Well, it caught up with us. We ran like rabbits; dashed into our house and slammed the door behind us. We cancelled office-work and birthday parties, the kids were sent home to study, and we sprayed our incoming mail.
It would be terrible (we thought). We were vulnerable (we thought). We were isolated (we thought). We stocked up with noodles, beans, and tea bags. We studied, read, listened, and vaccinated — eligibility not dry on the page before we were there, sleeves rolled up and eyes averted.
It took 28 months, and then it caught us.
It was, in all honesty, a bit of an eye-opener. As a fit, happy, athletic-ish person, I figured I’d probably get off with a glorified cold. Instead, it grabbed me by the throat. It started with a weird and almost enjoyable vertigo, a sense of floating, a pre-fever, something — and then all the joy went out of the window when I was clobbered by the headaches, burning throat, heaving breath, fever, stomach aches, and constant, hacking cough. Lying on my back wasn’t an option if I wanted to breathe; on my front, minor relief. Days 2 and 3 were frightening, when breathing deeply or swallowing couldn’t be taken for granted; the next 10 days, just unpleasant.
My children toppled with various degrees of ‘I feel a bit coldy-ish’ to ’40 degrees and migraines’. The theoretically least vulnerable was hit hardest. The most vulnerable child had middling symptoms. There was no obvious pattern; perhaps instead a complex mishmash of different exposures, vaccine timing, immune response and sheer dumb luck.
We drank a lot of tea and lost a lot of planned activities.
The Gold D of E hike went first. My half-recovered son hoicked his pack on to his back, stared out of the window, and then pulled a reality face: 80km hill-hike under load? CANCELLED.
A Scholars graduation was next. An excited teen, smartly dressed, ready to receive what he’d worked hard to achieve — then a sneeze, a cough… 8 hours in a hot bus with fellow pupils and staff? Not really fair: CANCELLED.
A school day. A little boy, just recovered, who had been super-sensible and gone to bed early, who was happy to try doing PE, and was handed back to me at the school gate, nose bleeding. A much-looked-forward-to-for-two-whole-years school trip: CANCELLED.
I brought my kids up to say yes. I tell them, if you work hard, you’ll reap the rewards. They worked hard, but ended up sitting in their bedrooms, feeling gross, watching their friends skip out into the sunshine to have fun and collect prizes.
So now I have to teach them the rest — sometimes you can work hard, and watch the rewards slip away through no fault of your own. Remember this feeling: it’s horrid, right? Well, we’re lucky that this is a surprise. So many good people work hard their whole lives and don’t get rewards. Keep going. Keep working. In the future, when someone screams, ‘I worked SO hard, it’s not fair!’ you’ll be able to reach out and say, ‘I hear you.’
The DofE hike has been replaced by a piano gig, our house full of music. The scholars program has been replaced by novels and French films. We have drawing pens and The Edge Chronicles. I’ve ordered a whole new shiny set of 5H-6B art pencils (my inner stationery nerd is dancing). We have a missed birthday lunch to reschedule — one thing Covid teaches us is, while we have people, we’re lucky.
Today, we woke up feeling a bit tired – but not scary-rubbish, or ill. So now it’s time to mend whatever’s within reach. Get up, shower, eat, sip tea, push back. Map out some mountain walks and make the best we can out of these strange, bloody days.
Then, always, more tea.