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Posts Tagged ‘dad’

Introduction.

I recently volunteered to fill in a survey by staff at Manchester Metropolitan – the basic question was ‘How do I feel about the current lockdown situation’. There were questions about home, community, relationships, health and activities included in the survey. The purpose was to create a record of the lockdown from a human, nationwide perspective. I thought it would be good for me too, to record these things for later, so that when I look back, I might remember and understand what I was thinking, doing and experiencing during these unusual times.

I have therefore saved the answers I provided for the survey and have now edited and arranged them here, for my blog.

The lockdown has changed the way we live, at least temporarily. There is much talk of a ‘new normal’ just now, but what that new normal is, remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

The virus.

The virus crept up on us very slowly – at first it was ‘just’ another thing that was infecting China, and then a wider area of S.E. Asia. By the time it reached Europe and Italy decided to lockdown, we began to see unimaginable numbers of people infected and increasing death counts. Sharon and I were in Spain as this began to unfold, but we were lucky enough to have planned our return to the U.K. before Spain was put into emergency measures.

We noticed very quickly that some early measures were being put in place: e.g. on a visit to a consultant in Rochdale in late February, I was asked if I had come back from Europe within the last 14 days. I had, but Spain was (apparently, at that time) okay. My mother is in a care home suffering from dementia and luckily, they saw the potential for disaster quite some time before our government’s isolation measures were introduced and they banned all visits to the care home at least one week before the U.K. was put into lockdown.

Lockdown.

Sharon and I started to self-isolate a week early because we had been with a group of friends’ mid-March and because Betony was due to give birth imminently.

The lockdown, and the fear that came with it (by now the news media had ramped up their facts, figures and warnings) changed life considerably. If we were regarded as vulnerable, over 70 or simply scared, we were not to leave the house for 12 weeks. Others should self-isolate and, if they had symptoms, they should stay inside for 14 days. As I write this early in June, I have friends who, because they fit the vulnerable or over-70 categories, haven’t left their homes for over 11 weeks.

At this point I stopped using public transport and used my once-a-day exercise period to explore the local countryside. Sharon rarely left the house as Betony was expecting her second child at any time (he was eventually born 14th April) and didn’t want to get infected as she was to be the carer for Chester (#1 child) while Betony was confined.  This itself was different to any time prior. Previously, it would have been a grand family occasion and the father could have stayed with his wife throughout – but not this time, Josh had to wait in a car park (around midnight) until called. He only just made it back inside to be there when Hunter was born. He’s now over six weeks old and thriving.

Because of the self-isolation none of us were able to visit family. This has been especially difficult for my 92-year-old father. His inability to see his wife, my mum, in the care home has led to his complete mental breakdown.  He used to visit her twice a week but now cannot. He has said that it is much harder for him to accept than if she had died. He has had tremendous difficulty with accepting or understanding the situation that the country is in. For example, he was very surprised to find, during week nine of the lockdown, that his doctors were closed and that he could not enter the surgery. He phoned to tell me this and I had to remind him that most shops were also closed as well as all the pubs and all the cafes he might normally visit.

Community.

The small town I live in is usually a bustling, busy semi-industrial place that we call a village and during the first months of lockdown it became a wonderfully quiet place to live. The six or so real-ale pubs, the six or so coffee-bar/cafes and two Indian restaurants all closed. All the take-away shops stayed open but other than those, the hub of the village became a well-placed Aldi and the village Co-op. People queued around Aldi and along the road from the Co-op patiently, waiting for their time to be allowed entry. Two metres (or six feet) apart became the norm and even now, after eleven weeks, this distance is fairly well, but not universally, observed. Numbers inside the shops were limited too, something which even the take away shops adhered to.

During the last three to four weeks, the roads in and around the village have become much busier. Some shops have begun to re-open; one Indian Restaurant has opened for take away meals (although there are three other Indian take away’s in the village), the burger shop has re-opened and does deliveries now. More and more people are using the chance to buy hot cooked food and have begun to enjoy eating it al fresco along the canal side** and on other grassy areas roundabouts.

Locale.

We live in West Yorkshire, in a village nestled into the eastern Pennines. The countryside around us is beautiful, especially during this magnificent springtime. It has been a delight to watch the trees unfold, the meadows to bloom and the blossom to come and go. There are signs just now of summer; the brighter colours of spring are now beginning to turn to deeper shades. Our village is in a valley, so there are hills all around. What’s more, it is an old industrial mill-town through which both railway and Industrial Revolution canal pass.

The canal has become a pedestrian walking/cycling motorway over the weeks of lockdown, especially during the many bank holidays we seem to have had.

Home life.

At home, very little has changed. Sharon’s work has become more intense but as she works from home, online, over 22 hours per week, she has been able to spread much of that work out. She is the course manager for a company offering online Access Courses.  Much of her normal work has had to be postponed because of the changes required by awarding bodies, for those wanting to start university this autumn. My own (average 1hr per day) online work has been furloughed until the end of June. We have both been fine.

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Not being able to see my father has led to problems, but my mother remains well cared for as before. I’ve kept in telephone contact with my own grown up children but still have Easter gifts we were unable to deliver for my grandchildren. I’ve made a point of calling retired or furloughed friends on the phone to see how they are doing, or passing by the end of their garden for a socially distanced chat. Other friends and I have regularly exchanged funny pictures, jokes and videos – all have helped me to stay sane.

Typical day.

There hasn’t really been a typical day in lockdown – perhaps a series of ‘differently’ typical days. One day for example, I started making a loaf of bread* at 07:00am and while that was proving I completed my ablutions before going to Aldi for some essentials. After that and while the bread baked, I read a little, did some quizzes and games (brain games) on my iPad, checked my emails and looked on Facebook. I am also following a Duolingo course, learning Spanish – it only takes up 15-20 minutes a day and my progress is slow, but I am enjoying it.

Lunch that day was a sandwich made with two slices of the newly baked bread and some left-over chicken pate. After lunch, I got out my jigsaw board and spent an hour or so working on that. About 15:00pm Sharon and I went out for a walk. The weather was gorgeous and we set off along the canal westwards, before heading up the hill (right up), and back around the other side of the village. We were out maybe 75-90 minutes. When we got back I made some fresh pasta (110g strong flour, 1 egg and a dessert spoon of pesto) for tea. To go with this, I’d defrosted some spicy tomato sauce which I’d made earlier in lockdown.

After our evening meal, as it was Saturday, we logged on to a Zoom-quiz hosted by a friend at 20:00pm.  He has up to 16 participants each week from all over the world. I also host a quiz for friends on Wednesday evenings – just six couples (which means we have to have 2 x Zoom sessions to overcome their 40-minute limit on free accounts).

* I suppose these activities haven’t really been new. Baking bread for example, I’ve done it before, but as we’re blessed locally with a superb artisan bakery I haven’t needed to bake for years. During lockdown however, I have perfected both my white and my brown bread skills. I thoroughly enjoy the kneading, the proving and the baking – it’s so rewarding. To do this I had to buy 16k of flour online as all the supermarkets were sold out. I’ve also spent the odd day bulk cooking, for the freezer, so that more of the other days can be enjoyed, rather than be spent preparing meals. Finding yeast became an issue, but I found some at a local farm shop.

Entertainment.

At other times, we’ve spent the evenings watching some of the theatre productions put out by various companies: Andrew Lloyd Weber, The National Theatre etc. YouTube has been a revelation! We’ve also started (and are presently 3/10ths of the way though) the entire series of Friends. We now have a login to Disney and have begun to watch the Star Wars films in order as well as The Marvel series (in some kind of order). We’ve finished watching the most recent series of Bosch and Outlander on Prime and the occasional film on Netflix.

Health.

I see myself as healthy, for my age (68). I am fairly fit, my walks involve distance (although not as far as pre-lockdown, because of the necessary solitariness), hill climbs (which have improved my recovery time) and regularity. I now walk more miles per week than pre-lockdown. I stopped eating fatty snacks EVERY day after a few weeks of lockdown and feel better for that. My own treatments have not been affected but those of my father have been.

Just before lockdown I went with him (he’s 92), to his doctors, and two hospital appointments were made as a result. One was exploratory and the other was to update his hearing aids as he is quite deaf.  Both were cancelled, so now over three months later, he still cannot hear and has still not been diagnosed.              

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**

Remembering lockdown.

The thing I hope to remember the lockdown by will be the wonderful weather we have experienced. The trees going through their leaf-growing process during April, their unfurled colours in May, along with the spring flowers burgeoning throughout. And all the walks. Wonderful.

The thing I want to forget. My father’s suicidal deterioration.

 

Picture Credit. Not sure to whom the b/w photo belongs. All credit to them for that. Others, my own.

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We’re coming towards the end of the U.K.’s official Week #2 of self-isolation/lock-down. This period follows a previous week of phoney-war-type self-isolation that I like to call ‘the ACTUAL first week’.

Everyone over the age of 70 and those who are deemed to be vulnerable (diabetics, pregnant women, COPD patients etc.) are required to ‘stay-in’ and to avoid all contact with others – anyone! Everyone else should work from home where possible, and where not possible, must keep themselves 2 metres away from everyone else.

Nevertheless, we’re both ok just now, we’re keeping well, we’re keeping busy (ish) and we’re not killing each other – or anyone else, yet. It helps that we’re able to go out for a spot of exercise each day or to shop for essential items (no one has said exactly what is essential – we assume foodstuffs etc.) but then, we don’t fit into any of those ‘must stay at home’ classifications above. Those folks must be bored stiff, albeit they must surely have a better chance of remaining healthy and ultimately alive.

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A hopeful picture, of a summer to come.

As the News Reports ramp up day after day, it becomes more and more obvious that, no matter who you believe, or which political party you support, we were simply not ready for Covid-19 in the U.K. Nor it seems, were many other countries. However, it is interesting to see how each one is dealing with the virus differently – with no real impact on the death count, which continues to rise and as yet, shows no sign of abating.  Here, after weeks of panic buying (toilet rolls and pasta? fgs! ) the supermarkets have introduced limits to what can be bought (e.g. Co-op 1x per item, Tesco 3x per item and Aldi 4x), how many people can be in their shop at any one time, and they have started asking folks to queue outside, each person to be 2 metres away from the other. Some of the queues outside Aldi are to be seen to be believed. But, at least everyone is trying to keep safe and the food stocks have returned to normal (ish) now.

Pandemics can never come at a good time. The last big global one (i.e. the one that killed c36 million people – HIV/AIDS) couldn’t really be caught in the same way as Covid-19; that pandemic was sexually transmitted and resulted in a much greater use of condoms. Nevertheless, HIV still casts a shadow over the world.

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/history-of-pandemics-deadliest/

The Covid-19, Corona Virus pandemic comes at an especially troubling time for us. My mum, 90, is in a care home and we are unable now to visit her. The likelihood is that I may never see her again, although to be fair she does have a very strong life ethic, and I’ve wondered how long she can last for the last 18 months, bless her. My Dad is 92 and, although VERY independent and strong willed, is slowly failing. Nevertheless, despite all advice, he goes out every day and buys his paper, his milk, his whatever. He refuses to ask either of his boys to shop for him. I speak with him a couple of times per week whenever he rings me, but I cannot ring him because he doesn’t hear the phone; all of his incoming calls are diverted to me anyway.

Fingers crossed – we hope for the best.

Links:

https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/health-and-well-being/coronavirus.aspx

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

 

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I took my mum for a memory test yesterday.

She’s eighty-seven.

Sadly, my mum has been slowly losing her ability to remember certain things, over an extended period of time – probably for about three years. She copes with most things on a daily basis, with help! Without my dad, I suspect that she would have tremendous difficulty coping with day to day things like cooking and eating. This isn’t to say that she isn’t ‘all there’, she is: she takes part in discussions (when she can hear – her hearing aid is not always fully loaded and ‘on’) and retains a wicked sense of humour.

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However, despite not wanting outside help (“David, whilesoever as I can manage, I want no one else coming in here to help**) my dad has been asking the doctor if there’s anything they can do to help my mum. [I have to say right here that I have THE very lowest opinion of my parents’ doctor, both historically and presently]. The result, after a fair amount of nagging is this memory test.

Dad didn’t want to go with my mum as he felt that he would get too upset, which I suppose, after sixty-six years of marriage, is understandable. Also see ** above. So, the original appointment having been when we flew to Spain in March, I visited the centre, rearranged the date, and off we popped yesterday.

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Mum hated the idea of going (I hesitate to say that she was terrified); she accused my dad of going behind her back and of being sneaky (by asking me to go with her instead of him).  Also: “no one told me about this! I’m not losing my memory, I’m ok!” etc. Yet, once there, having been assured for the umptieth time that I would go ‘in’ with her, she was lovely.  She was calm and had no worries. Once the young (very pregnant) nurse had introduced herself and directed us up to her room, mum was the personification of ‘nice old lady’.

elephant-1090828_1280She answered all of the questions as honestly as she knew how and seemed to feel no pressure at all throughout the full hour of questioning. On the standard test, she got 59% (the standard being 85% ish) and for me it was easy to see exactly where she was losing ‘it’. Mental sums and short term memory tasks were very poor, but at longer term knowledge (that is a penguin, that is a kangaroo etc.) she was much better.

She still thinks that she has no problem remembering things (I haven’t had sugar in my tea for forty-five years – yet I’m asked every time we visit) and insists she’s ok with money; but she’s not.

However, she wasn’t fazed by having to go, soon, for a brain scan and then, afterwards, to see a specialist doctor. But those are hurdles to cross further down the line.

What do we hope to get from this?

I’m not sure.

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