When I first heard about the Coronavirus, I treated it with a distinct lack of interest. At the start, it felt very like another potential over-reaction. A bit like Bird Flu, SARS and Mad Cow Disease. I remember being concerned about Bird Flu and reading articles and watching news programmes about Mad Cow Disease. So, at the start, I didn’t worry. I didn’t want to fall into that same trap again.
It was just the media overreacting. Scare-mongering. It was an example of one of the downsides of the internet and social media – too much information. Too many scary stories.
Now I feel like I’m living in a Hollywood disaster movie, but there’s no script. I’m living in hope that Bruce Willis, or Will Smith will put a plan together pretty bloody soon. Wonder Woman was pivotal in resolving a biological warfare issue – for God’s sake! Get Gal Gadot drafted in!!!
The problem with Hollywood is it’s all nonsense. But, we grow up believing that good outwits evil, that the princess always gets her prince and baddies always get their comeuppance. In the end.
There have been many times over the past few years when I have wanted to hold my hands up and shout “CUT!” (Careful!) When I have had enough at playing at grown-ups and want to go back to being a young girl. Protected from the world and the cruelty of it. Shielded from the harsh reality and ugly truth of the world by strong, capable, loving parents.
There have been many moments over the past few years when I have wished so hard to be able to talk to my mum. When I have begged the universe through wracking sobs for her. For her words of wisdom. Her words of comfort. Her words of encouragement and support. Her strength and determination. I thought I’d already reached my bottom. I thought it couldn’t get worse.
My father is poorly.
There I said it…. Or wrote it. As much as he is ready for me to write, anyway.
It doesn’t seem real. And we don’t yet know the prognosis, but it is real. Much more real than any Hollywood movie. Any fairy-tale I grew up believing. It is as real as the Coronavirus. It is scary. Unprecedented. I feel unanchored, though I’m not sure that’s even a word.
I am therefore in Coronavirus isolation in Scotland with my dad. The girls and I travelled here, not sure whether we’d be stopped and questioned. We travelled here, not sure if it was the right thing to do medically, but knowing it was the right thing to do morally. We are here to brighten his days. To prevent any dark thoughts from settling with our constant chatter, our garden treasure-hunts and musical theatre singalongs. Our days consist of dog walks, home-schooling, a bit of gallows humour when the mood takes us and colouring rainbows to decorate everyone of my father’s windows.
Last night we stood outside and clapped for our NHS. For my sister who is working in the ICU unit at Guy’s and Thomas’ in London. Braving the front-line whilst dealing with her own broken heart. I also raised a large glass of wine for my friend, Sian and her father, who passed away on Tuesday from Coronavirus. He was a marvellous man and my friend’s heart is truly broken.
Terrible things happen to good people. That is the truth. And I no longer believe in Hollywood’s interpretation of the world.
But, in amongst the pain and the uncertainty, the fear and the grief there is the best of humanity, if you look for it.
The people volunteering for the NHS in their hundreds of thousands. The neighbourhoods pulling together to support their vulnerable and elderly. My friends, who have been delivering food and medicines to people around their local area. School children singing for care home residents, to bring a little joy to their incarceration. Rainbows and messages of hope and support in windows up and down the country. Families posting videos of them singing, dancing, home-schooling. Neighbours out banging pots and pans to show their support for the NHS every Thursday evening. Joe Wicks and his lovely thighs.
Sounds like a feel-good Hollywood movie, doesn’t it?!!?
I feel like the treadmill of life has stopped for a while and we all have a moment to take a break from reality. To take stock of what is important and to cherish the quiet, the calm and the basics of life. I feel that the things we once valued have had their materialistic veils of irrelevance removed and instead, we are slowly learning to value and appreciate the things that matter: friendship, love, family, memories, moments.
We are all striving so hard to fit in, to achieve, to feel worthy. What we are slowly realising is that we are all worthy, no one ever really fits in and achievement is personal. It cannot and should not ever be compared or measured against another’s.
Despite the fear and grief that lives just beneath the surface – that embarrassingly appears when least expected – I am enjoying wallowing in home isolation. The pressure is off. We walk. We cook. We play in the garden. We bake. We laugh at each other and ourselves and we remember moments. We cannot visit mum, as the home is in lock-down. She is unaware of the craziness going on outside of her four walls and is apparently happy and settled. So instead, we dig out old photos and cook books and I stare longingly at her beautifully looping writing. Well-loved and remembered recipes that bring back vivid memories of family dinners, laughter, love and wonderful moments.
I think one day I will look back on this time and be envious of its simplicity. I will be thankful for the days I spent with my father, walking, talking, eating and laughing. I will be grateful for the days when I learned how to make odd-shaped flat bread with my kids and we wrote songs no one will ever hear. When we drew endless rainbows and I started drinking wine at 4.30pm every day. When the only thing to achieve each day was a moment of joy. Survival.
I don’t know what the next few months will bring, for the world, my mum, or my dad. I hope when we come out the other side we will be wiser, more tolerant of each other and that we will all be kinder. I hope for hope.
For now, I have a colouring competition to adjudicate. A dinner to prepare and a bottle of red wine to devour.
Stay safe. Stay home. Smile when you can.
Miss you, Mum. More than you could ever know. x
I’m so sorry to hear about the coronavirus impact to your family and loved ones. Your description of the treadmill of life temporarily stopping is apt. It truly is a time for deep reflection and deciding on what is truly important. The modern world is so demanding and often drives us away from what is most important to us. This is one brutal reality check, but the world has felt off the tracks to me for awhile. Take care.
You take care too, Joy xx
A beautiful piece, as ever, Sarah. And I am so sorry to hear about your dad. While our circumstances differ, I understand your comment about thinking you have hit bottom, only to realise there are deeper depths to plumb. I have been there more than once myself. Sending you and your family love and wishing you all strength at this terribly difficult time.
Thank you Helen. Sending lots of love back to you and your family. Keep well through these difficult and scary times x