“Just got a touch of flu today,” fibbed the luckless addict in the 1980’s anti-drugs campaign. 30 years later and flu has become the preferred narrative in our house since Mum took to her bed and stayed there, accepting little more than Lemsip and offering nothing but tissues and phlegm and what you might call a new, continuous cough, but I don’t.
This is not an old lady who stays in bed lightly, so we know something unusual is up. Dad is downstairs, as ever. Forever. And I am suspended between the two of them. Halfway up the stairs. As in the song, “A little mouse with clogs on…” The mouse is me; the clogs are all this grown-up, growing old stuff. It just doesn’t fit somehow. We order some Covid tests. Better to know, right? Better to be sure.
The day of the tests become a test in itself. In the movie Goodfellas the climactic sequence is a day in which the lead character has to drop off some guns, make dinner for his family, take one of them to hospital, organise a drug deal while taking a lot of drugs and being followed by a helicopter which might just be a figment of his imagination. Today becomes my version of that.
Mum says she feels worse, can’t get up, and Dad’s morning carer is two hours late. The postman drops off the tests and runs away from the house when I open the door as if the place were about to explode. I envy him. My sister, who ordered the tests texts me to ask if the tests are here since she has had an email saying they are but wants to check anyway.
Next I have to register the tests online, unpack them without contaminating them and get Mum and Dad’s medical info together which ought to be centralized or embedded in my memory but instead is scattered all over the house, bits of paper and prescriptions and DNR’s all over the place like deathly confetti. Mum calls me from upstairs, Dad from downstairs. All the ordinary things need doing and it also takes time to explain to them both that I am going to test them and what that means and how and why.
The test registration page is a seven-page online accumulator that won’t let you save the information you’ve input, and which crashes every time I get to the end. I try multiple times from multiple browsers while simultaneously dialling into the government’s Covid helpline which like the website is overwhelmed and thus no help at all. Meanwhile I have to navigate the ongoing argument between two of Dad’s carers and my sister about the antibiotics he needs for his foot which has turned purple again. When the two hours late morning carer has made his position clear he retires to the toilet here for 20 minutes which is entirely fair enough – he starts work early and you’ve gotta go sometime, but now mum is in the upstairs bathroom and I need to go and then my sister comes around and explains her view on things to me from the drive since she won’t come in the house since she’s asthmatic but that means I have to stand out on the drive to hear her and it’s freezing and I’m not really dressed yet so then I feel like I’m getting a cold. The real headline is nothing is getting done but I’m done with government portals which must be quieter later, right? So I go out for a drive.
When I get back mum is back in bed. I lure her downstairs for some soup, let in the next carer for Dad and then try to register the tests again. The online system still won’t work but eventually I get to the final level of options on the phone and speak to someone who says they can do it though it’s too late to drop the tests off for collection today but what the hell, yes of course.
Except… I’m calling for two people without emails or cell phones and I’d like their results sent to the phone of a third person who isn’t me, and no their address isn’t my address or this number my number and so we are on the phone for thirty minutes using the phonetic alphabet to relay and recheck 11 digit numbers while not mixing the tests up and because tomorrow is Sunday a courier will have to come and collect them and he might come at 8am so I will have to wake my parents in the dark and swab them an hour before this but then again the courier might not get here till four, so who knows and who can possibly say? Either way, I’m in all day tomorrow until he comes.
Mum tries to get upstairs without using the stairlift and as I come down to intercept her I fall down the stairs and cut my hand open on the teeth of the stairlift rail. There on the stairs. Right there. I have been here for two weeks which now feels like one long day since I can’t visit anyone else because of the restrictions and I really, truly, want to get out of here.
I call my sister who says just leave the tests on the step since its colder than the fridge and makes no concession to the fact that I have given an entire day to organizing this now and so am in some way expert, before telling me what she thinks and then asking me for unknown unknowns about stuff we can’t possibly know about until the tests — which I can’t administer till the morning — have come back. My frustration is audible, to put it mildly. She says I should have texted her if I didn’t want to talk but last time I texted her she rang me up to talk anyway. We hang up. She texts me another question about next week – so there. I call my brother – who has Covid and is now worse than he was yesterday.
Now it’s evening. Dad is obsessed with strawberries and the trade-off for having to find them is that they do at least cheer him up, so I don’t mind getting them for him. This being January they have been flown in from Egypt which is funny since I call his room ‘Pharaoh’s Oven’ which sounds like a Cairo pizza joint but it’s just because the place is full of stuff and clutter he appears to want with him into the afterlife and it is always very, very hot.
“Luck is a big thing in life” – says Dad as he sets about his strawberries. He is gearing up for one of his occasional speeches, but Mum has called me upstairs again since she wants half a glass of water. Fear of spills and arthritic joints mean we deal in halves of everything now but that of course means all things happen twice as often and I set the alarm for 6 AM and lie down since tomorrow is another day though not, I hope, like this one. But if it is, well that is that, and then another line from the old drug campaigns comes back to me, another addict’s mantra: “I can handle it” Well, we’ll see. Luck is a big thing in life, apparently.
14 thoughts on “Test. Match. Special.”
Thank you for this. I can identify with many of these situations and frustrations….. it’s good to know I’m not the only one. ( I know that, but it helps to see it in black and white.) If one doesn’t laugh, you’d cry or possibly scream.
Thanks again. Xx
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, Lynn x
Just another day, where your ” plans” get obliterated within 30 minutes. Did I tell my Dad woke me at 3am the other night, because he had bitten of his finger nail and wanted me to dispose of it??..
I feel that one… “my mundane outcome requires your immediate attention/everyday things treated as emergencies.”
This is so painful to read because so eloquently described. You are not alone – there are many of us in the same terrible boat. Thank you for making me laugh.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Cheers Emily. Good luck to you.
Thank you! another great report from the home front.
Nothing to compare, but I am weathering an awful lot of blimpish rhetoric from my profoundly deaf 87 year old mother. Current topic – ‘How we eeked out a living on nothing, without any help (only dining on bread and dripping if we were lucky)’ I think there’s a Monty Python sketch for this somewhere. In tandem with this comes a gung-ho spirit, more commendable perhaps, but which definitely has to be tamed, on repeat – we are in a PANDEMIC you know.
I am starting to think I am in a parallel universe and you are in fact me!
Well on a certain level that may be true if we take the idea that we are one consciousness experiencing itself through the illusion of seperation. On the other hand, I could use a cup of tea.
Thank you so much again. . and again, for sharing your world – as surreal as it must feel sometimes/often, to have your brain and identity and physical body to wrapped up in the planning and practice of keeping others going (even as your own will to live is challenged). I appreciate the subtle in-between-the-lines stuff too. I navigate some pretty dark triggering from my family members’ version of realities and ‘solutions’ to situations I know only too well. .. I am the sole carer of our 95 yr old Mum, and therefore ‘The Expert’, and yet the invasive urge to suggest obvious stuff that I’ve been routinely doing for years tests my nervous system and pounding heart. Your digests make me smile and give me strength to carry on, even as I see my own life ‘s aspirations drifting further away, and in spite of instincts for self-preservation urging me to flee towards the nearest airport, I want to stick with Mum and give her all I’ve got. She is my precious. Chrissie x
Hi Chrissie, there is a lot in what you’ve written here that echoes with me and not just the experience itself but the insight. One thing a friend of mine who had been through similar said when this started was that it was worth sticking it out since you would never have to ask yourself down the line if you did the right thing. While I would say there are certain times in life when we should leave or feel OK about leaving the lure of aspiration has crumbled for me in favour of simply wanting peace without laying conditions on that, and the fact that it is when I am able to do that that it comes — or I remember this is the real way of things — or whatever the metaphysical process is when I get back to the idea that on some level everything is OK. Equally I am increasingly aware of my limitatations and feel less guilt now when I have to get away and consign things to fate. Such is the dance/balance, as you know. Good luck x
I am still struggling against my “Fall Person” status.
Am I falling already? Is that why I suddenly feel so old and discouraged?
Juggling a full-time work with everyday “emergencies” being pushed against my face on a mobile screen… while absent brothers send holidays pictures (travels mother was not invited to join)…
Nothing can prepare us for the experience of feeling ourselves melt onto our vanishing parents, and the discovery our siblings are just intrusive strangers that we will never see again after our parents are gone.
Thank you so much again. . and again, for sharing your world – as surreal as it must feel sometimes/often, to have your brain and identity and physical body wrapped up in the planning and practice of keeping others going (even as your own will to live is challenged). I appreciate the subtle in-between-the-lines stuff too. I navigate some pretty dark triggering from my family members’ version of realities and ‘solutions’ to situations I know only too well. .. I am the sole carer of our 95 yr old Mum, and therefore ‘The Expert’, and yet the invasive urge to suggest obvious stuff that I’ve been routinely doing for years tests my nervous system and pounding heart. Your digests make me smile and give me strength to carry on, even as I see my own life ‘s aspirations drifting further away, and in spite of instincts for self-preservation urging me to flee towards the nearest airport, I want to stick with Mum and give her all I’ve got. She is my precious.