Catherine Drea

She is sitting in front of me with a shopping list. It’s an old one; crumpled and worn. We play this game. I am going to do her shopping when I leave. Next time I visit I will take the same list and agree that I will do her shopping again. We are in one of her dementia loops. Round and round we go.

Now that she’s in the care home, a place where she is generally happy, there is no need for shopping, ever. We try to explain; there is no point. Her hand is in a tight fist determined to persuade anyone who will listen that shopping has to be done.

She has a lovely bright room and goes to the “restaurant” for all her meals. “I love my room” she exclaims one day and this makes us all breathe a sigh of relief. But something always lingers in the back of her mind. She doesn’t know exactly what. Lists have to be made but bring nothing but more confusion.

“Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder,they slip between the sentries of the heart”…Leonard Cohen

My sister who lives nearest, gets the worst of it. Endless arguments about why she can’t do her shopping, why she can’t find her bank card to pay the staff in the “restaurant”, why her arch nemesis, Mrs. Royalty (something we can’t get to the bottom of) is constantly on her case.

Covid 19? There’s no way to explain it. Now that there’s no more visiting I wonder when or if we will see her again? It’s part of the weird world we now live in; uncertainty and distance.

There’s a birthday in the house here. Our son visits, at a distance. We can’t even hug him. He’s a grown up, out in the world and now, suddenly, a bit worried about us. It’s the same way we worried about our own parents. But it’s the first time I’ve really seen this in the younger generation. Somehow I was still oblivious to the fact that we must be old now too!

We make the best of it, not too sure when we will see him or anyone in the family again. There are long birthday chats around the world on WhatsApp rattling away all day. From Canada to Australia, from Sweden to London, from Dublin to Donegal. I decide to bake a cake. The weather is horrible. We batten down the hatches.

I wake up in the middle of the night overwhelmed by grief. I’m like a mother of a newborn, jolting awake to check if they are still breathing. But I can’t check on anyone. I have to learn all over again to trust that all will be well. It’s not coming easily. I’m missing all the hugs.

Like everyone else I could give a lecture on the spread of Covid 19, how the different countries are dealing with it, how many deaths there are in each age group. I am a news junkie; fully fledged. I absorb headlines like bullets. I repeat them; send them on to other poor souls on WhatsApp. They post emojis of shock and horror. We are all full of anxiety for each other. For family members on the front line.

The next morning I decide to get a grip. I’ve worked from home since 2008 and have a few old tricks up my sleeve. I used to have a mantra which was, instead of consuming, try creating. At a basic level this time it means backing off gobbling up the news and social media and making stuff instead.

So I am now gathering inspiration, listening to music, reading beautiful poetry, looking down the lens of my camera at what is trying to break through in the hedgerows. Violets, daisies, nettles so far. The birds are singing. Goldfinches are making nests in my garden. Spring is coming in spite of everything.

For some of us, the very lucky ones, confined to quarters, there is some space opening up. The space we rarely ever have for whatever grounds us. Space and time.So I’m taking the calm before the storm as a gift for now. Everything could have changed by the time you read this; every day brings news of a deepening lock down. Hang in there. Be kind to yourselves and each other. Buckle up and get ready for the surge………………….

“Wake up, my love

Today I heard some bad news

Just what are we all supposed to do?

I won’t let them get to you”

Editors – Well worn hand

Catherine Drea is an artist, photographer and writer. She finds inspiration in the natural world and shares her love of rural life through her photography and writing. A winner of a number of awards, she just won (2018) Best Photography Award for her blog Foxglove Lane.

Catherine is also a columnist with the Waterford News and Star where she writes on nature, creativity, Ireland, feminism, travel, photography, and ageing which she prefers to call ripening. An experienced facilitator, she is a graduate of the NCAD and UCC and a co-founder of Framework-ethical leadership and practice, a training and support organisation for the voluntary sector.

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