I had my Covid jab this weekend. The whole set-up was impressive. From volunteer car park attendants directing me to a space, to the high-vis-wearing elderly gentleman pointing me in the right direction. “Elton John concert is that way!” he shouted with a grin. He was sporting a large grin, though of course I couldn’t’ see it because of his face mask.
“11,000 so far today!” one of the volunteers called over to another as I headed into the centre. A train of obliging, compliant souls trudging along, two metres apart, smiling gratefully at all the admirable, worthy volunteers underneath our cotton masks.
The doctor was young and efficient. A note on the wall declared that there were 3 minutes allocated per patient and she flitted from the next door cubicle to mine and I imagine back again, in a constant dance of reciting the same questions, drawing up the same fluid and injecting upper arms as the trail of new arrivals streamed into the hall like busy worker ants.
I must admit, I was slightly nervous…
…not about being micro-chipped by Bill Gates but because I didn’t want to suffer the side-effects. I hate being poorly. I have memories of being poorly as a kid and for some reason I seemed to be poorly A LOT. Proper poorly with vomiting and feverish tossing and turning. Day after day spent on the sofa under our family’s spotty blanket – the one reserved for poorly days and never used for any other reason. Mum trying to tempt me with a spot of soup, or fish finger sandwiches. And then the day would arrive, when your tummy rumbled with hunger and you knew you weren’t actually going to die after all.
Husband kept telling me not to be so dramatic. That if I thought I was going to be ill after the jab, then I probably would be. I knew that even if I was, there was little chance of any sympathy. Any symptoms would be deemed imagined.
He had his jab too. An hour before me. All went well. We were both fine until about midnight when the fever started. I shook and shuddered for hours, tossing and turning, struggling to get comfy or to know what to do with myself. I felt nauseous and for several hours fought the urge to vomit. For a while, I thought Husband was sleeping quietly next to me, but oh no….. he had the aches! Body aches that wracked his body and stopped him from sleeping. I was too busy moaning into my pillow to hear him grumbling next to me.
It was horrendous!
We threw paracetamol down our throats and somehow got through it; waking after about an hour’s fitful, tortuous sleep, sweaty, exhausted and with three kids asking “what are we doing today?”
The thing with being poorly as an adult is, there’s no one to really look after you….
Of course, if you’re married or in a lovely supportive relationship, you might expect your partner to step up and allow you to wallow in your own self pity and misery for a few hours or a few days, but it’s never like having a loving parent tend to you, is it?
I miss my mum and dad every day. That sounds dramatic – and I know I have a tendency to be dramatic when allowed – but this is not one of those occasions. It is instead the simple truth. I go to call my dad most days. I gaze longingly at photos of my mum most days, wondering what it would be like to ask her advice on something, or to hear her laugh. And some days are harder than others. My post-COVID poorliness was one of those times when I wanted to curl up on the sofa with my dad’s huge, heavy hand gripping my wrist as he felt for my rapid pulse. My mum dashing to the shop to buy lemonade ice lollies and checking on me every hour.
Instead, I struggled through the day – the washing, the feeding, the refereeing, whilst being asked several times what we were having for tea.
I was also asked….
What colour horse I’d rather be…brown or black and white?
Or brown and white?
What’s the difference between a blackberry bush and a raspberry bush?
But in winter? What’s the difference then?
How many more days until <Mabel’s> birthday? (insert everyone else in our family)
Do I ever get the thing where you have something on your hands and it pops up on your tongue?
Why are there so many seeds in one small tomato?
There were probably more, but I think I hissed and barked at my delightful offspring a few times, so couldn’t hear their additional charming questions too clearly.
Visitors are now allowed in Mum’s care home…
My sister and I went up a couple of weeks ago to check on the house and visit her. It was the first time in over a year I have been in the same room as her. That I have been able to hold her hand. She has declined to the point that she doesn’t really open her eyes anymore. All we get is a flicker. Nothing more.
She is tiny. Her body curled up, one of her wrists fused into an awkward bent position. She stays in bed most of the time now as there is little benefit to moving her. She is comfortable in her bed, with the carers and nurses moving her every few hours. It might make us feel better, having her moved through to a living room – a sign of a life with some sort of meaning or purpose – but it is nicer for her, not having to be lifted by a hoist and propped up in a wheelchair with pillows and straps.
I held her hand. I stoked her hair. I wiped her face and I sang to her. Nursery rhymes, I don’t know why, I just thought she might remember singing them to the grandkids perhaps. I don’t think she can hear me. I don’t think she knew I was there.
I don’t think she has any quality of life.
And I don’t believe most of us would put our pets through it.
A flippant remark, perhaps. But it is one I shout at the sky sometimes. One I have frustratingly vented with friends. One I spoke to my dad about several times over the years – that mum would not want to be living like this. That this is not right. That it feels cruel, sitting back and watching her decline like this.
I know I have written before about end of life care and about there needing to be a change. I also know there is no easy answer and what would be right for one family would be wrong for another. But I also know it needs to be addressed. Debated. Discussed openly and honestly with families who have been there. Families who have had to watch their loved ones fade away, with no hope of recovery or quality of life.
I thought of my mum a lot yesterday, as I wondered whether I could stomach any food and whether we had any fish fingers in the freezer. I thought of all the times she’d comforted us, nursed us better. All the years she spent caring for us all and how cruel life is. I wished I was tucked under that old spotty blanket and with a feeble holler she’d come asking me what I needed…
And it washed over me like a wave….. it was never about the fish fingers, or the lemonade ice lolllies. It was never about the newly washed bedsheets. It wasn’t even the spotty blanket.
All I ever needed to make me feel better was her.