The Sun and our cat are celebrating Mother’s Day together in the garden.
The Sun is dry-combing the grass and the cat is trampolining on it while shadow boxing with clouds of insects. He’s happy the months of muddy lawn are past, and the magnolia leaves are out.
Salvaging Mother’s Day
This side of the patio doors, Mother’s Day isn’t quite so carefree. We’re having a Family Emergency General Meeting to decide if we can salvage anything cheery out of Mother’s Day without breaking Government medical guidelines. This is proving harder than we thought. In many ways.
One of them is that since Mother gave back her hearing aid last week, she’s not been able to follow the cut and thrust of family chit-chat as clearly as before. She believes this decision is an historic act of self-liberation and calls it her Unilateral Declaration of Hearing Independence.
We think it’s an act of equivalent of Sakoku, the Japanese trade policy which isolated the country from foreigners for over 200 years.
Explaining the difference between lock-in and lockdown
The fact that we now have to stand six feet or more from her because of social distancing rules hasn’t helped either, which is why my wife is having problems trying to explain to mother the difference between a lock-in and a lock-down.
‘Why do they want us to go to the pub?’ asks Mother.
‘Lock-down. Not lock-in,’ says my wife, slightly ruffled.
‘His father enjoyed lock-ins. They used to hold them at our local pub in the Seventies. Quite frequently,’ replies Mother.
As I wait for my wife to work her way through this Gordian knot of semantic confusion, I look out at the happy cat on the lawn. He reminds me how my Father loved Edward Lear’s Nonsense poetry and I start whispering:
‘The Sun and the Pussycat went to play,
On a beautiful pea green lawn’.
‘What?’ says my wife, in a voice like weed killer.
‘Dad’s favourite poem,’ I turn to my Mother hoping it will kick start her reminiscing and distract my wife from the lawn mowing coming my way.
‘Did you run business meetings like this when you were a grown up?’ asks my son.
‘Let’s just focus on the issue at hand,’ says my wife, calmly.
‘Don’t worry. Social distancing is something that happens to you anyway as you get older. Your friends die, the phone stops ringing, you can’t go out much. I’ve been living with it for years. Today’s no different,’ she says, staring out at the garden where the cat has just done the most extraordinary somersault from the fence into the middle of the lawn. He thinks he’s caught something but it’s only the shadow of a passing cloud.
Only a sociopath wouldn’t worry now
Only a sociopath wouldn’t be worried right now. We’re scared that being locked down with her for the next three months means one of us – her family – may expose her to Covid-19 with fatal consequences. It’s the unavoidable irony of our current situation: she moved in with us to have a safe and more sociable life in her last years, but it could now be a death sentence.
‘How about making today ‘Mothering Day Movies’? Granny binges on her favourite movies this afternoon. Then this evening, it’s your turn, mum.’
I almost tear up with admiration for my son. My favourite embodiment of XY chromosomes has just smashed it. We’ve installed a new, super powered Wi-Fi system, TV, speakers and super-woofer which can blow the roof off Wembley stadium. That means she’ll be able to hear her movies without her hearing aid and because its wall mounted, we can adjust it so one of us can watch the movie with her.
‘Better than spending the rest of the day wiping down the bannisters and washing the floors like a Dutch housewife,’ says my wife.
Covid-19 is sulphuric acids to social bonds
Covid-19 is sulphuric acid to social bonds and rituals. It forbids hugs and handshakes. It sours sleeping arrangements and turns families into disconnected passengers in the same railway carriage. It scowls at fun and laughter. But it can’t control the TV remote. Covid-19 hasn’t cancelled our Mother’s Day.
Mother installs herself in front of the outstretched TV, a plate for Belgium chocolates nearby. The BBC I Player has Noel Coward’s war time classic ‘In Which We Serve’.
‘I worked on that,’ she says, a smile wrinkling her cheeks. ‘Much better than going to that noisy pub.’
The Man in the Middle writes our funny, thoughtful blog series. Musings from a middle-aged man living with his aged Mother and the Family.