I am in lockdown with mum, moved in 7 days ago, supporting her while she is having her cancer treatment. She is of an undisclosed age (but >70 - I know, but I am not allowed to say) and falls into that COVID-19 super vulnerable group; cancer, autoimmune diseases, heart and kidney problems, prone to low moods, and on some pokey medications. My job is to keep her safe with lifts to the hospital every day and with rigorous handwashing and post-hospital sanitisation programmes. We get back from radiotherapy, I clean the inside of the car, she goes up to the apartment, washes her hands, puts her clothes in the machine for washing and has a shower. When I get back from sterilising the inside of the car, I go through the same ritual as mum with the addition of wiping down surfaces, bags, handles, disposing of rubber gloves, etc. It takes ages, and it is killing the skin on my hands, so there is now the additional E 45 cream ceremony before a cup of tea and an episode of The Big Bang Theory. We are on episode 13 of series 10, and it always makes us laugh out loud (lol). I have several fears in all this, but one of them is that we get to the end of series 12 before the lockdown is over! We get on well, but however much we love 'em, living with our mums, at the age of 58, in a one bedroomed apartment, for what might be three months, is a bit daunting (for mum and me). I have rediscovered a few wonders of my childhood though; the 'Washing Genie', the 'I'm Hungry, and Food Appears on the Table Genie', and the 'Magic Sock Pairing Genie'. I'd always put these various genies in the same category as the Tooth Fairy, the East Bunny, the Sandman, and bed bugs that don't bite! All along, they were not magic at all; it was just what mums do. There are some bad bits of course; mum's passion for soap operas - all of them; Coronation Street, Emmerdale Farm, East Enders, I even caught her watching Holby City the other day and listening to The Archers. I think this is a consequence of normally living alone. As you'd have guessed, I'm no fan of any of them, but I can see how they provide company and a sense of belonging. Of course, if you're used to having a lot of time on your own with only soaps as company, when someone is in the house with you, there is a lot of talking to catch up on! I can't say mum's talking, lots, is a bad thing, but it is a bit exhausting. Some of the 'conversation' is about technology and social media e.g., Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and the like. Now, mum is quite good at all this, but also doesn't really grasp how any of it actually works, like getting a massive bill from EE from watching Netflix and not realising that it might be better to use her WiFi! By itself, this might not sound like a source of tension, but after trying to explain the difference between getting data from a network vs from your broadband for the 10th time can be a bit tense! Actually, I do not mind the talking at all because mum's generation is an amazing generation. Born during the war in London, evacuated to Leicester, witnessing post-war England, and living the swinging sixties, witnessing the end of capital punishment with Ruth Ellis, and National Service. Seeing the computer revolution, changes in women's rights, the moon landing, the legalisation of homosexuality, the whole of the cold war, the coming and going of flared trousers, the building of the Berlin Wall and the pulling down of the Berlin Wall, and now COVID-19. Just amazing. If we are lucky to have good mothers, we look up to them and think they can face anything. They are always there sorting the washing, cooking your favourite Sunday roast ( in my case), and always seem strong. I have seen fear in my mum's eyes just twice in my life. First, a few weeks ago just before her consultant told her the diagnosis of her cancer, when you see him breathe in ready to start the next sentence. At that moment, as he said "I will be blunt with you....' she looked at me with bewildered, scared eyes. The second last week as she stepped outside the house for her appointment, knowing how vulnerable she is to COVID, but having no choice but to go. Those same eyes. My mum is not alone; there are so many remarkable people of her generation, with stories to tell and wisdom to share, stepping out into a world that must feel unfathomably scary. The war was they saw as children was a tangible foe, but coronavirus is, to most of us, an incomprehensible invisible enemy. Chances are when you see a lady over 70 she'll be a mum a grandmother, great-grandmother, auntie, friend, or neighbour, and she'll have stories to tell. She may be lonely, she may be scared, she may be a bit naff with technology or talk too much given half a chance, but what a privilege it would be to hear of her life.
If you know of someone living alone who you think is feeling vulnerable, give them a call
, let them know you are thinking about them. It will be good for them, but even better for you. Stay safe Gary