Suffolk April 17th

The days seem to melt into each other. I can’t remember the date. We are in the 4th week of lockdown. Three and a half weeks. Yesterday Dominic Raab (Boris Johnson is recovering from Covid) announced it will last another three weeks with the same rules: we can only leave our houses for one essential piece of shopping, once a day to exercise. We haven’t reached the peak yet – the time when the most amount of recorded deaths has been reached.

It’s a strange time. The situation makes many of us anxious. We all have become spacially aware. We have to stay 2 metres apart. Another person is a potential threat.

It is also liberating this period of stasis. Travel has become impossible so our worlds have become smaller – we have become used to our ‘near worlds’. It is like a return to the past, when life was slower, simpler and more silent: very little traffic. Fewer cars, fewer planes overhead. These sounds have receded and birdsong is the primary sound, amplified by the start of Spring.

And here I am. Back with my devoted mother and dying father. Waiting. Waiting.

On Easter Day he started to vomit and was coughing uncontrollably. His feet and hands were cold. His breathing became intermittent. One breath, 2nd breath. Then nothing. Beat. Then the breathing starts again.

Grace – our live in carer – said he seems much weaker now. The signs seemed to show that he was about to ‘reach his terminus’ as Clive James once said.

He died earlier this year.

Mum called me home. A strange day. Driving fast along the A303, M3, M25, A12. No one about. Something dystopian about it. Like a film where there has been some sort of disaster. Always the feeling that humans and the world they have created are somehow in retreat and the force of nature is returning.

It was like a Summer’s day. Hot. As I got closer to home huge black clouds appeared. Storm clouds which would give their rain in a sudden burst. Windscreen wipers frantically flipping from one side to the other.

When I got here it was raining slowly and warmly. Moody weather. As my sister said – you couldn’t make it up.

Dad looked so pallid. His skin grey like putty. He was wearing a T shirt of my brother’s noise rock band. He used to wear it when he was gardening. And propped up and surrounded by pillows – the same pillows we had when we were children, each one with our name on.

The one nearest to me was faded green. It has greenery, a woodland scene and an owl and the name James in the middle of it. I remember it. I breathe hard and walk out of the room into his study across the hall. This is where I let it out. On my own.

Then a feeling of relief, elation almost. Then my brother and sister sit or stand in the room keeping 2 metres apart from each other yet wanting to be close to him. All of us in silence, our eyes shining, watching him with our own thoughts, memories and prayers.

That was Sunday. Today is Friday. And again he’s pulled himself back from the cliff edge. Does he feel he’s getting closer and decides to resist it, to fight it. Who knows? There is no communication anymore. It’s amazing but it’s tiring, especially for mum. She’s admitted she wants to move on. For his sake and for our’s.

Every day feels like a weekend. Wake up and think what will I do today? The slowing of time. The sound of the bees. The sound of the wind in the lime trees. The slants of sunlight coming through the window creating big blocks of pale gold on the floor.

Waiting.

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