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Living life through a Pandemic by Karen Wills

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Covid19, self-isolation, social distancing, lock-down are all words that are now part of life each day. We are living through an extraordinary event. One that will leave its mark on the world for a very long time. A few months ago, I could not have imagined living the way I am now. I have not been outside my front door since the 18th of March. When I heard the news that schools and colleges all over the country were closing because of Covid19 I was worried but also relieved. Going into college each day before the closure everyone was anxious about getting the virus. I watched the news every day and realised that the risk was getting higher and that even going to the shops had become a hazardous task. Everyone could relate. We were all going through the same thing. Restrictions were put in place which meant no going out unless it was essential. Everyone was anxious including me. The thoughts of being stuck at home with my children for days, maybe weeks, was terrifying! Don’t get me wrong I love the little darlings but seriously, this was a nightmare situation!

I am a lone parent of two adult sons and two teenage sons. Before all the closures and restrictions, one of my older sons had travelled to Japan. He was due to fly home on the 20th March, but the airline cancelled his flight. They told him that they could not justify flying a plane when most other passengers had cancelled their flight. He was stuck. People all over the world were beginning to panic. Italy had declared a state of emergency and was gone into lockdown. The airline would not book my son another flight as they said the circumstance were unprecedented. I was kind of getting a teeny bit worried; a million thoughts went through my mind. What if he couldn’t get another flight? What if he got sick?  Luckily, he got another flight, but then I was worried that this flight might too got cancelled. Needless to say, my anxiety levels were getting higher. Thankfully he returned on the 18th of March and since then we have had to stay home and self-isolate to reduce the risk of contamination as he had been travelling. This meant we could not leave the house for any reason. My friends stepped in and asked me to send them a list of things that we needed. They would go to the shops and leave our groceries in the porch. I’m so lucky to have great friends.

Three days after my son returned from Japan, one of my other sons got a temperature. It was the weekend, so I phoned the out of hours doctor for advice. They told me that he would now need to be tested for Covid19. I was a little worried but not overly as he had no other symptoms. The following evening, I too had a temperature. Things were beginning to get a bit stressful. Again, my anxiety kicked in. A million questions like what happens if I get really ill? Who will take care of the boys? What if he gets really sick and needs to go to hospital? Will I be allowed to go with him? He is autistic and wouldn’t cope well without me. This was a terrifying thought. I had to tell myself to stop worrying and just deal with things as they happen. Thankfully our temperatures went away, and we had no other symptoms. Our tests were subsequently cancelled.

My teenage sons have been great throughout all of this, but at first, they were confused. They did not understand the seriousness of the situation. Then they became anxious wondering when all this would stop so they could see their friends again. I realised like many others did too, that if we were going to get through this, we would need to try to get some sense of normality in our lives. Distraction was key. I gave the boys chores to do in the house and the garden to keep them busy. We watched movies and played board games in the evenings. Schools and colleges had set up remote online learning for students which was a life saver. I was glad to have assignments to do as it took my mind off everything.

Then along came the leak. The kitchen ceiling began to drip water. Could things get any worse? Seriously? I had no idea what to do. I phoned my plumber who was just having his dinner, but kindly said he would call out in about half an hour. I then phoned my neighbour for advice. At this stage the water was pouring down all over the floor. My neighbour said he could try to turn the water off at the mains. In order for him to come into my house, I would need to leave the front door open. The boys and I would have to be in another room away from where he would be looking. He needed to wear gloves and cover his face. It was a nightmare. The plumber had to take the same precautions too. We then went through a list of things they had touched and had to be wiped as a precaution. This seems crazy, because it is now becoming our normal.

Since this crisis has taken over our lives, our homes, our country and our wellbeing, it has in a weird way brought us all together. It has become a slogan, ‘In this together’ and ‘Staying together by being apart’. We have come together as a people. Ireland is united despite its borders. We are taking care of each other. Looking out for our neighbours and friends. We have learned the true meaning of isolation. Every day, we are acutely aware of the grim reality and sadness of the lives lost. People are at home with no work to go to. The streets are empty. Businesses are empty. The churches are empty. We are in lock-down. Yet there is a sense of optimism, of love, of appreciation and gratitude for each other and for those risking their lives so that we can stay safe. All we can do is take it one day at a time and hope tomorrow we will be closer to the finish line.

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