Notes from lockdown: ‘I hold back tears so as not to worry my sensitive four-year-old’
25th May 2020
Early on, the tears stubbornly refused to come. I grappled with the feeling of being confined and communicated with furious regularity with loved ones and friends… Áine Carroll shares her lockdown thoughts
For a long time, the idea of picking up a pen to document what was happening did not occur to me. The circumstances were so shocking that my normal instincts were paused. When the urge to journal finally hit, I suddenly became acutely aware that I hadn’t even noticed its absence. The thought interrupted me.
When we shut ourselves off from the world, the baby was still in that sleepy, snoozy stage of life where the only face that mattered to him was mine. How far away it all seems now.
A man called to our house the other day to carry out some essential work from a socially acceptable distance. Utterly perplexed and fascinated, our almost nine-month-old stared at the new face in our doorway with a conviction for connection that made me emotional (but then again, so does everything these days).
Having just learned to crawl and on the cusp of walking, I wonder what effect lockdown could be having on his precocious, spongy mind.
What has been most interesting to me lately, as a member of this humanitarian crisis, is how we can be going through something really bad and still find ways to smile at the small wonders life offers up.
When my father died suddenly and unexpectedly some years ago at an important time in my life, I learned the meaning of the phrase, taking the good with the bad. And that is just what families have been doing lately.
We tune in for the daily updates and to hear the sorry facts and each time I hold back tears so as not to worry my sensitive four year old. We let the good in with the bad and let the kids play.
Working from home is often ridiculous: the other day the lady on my important call politely ignored the baby’s happy screaming while I kindly didn’t mention the cockerel crowing incessantly behind her. It was comical, but we both pretended it wasn’t.
In some way, in the kindest way possible, families are experiencing a unique time that could never have been imagined since we discovered dual-parent full-time working, large mortgages and expensive child care.
Speak to any family who has not been directly affected by the terrible sickness of this pandemic and you will see us taking the good with the bad, and creating beautiful memories in ways that we hope we will never get again.
In normal times, the idea of a whole day off, together in the sunny sunshine with nothing to do and no obligations to attend, was a precious fantasy.
On days in the past when these rare occasions occurred they were often anxiously and meticulously planned, to get the most out of the day. But now those precious days are every day.
Families are starting to accept life with the onion-layers of stress peeled away and we cannot imagine the old routine returning.
Early on, the tears stubbornly refused to come. I grappled with the feeling of being confined and communicated with furious regularity with loved ones and friends, even long lost ones, to try to keep a hold on reality.
The confusion of those early days soon gave way to some sort of routine and the messages and calls slowly diminished. A decision was made and so he declared that by Jesus, the hall, stairs and landing would be stripped and painted if any good was to come of this Godforsaken situation.
The darkness of not knowing which end of the curve we will end up on is a unique kind of terror
Confusion morphed into acceptance and then to grief as the promised surge rose to fruition. Dim light could be seen at the end of long, dark tunnels. Time’s normally rigid edges warped and we pictured ourselves perhaps weeks from now, clapping, like the Chinese and Spanish hospital workers we saw on television.
They say that in Italy the singing has stopped. There may never be any clapping there. For a global civilisation used to having the answer to everything at our fingertips, the darkness of not knowing which end of the curve we will end up on is a unique kind of terror, and there is currently much pain and loss occurring, and to occur still.
So we obey the rules and pray for the sick, the dying and those who have passed. We take the good with the bad by being together and living as never before. We eat as a family and watch the baby as he learns the manoeuvres of early life and laugh in concert as he hilariously sings along with his new favourite, Andrea Bocelli.
While dancing with him in my arms in our sunlit kitchen, tears of happiness sting my eyes. I grin at the thought of my old self back when he was born, so full of hopeful anticipation, blissfully ignorant to the bucketloads of joy this baby and all the other children on the planet would bring at a time of such deep and empty sorrow.
Wind blows through the kitchen and on it a vision is carried. I see myself, standing in this very spot many weeks ago in January, as I wondered in quiet empathy what sorrows the people of Wuhan could be enduring.
Happy tears turn bittersweet and my sympathies are blown on the wind backwards and forward in time and each day inches ever so humanly forward, by the slightest of degrees.
Still, life goes on.
I head to the shop. The sunshine endures. I stop the car to turn and through the open window spot a lady walking past. She is wearing a name tag and purple scrubs. I imagine that she might have had a terrible day so I smile at her. She smiles back. The writer in me pipes up.
When humanity documents this, let the record show that no one said let them die.
Read more: ‘That end-of-the-world feeling has passed, but 9 weeks of lockdown has taken a toll on my mental health’
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