I’ll be home for dinner. And lunch and breakfast…..
“Amongst all the anguish, pain and suffering that this disease has caused, I knew from day one, that as long as I could keep my mum healthy and COVID-free, we were going to have a lovely time. My mum is joy on a stick”…….. how one woman has survived and thrived in lockdown moving back in with her Mum. By Emma Parker.
I don’t know how many of you watched ‘Race Across The World’ on BBC but I caught a couple of episodes which I really enjoyed. I was a late adopter to this show but one thing I noticed is how the contestants grew and changed as the race progressed. How getting away from all the trappings of the rat race gave the contestants a chance to experience other cultures, visit some amazing places and meet new people. It broadened their horizons both physically and mentally. They all changed and I think for the better.
Lockdown mind travelling
Being stuck at home with limited options for moving around doesn’t sound very much like a mind-expanding opportunity but somehow for me, it has been like travelling. Limiting the number of disruptions that cloud everyday judgments and reducing the number of exciting activities to just one or two options has done just that. Clutter and ‘noise’ fill our lives and I found that I am always seeking something new – whether it was for work or for my wellbeing and entertainment.
Excitement now is deciding on what to have for breakfast. Do I entertain mum by bringing out the Sizewell B sized blender to make a smoothie or do I resort to my favourite cereal of my childhood? Shall we be playing Scrabble, Rummikub or Cribbage tonight, oh and yes, I bought a jigsaw puzzle and have discovered that I have an addiction to them!
Moving in with Mum – the final frontier
On 16th March 2020, I took a decision to move in with my mother, something I hadn’t done since I was 18, and that was a long time ago. I am used to visiting her for a few days at a time, and apart from a holiday in 2018, I rarely spend more than a couple of nights with her. We speak pretty much every day and I love her to bits.
I live on my own (most of the time) in London and had come home to visit mum before lockdown. At that time, like most people, I had no idea what that was and how long it would be. I am a tour guide (coutours.co.uk) and as you can imagine, my business dropped off a cliff. From looking forward to the start of the busy/silly season, I was now handling cancellations and joining the rest of the world waiting for any information and fixating on the daily news regarding Corona numbers.
I had come home by train so when I took the decision to move in with mum ‘for the duration’ I had to do a mercy dash to London in her car to collect important components of my life including my rebounder trampoline, gin and a few more clothes.
I use the word important loosely here as I had never really used the trampoline before. It had sat under my bed and I had stubbed my toe on it a few times but nevertheless it was packed into the boot of the car to accompany me like an adopted waif and taken in to my mum’s home. I brought it in under cover of darkness. I didn’t want the neighbours to worry about any potential damage to the building’s structure.
Easing into lockdown
None of us knew what lockdown would really mean and it seems as if we are all still taking it day by day, but for me it felt really liberating. No work, cancellations handled and now a chance to contemplate life, admittedly without any income, but I wasn’t going to panic about that just now.
So, I went on my daily walk, did the weekly shop which at this time was spread across several days due to the gentle demands of a lovely neighbour. Our shopping trolley’s contents have nothing in common and it took me a long time to work out what she actually wanted. I have learnt that when she says ‘oh anything’ to describe her cakes, it means ‘Victoria Sponge’ and I have learnt to question her Paxman-style before embarking on my adventure to the shops.
Mum, on the other hand, is pretty easy going. She knows what she wants and I think I can pretty much guess what she likes – she has cooked enough dinners in my life for me to know that she loves cream, cheese, beef and chocolate (don’t worry, she does eat fruit and veg) and hates or thinks she will hate, if she bothered to try yogurt, marmite, hummus and aubergine. She thought she hated Twiglets but she has been converted.
Getting into a routine, of sorts
We have a routine of sorts. We are told that a routine is what will keep us sane and happy and I think they are right. Our routine is in place and it is something like this:
- Wake up and look at the rebounder in the bedroom. Contemplate going for a bounce but then decide a cup of tea is more pressing.
- Walk downstairs trying to miss the creaky step and see if mum is still asleep. 90% of the time she is not and has been waiting for me for hours. It is 6.30am.
- I make a cup of tea for us and sit in the lounge watching the light change
- Reluctantly we get washed and dressed
- We go for our morning constitutional. A slow walk around the block for a lady who before Christmas would walk all the way to town and carry heavy shopping bags all the way back.
- I set to work and mum swears at her computer or prepares lunch. Lunch is ready to cook by about 10.30am. We resist cooking it until 11.30am. Lunch is over by 12.15pm and I am back to work. This is of course a complete lie. Lunch is over by about 12.15pm and we have a cup of tea and a sit down and occasionally a snooze depending on whether we had wine or not. I try not to watch Father Brown. We watch Father Brown.
- At 4pm I train via Skype with my friend and PT who calls in from America and mum makes some funny quip about ‘physical jerks
- The evenings are low key – sometimes I have to work on my virtual gin experiences (Madam Geneva & Gent) as I have had to put the tours under dust sheets but if I don’t have an event then mum and I have a light bite and hold the Scrabble/Cribbage/Rummikub championships of the world! I get tense if I am not winning. I pretend I don’t mind losing. I do.
- Bed is any time from 9-10pm. 10pm is a late night!
- I read and sleep.
Takeaways – what I have learnt from living back with mum
Amongst all the anguish, pain and suffering that this disease has caused, I knew from day one, that as long as I could keep my mum healthy and COVID-free, we were going to have a lovely time.
My mum is joy on a stick
She has taught me that when the neighbour is playing loud music or children are shouting outside that this is good as they are enjoying themselves. There is no tutting over a misplaced car parked in the drive or any form of petty mindedness. She sees the best in life and in people and always wants to help. I have learnt from her and I am still learning.
Yeah yeah, I know that everyone experiences that moment when your parents need you more than you need them but it is strange for me to be helping my mother who has been so completely fit and healthy until just a few months ago. It is nice to know that she thinks we don’t nag her or control her. I have always hated it when people who hit a certain level of infirmity and then are treated like a child. Woe betide anyone who tries this on me – just hope that I don’t have a walking stick. I will be old and I can get away with it or so I think!
Bugger…. she mutters… alot
People who live on their own talk to themselves. A lot. The first two weeks I was at home, I kept jumping up to answer mum’s disgruntled exclamations. Maybe I was paranoid but I was pleased to note that the hissing, tutting and the occasional ‘bugger’ was not directed at me but a small pale blue laptop that causes her more consternation and angst than anything else in her life. I also hate it ‘cos my mum does.
The grumpy teen returns
“Where are you? ’What are you doing?’ Both questions still irk me after all these years and takes me back to my petulant teenage times. ‘I am’, and here you can fill in the gaps ‘just looking in the fridge’ or ‘just getting my phone’. Why do you need to know? I am not leaving the building and to be honest, I don’t even know myself half the time.
I have no idea why this question irks me so, but I can only presume that I do things all the time without question; I don’t have to report into anyone and so I do not want to account for myself. If I am leaving the room it is probably for something to eat or to go to the loo and if I have my phone I am probably pretending to work while reading the latest memes.
Space. The Final Frontier.
I no longer have ‘space.’ Do I actually need space? I always did as a child. I had to run off for some alone time during high days and holidays. I love family get togethers but I also need a breather. This is a funny one.
I look at my lovely mum who has lived though the war and went from sharing a room and bed with her sister to sharing a life and a bed with my father. There was no space for her. There was not a hope in hell of her getting any space whilst bringing up four children and looking after dad. Space is a luxury and I have worked out that in this context, work is my space. Other than that, I am happy for mum to join me in space. We sometimes space travel – see point number 5 in our daily routine.
Pills, not thrills
Doctors and medicine. This has been a difficult area for me. I had no idea that if you were prescribed a life-saving medication that it didn’t just rock up every month until further notice. Mum has only just been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and has been put on the usual heart tablets. Apparently, you need to ask for repeat dispensing rather than a repeat prescription.
Not that I have got this 100% sorted. The GP’s office states that ‘this will be sorted once the pandemic is over.’ The receptionist isn’t very happy and is irked that I have asked. Can I be honest, I clap every Thursday for the NHS but add a small mental ‘must try harder’ disclaimer for that individual whilst doing so.
Laughter as the best medicine
Laughing and giggling is a life-saver. Seeing the funny side of life really helps. Mum and I giggle a lot. The jokes maybe hackneyed and would embarrass any 15 year old but they work. We play cards and I seem to adopt a different regional accent each night. From Irish to a rather dodgy Geordie, it puts mum off perfectly and makes her laugh.
When am I going ‘home?’ I don’t know yet. Hang on, I thought this was home? Oh I am now very confused. I shall at some point return to the flat in the wild, wild East End of London, and realise that it could all do with a lick of paint and some TLC and then I will think that maybe six weeks with a paintbrush and access to YouTube would have been a wiser use of the ‘lockdown.’
This is of course nonsense for many reasons – the only piece of wallpaper I have ever put up was upside down and that was my last foray into DIY. The main reason I would have hated being in my flat at this point (with no offence to my darling friend who has had to stay for visa reasons) is that I would have missed all of the above. The routine with my mother which is now institutionalized, the giggles, being with her at a time when she needed some help, the in-depth talks, the discovery of pieces of my mum’s life that I either never knew or had forgotten and also the food. Yep, the lady with a passion for chocolate, cheese, cream and meat is a great cook. Now I know why I brought the rebounder with me.