Chris Bateman’s Lockdown Diary: Chapter Three: On Mothers, during this time of the mother of viruses
My ‘Mother’s Day’ this month began at precisely 06H28, which is when my nine-year-old daughter, Kate, had set her alarm so we could prepare a sunrise breakfast for my wife, Suzanne, to enjoy in bed.
Down the stairs, we went, with my older daughter, Hannah, (11), in tow. Story-time the previous evening was replaced by excited logistical planning and debate over whether to first wake Suz with hand-made cards and presents, (accompanied by a cell-phone musical playlist of her favourite songs,) or, to start by serving my freshly-made three-egg, cheese, onion and tomato omelette. We decided on keeping the breakfast hot, so prezzies, cards and music would follow. The girls made toast and peeled an onion while boiling the kettle for tea. Before we knew it, the Hottentot’s Holland Mountains were glowing orange, yellow and purple through the upstairs windows, announcing an imminent sunrise as Suz plumped up her cushions, a broad smile on her face as I laid the appealing tray on her lap.
Living in a time of Covid-19 is poignant for us, with me being severely immune-compromised by the chemo-therapy required to shrink an oesophagal cancer tumour. As poignant at times as what Hannah wrote on her card; “Mum, I want to dance with love for you.” Spontaneous dancing with her headphones on takes Hannah-Pan into a delight-filled space as she moves her body timelessly across any space. She precisely conveyed her feelings for her mother in referencing those emotions. Wow, my daughter was born with EQ, something many of us spend a lifetime working on developing!
It brings to mind the saying (source unknown); “the only question worth asking, is why aren’t you dancing right now?”
It’s an exhortation to live in gratitude by adopting an open, positive, receptive mindset, something my cancer has gifted me with, and which I spoke of in my previous blog. I’ve found hundreds of reasons to dance since my diagnosis woke me up to how I can better live my life and take thing less for granted.
Seemingly banal moments take on special significance when you realize death might be a lot close than you’d expected. What’s changed is that my diagnosis has moved me from having expected (perhaps ‘hoped’ is more realistic), that my death would inevitably come with old-age. Which is not so unreasonable in this day and age when modern medicine promotes longevity, actually – except for Covid-19 curved balls. Right now, as the Coronavirus lockdown dances with my cancer, I’m more inclined to soak in special moments.
One such moment was calling my 88-year-old mother, who has survived raising eight children (including three sets of twins) and hearing her say; “Ah, my first-born, I love you so much.”
She has recently had a fall while negotiating her way from her bed to her nearby commode in the early morning hours. We feared the worst; a broken hip or leg. But the emergency response guys who took her by ambulance to the nearest hospital for a scan and treatment for general bruising said it didn’t seem so, pain notwithstanding. Turns out they were right, but my biggest fear was her contracting Covid-19 in hospital. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when one of my sisters told me Florence Miriam Esther (nee Calverley), was finally on her way home that afternoon.
Then of course, like many more-privileged South Africans, there’s the ‘house-help’ dilemma. Mums’ “minder,” Saraphina, chose to live-in with her and my dad for the first lockdown period, for which we were all immensely grateful. My Dad is 90, still very sharp, but not capable of all the physically-challenging assistance my mother constantly needs. Then later, Saraphina chose to return to her own family when the lockdown was extended. Understood. No problem. My middle-sister Bridget, who is the live-in house-MC, would take up the slack.
But now Saraphina’s back and we have one outstanding concern; just like cancer survivors, elderly folk are at far greater Coronavirus infection risk. We’ll all be more at ease once a week has passed and we know Saraphina is actually fine It’s my parent’s decision (actually Bridget’s, to be truthful). Like all things lock down-related; you base every risk decision on its potential costs relative to benefits. That equation seems to underpin every internal debate we have these days.