day isn’t it? The things we take for granted because they are part of the fabric, the pattern of our lives.’ I offered, feeling my way, feeling adrift, useless, side-lined, obsolete.
‘Like human touch…going outside’, he confirmed.
I laughed at his last statement. He had the grace to look abashed.
‘Yes, I know, me wanting to go outside!’
We both laughed. I have never begrudged him his love of electronic games, but I still tease him about it. I still keep an eye on it, and I still enjoy playing with him…but rarely now, his days of wanting his mum involved are waning fast. He is so much better at them all than me – his mind sharp, quick, strategic and accurate. All the things I feel I am slowing down on!
‘You can do a test tomorrow, see if you can leave the quarantine zone early’, I remind him, hopefully.
‘The dog is missing you big time’, I add, possibly unhelpfully I think on reflection, but I have started so I finish. ‘He can’t understand why you are upstairs but don’t come down and fuss him’.
We both smile at each other. I can feel his sadness. It’s a small house to try to avoid each other in yet it proves how big the distance can feel when you can’t reach someone who is so near to you. So dear to you. I realise isolation takes many forms.
So, we arrive at today, Thursday, and I am writing this blog piece, feeling I need to add something to the original, a codicil. I feel like I am addressing myself somehow, that me who was in the past as much as this me here now, as well as whatever, whoever I will be in the future. The silence is interrupted by a little bird chirruping away in the guttering above the bathroom window at the back of the house. Determined, small, he doesn’t give up, is not deterred. He announces his presence, insists on being taken notice of, of bringing about an action. He is a cause and a responsibility. A reminder to me of the life outside my window, the importance of everything that shares this planet with me and a token of his parent’s investment in their future. Of their commitment to survival. I sit in the smallest bedroom looking out towards green farmland and the wooded hill to the front of the house. I hear another sound, the wrap of a walking stick on the front door. It is our elderly neighbour. I normally go round to check on her most days. She asked her carers to ring us yesterday to check how our son was. We have lived by each other for ten years. She has always been a good neighbour and we have tried to respond in kind. I hear my husband rummage for a mask in the box of them on the stairs, he checks she is wearing a mask and opens the door but steps back into the hall and I hear him remind her that it would be best to phone rather than come round. He is scared she will catch the virus he tells her. I hear her sigh and listen to her shuffling footsteps return the way they had come. I hear my husband sigh as he shuts the door. I know he will have waited a moment in the hall, looked up the stairs and grimaced as he hears our son’s cough cycle round once more.
Our son took his lateral flow test this morning and the second pink line slowly emerged again. Faint at first it gained ground, just like the virus itself. He had still tested positive for Covid-19, six days into his isolation. It doesn’t look like an early reprieve is likely but if he can get rid of his cough, I will feel he has had a reprieve, that he has remained relatively healthy. My husband had already taken a test and was, thankfully, clear. But for how long I caught myself wondering. How would it affect us compared to our son? I say ‘us’ because this morning I also watched two pink lines appear on my test, the second pink line, ever so faint, indistinct even. But I am feeling unwell – I know in my heart I have Covid-19. As I went upstairs to join our son I felt my husband’s concern, love and frustrations follow me.‘You are Biohazard 2 mum!’, our son quickly quipped. His mirth fading as fast as it had lit up his deep blue eyes.‘Are you feeling ok?’, he asked quietly. Watching me, scanning me for the truth in my answer.
‘I have a really sore throat and feel tired. I have felt so cold for days but now I feel hot. Sometimes I have felt confused, my head is still a bit woolly, and don’t say anything disrespectful about that!’, I answered and warned my son playfully all at the same time.
We are both upstairs now, my son and I. My husband had told our neighbour that I wouldn’t be able to come round to her, that I had caught the virus. My husband had shut the door and walked through the rooms downstairs alone. I thought that the sigh I had heard escape from each of them had been full of so many different thoughts and feelings. But perhaps I was wrong and there was a consensus in their sighs, a parity, a shared expression. It feels as though this virus has been determined to separate us up, isolate us indeed. In our homes and within our own homes. I am glad our son has his social media, his Xbox, his computer, his phone, to feel connected to the outside world, to stay connected to his friends. That is why I turned to my writing I realise, that is why my husband puts his mask on and comes upstairs to share a few minutes apart from, yet with us all the same. We want to feel connected. I never want that feeling of disconnection to get inside my head, or heart, no matter what else this virus makes me feel.