Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Lockdown Story

27th January 2021

         Lockdown Grief

Friday, 27th March, in a village outside Birmingham, Brian noticed that he wasn’t feeling right, that he was much more tired than usual. He managed to get himself to work but cocooned himself away in his office, leaving early, just after four. He went home and headed straight for bed, hoping the extraordinary tiredness he was experiencing would soon lift.

The next morning, he found it extremely difficult to get up, but managed to drag himself out the door after swallowing some pills along with an energy drink. He needed to be there for his staff, his customers, his community. He was one of the store managers for one of the big supermarkets in town. He owed it to the people to show up, especially amidst the panic buying. That morning he was hoping the shelves would be at least half stocked for his customers. But he knew that even if this were the case, that still the toilet roll supply couldn’t keep up. It barely made it out to the floor before it disappeared. They’d already limited the amount people could buy. But the rolls vanished nonetheless.

It never occurred to him that he might have the virus. He thought that his body was reacting to the stress of the last few weeks, the uncertainty, the unpredictability.

The pains in his legs started the following Monday. He’d stayed at home to be safe, keeping himself isolated in the small bedroom. Now this leg pain, that didn’t seem right. Checking the NHS website and finding this was not one of the symptoms confirmed his thoughts. Ok, just rest then. But the pain was severe, like a leaden load pressed on his legs, and when he tried to walk to the bathroom they were so heavy he had to drag them one after the other, the short walk causing him great exhaustion, beads of sweat falling down his brow. He took some Paracetamol and stayed in bed.

“Morning Bri, are you feeling any better this morning?” Marie, his wife of 16 years, left the tray down by the door. He knew that instead of talking through the closed door what she wanted to do was sneak in beside him and pull the duvet up over them both. He’d been in the spare room now for over a week and Marie and their three children were obviously worried, but also a bit fed up.

“When’s dad gunna show me the planet thing?” Rory, six, had asked her as she set down the tray on the carpet. She didn’t answer.

“I think am feeling better. My chest still hurts though. But I think I’ll come down today.” He wasn’t playing it up, he did feel better. There was no more aches in his joints and the headaches were lessening. He thought he must be over the worst.

“That’s so nice to hear. I’ll change the bed while you’re up.” Brian heard her fussing in the hall closet. “Mark and Rory will be pleased. And Jess wants help with her science, which is more your scene than mine.” Marie sounded happy, elated at the idea of somethings returning to normal.

Jess, their oldest, was studious, ambitions. Even at the tender age of 13, she had her sights set on becoming a doctor. She was working out what she had to do to make it happen, but often needed guidance and advice. Marie was just a primary-school teacher and felt unqualified to weigh in. Brian and Marie were proud of her determination but suspected that eventually she’d change her mind. There was no one in the family in medicine.

While at home he enjoyed having some time with the family, albeit not doing the normal things they liked to do together, like cycling, swimming, and exploring in the woods near their home. But he got to do other things. He got to build a Lego hotel with Mark, one-on-one time he rarely experienced with this son. And stargazing late in the evenings with his younger son, to the delight of Rory, who didn’t get to stay up so late in normal times. He and Jess usually spent an hour in the morning with her science books. Brian knew that she was watching his recovery closely because she would intermittently question him about his symptoms and immediately look them up on Google.

On the 8th of April, Wednesday of Holy Week, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. Brian awoke with a bad headache and slight breathlessness and turned to Marie in the bed beside him.

“Shall we call a doctor?” Marie asked. “You do look a bit grey.

“That’ll be because of low oxygen.” Jess, from the bedroom door, studied her father’s face. On her own there was a worried frown.

He’d only been back in his own bed for a couple of days, and now took himself back to the little room as much for peace as anything. He could feel her eyes on him in the night, watching his breathing. He thought they’d both sleep better if he went back to the spare room.

“Is dad gunna die?” Mark asked, as he followed his mother round the kitchen. He was on the spectrum and his deadpan face threw Marie, even though she knew this was a logical question to him.

“No, of course not,” she tousled his head briefly. He shook her off. He went to his room and shut the door.

From that day, Brian went downhill rapidly. By Friday the 10th he was looking grey. He could still speak, but had real problems breathing and a cough had started, although he could still walk and talk easily. Despite his protests, Marie phoned 111 and left a message with the receptionist. A doctor rang back the next morning and advised that Brian get checked at the hospital to be safe. Marie convinced him to go but only because he might need some help breathing and at the hospital they had things like oxygen.

Marie drove him the 20 minutes to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.guided him toward the signs for suspected COVID-19 cases which the doctor had told them to look out for, as they would have to enter in a special entrance. After every few steps Brian stopped, bent over, and took some deep breaths. He was relieved when he was met at the double doors by a nurse dressed in a personal protective gear and looking like a spaceman. She took one look at Brian ushered him in, taking Marie’s place.

Marie tried to follow. “Not you, mam,” the burly security guard said. He stood in front of Marie to physically stop her.

“Hang on, wait,” she called to Brian, “Take this.” She held out her crystal beaded rosary, purchased on their trip to the Holy Land last year. Brian knew that she always kept it with her.

The nurse nodded at Brian and he walked back to take it from her. He wasn’t Catholic and certainly never prayed the rosary, but he was thankful for his wife’s expression of love and support, loving him her way.

“Thanks, love” he said. Their shared glance hung in the air for a moment before it was dissolved by the nurse’s voice. He had to go. At the end of the hall, he looked back once before turning a corner. Marie stood there, beautiful, hopeful, worried. With one hand she gave him a little wave and with the other she wiped her eyes.

In the ICU, the nurse escorted him to a single bed and left him to get settled on his own, claiming she would be back in a minute. Brian dropped onto the hard mattress and looked up and down the ward. Eight beds. A man in the next but one bed, hooked up to all sorts of instruments. Brian had not been in an ICU before and did not find the clinical, serious atmosphere comforting. Over the next hour his blood was taken, his oxygen levels checked, and he was sent to X-ray. They must think it’s really serious, he thought. He gripped the rosary in his fingers and sent up a silent prayer. His anxiety increased when he came back to the ward and a new nurse put an oxygen mask on him, saying that his levels were low. Jess was right then. An imperceptible smile broke his tight lips as he thought of his clever daughter. The doctor questioned him on his symptoms, then left after telling him nothing was conclusive and that he’d be back when they had the X-ray results, which shouldn’t be long.

Half an hour later the doctor was back.

“I’m afraid you’ve got pneumonia.” He spoke softly as if that would help ease the pain of the news. “Look, I believe that you are infected with the coronavirus and that is why you have contracted pneumonia. To help your lungs we’ll keep you on oxygen and get you to lie on your tummy every few hours, see how you go. Any questions?

Stunned, Brian couldn’t think of anything to ask. “No,” he said, and the doctor left the room. The words it’s the virus swam round and round in his head. He can’t breathe because it’s the virus. He is so tired because it’s the virus. He wasn’t hungry because it’s the virus. Had he had it this whole time? What about his family? What about Marie and Mark and Rory and Jess? Had he infected them? They didn’t even know. What will he say? Where was his phone? He looked around him. Where were his things, his bag? He squeezed the rosary tighter in his hand and began calling for a nurse.

“I’d like my phone, please,” he said to the nurse when she came to check his breathing, pulse, and blood pressure.

“Of course, as soon as I’m finished. But I don’t want you to have your oxygen mask off for long, so just a couple of minutes. Okay?” she watched the machines, “We need to get your oxygen up, then you’ll feel a lot better.” She was cheerful, positive almost.

“Okay,” he said, a bit more relaxed.

On their video call he could tell by Marie’s voice and her red face (the benefits of WhatsApp) that she’d been crying. He smiled and tried to comfort her. He lied to her, telling her that he didn’t need to stay long, that he just needed to be monitored for a while. He would be home soon.

“Bye, love, love you loads,” he said as her picture faded away. Staring at the blank screen, he was overcome with emotion. His shoulders started to shake and he let the phone fall onto the bed.

“Come on, Brian, you’re doing fine,” the nurse said, giving him some tissues to wipe his face, then putting his oxygen mask back on. It was now one thirty and she’d not left his side since he’d come back from the X-ray department some hours before, not even to have her break.

By midafternoon, rather than improving he deteriorated. His breathing was more labored. They turned up the oxygen levels as he was still only 70%. By next morning, Brian was on maximum oxygen and still not improving.

“The doctor said you may need to go on a ventilator for a while,” the nurse told him. “It’ll give your body a rest. It’s been working so hard.” Brian looked up at her, gently nodding his head.

“We’re going to move you , just now, to a room on your own, to keep a better eye on you.” She released the breaks on the bed

“Your wife can come in and see you through the window. Shall I phone her for you?” Her eyes, all he could see of his nurse now, showed compassion and love. How do they do it, he thought, they are so committedShe’s not even had a breakDoes she not worry about catching the virus herself and taking it home to her loved ones. He gave her another slight nod of his head. His thoughts drifted back to Marie. He wasn’t sure he wanted her to see him like this but he knew she’d want to. The nurse picked up his phone, “What name?” she asked, scrolling through his contacts. She tapped her finger over his wife’s name.

“Here, speak to her. You can only talk for a minute, though.” She put the phone in his hand, removed the oxygen mask from his face and tilted the bed so he could see. She then went to stand just outside the door so that he could have some privacy, but where she could come straight back in if needed. Marie was wearing her red dress, the one he’d told her he liked, had she done that on purpose? They both held their phones. He wanted to talk but instead started coughing, struggling for each breath.

“Hello love,” he managed to say in a croaky whisper followed by more coughing

“Hi, love you,” Marie replied, supportive as always, “We’ll get through this. You concentrate on getting better.” She tried to hide a sniffle. “So many people are praying.” She touched the screen with her fingers. “I want to hug you, be beside you, read to you, hold your hand.”

“I know,” he replied, trying to stifle his coughing.

“I’m afraid that’s enough.” The nurse let them say goodbye then took the phone from him.

I’ve had less than a minute, he thought. He felt vulnerable without his phone, without being able to hear his wife’s voice. He looked up at the window, saw his Marie standing up looking in at him, saw the nurse sign to her that she’d come out to see her.

“He’s not doing great, I’m afraid.” The nurse had put Brian’s oxygen mask back on and had come to see her. “We’re going to have to ventilate him.” Brian saw Marie double over, like she had been punched in the abdomen. She had to have been expecting this, right? He had been gone for three days now. He felt helpless. How could he comfort her, if he couldn’t even use his own phone?

Once Marie processed the shock, she blurted out a list of questions rapid fire. “How long for? He will get better? What can I do?”

The nurse remained calm and collected. “We’ll see how he goes. We’re doing everything we can.” Brian watched from the bed, knew instinctively what Marie’s was being told , his mind probably drifted to the medical dramas, Chicago Med among others. He knew she watched them with Jess who ate up every episode. Brian was surprised that people really did say things like “They’re doing everything they can.” Brian hoped that Marie wouldn’t use those same words to explain to Jess, Rory, and Mark what was happening to their dad. They were empty, hollow words and provided no information or comfort. Brian watched as the nurse said goodbye to Marie. He watched his wife put her hand up to the glass, smile at him, blow a kiss, then turn to go. He was heartbroken thinking about what his wife must be going through. He hated to think of her worrying about him. Would he ever see her again? What would that do to her? And the children? It was all too much. His eyes filled up and he tried not to think.

At 5:15 a.m. Easter morning Marie woke to her phone ringing

“Hello, this is Doctor Anderson from the ICU at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital. Sorry to ring so early. I’m afraid Brian’s breathing got worse in the night, his blood pressure dropped to dangerous levels, and his pulse is very slow now. He’s gone into a coma. We are keeping him comfortable. You can come and see him from a viewing window if you’d like, but I’m afraid we can’t let you in, it’s too risky.”

“I’ll come straight in,” Marie replied.

“I’ll let the nurse know. Also, we noticed he holds a rosary in his hand. Shall we ask a priest to come?”

“Yes, yes, please.” Marie was distraught, caressing Brian’s pillow in small circles where his head used to lay.

Walking through the hospital, Marie was torn to shreds. She’d left the children behind, not telling them much but knowing that Jess would be researching and coming to her own conclusions.

“You can sit here,” a new nurse put a chair in front of the window.

Marie looked into the room, a small room with bare, clinical walls, one tiny window above the bed. Her eyes searched for Brian. A crumpled white sheet covered most of his body. He lay on his side, so frail looking, his face grey, the lifeblood being drained out of him, his dark hair wet and stuck to his skin. A nurse and a doctor hovered about looking at the instruments, talking between themselves.

She stared and stared and stared and waited.

At 6:20 p.m. the priest came, dressed in protective clothing. She recognised him as Friar Anthony from a neighbouring parish. Much later, when she could think straight, she would be very grateful that he had been there, grateful that he was the hospital chaplain and as such, allowed in to give her husband spiritual comfort at the end, that she was there to see it. Before he went in, he gave her a blessing.

At 7:09 p.m. the doctor came out to tell her they were taking him off the ventilator, that he was clinically dead and only the machine was breathing for him now, that they were really sorry, that they did everything they could.

Doctor Anderson offered her the rosary back.

“No, leave it with him, please,” she mumbled.

Image for post

Marian Green is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and her greatest love is her large family — nine children, twenty-five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Her Christian faith is as important to her and informs everything she does. Caring for loved ones meant she came late to a writer’s life. Over the last five years she has developed a passion for writing truth whether it’s through self help advice, real life story, fiction or poetry. She has published many of these pieces on her blog, on and as comments in women’s magazines. She belongs to a writer’s group, which she’s been with for seven years.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Reply to Landays

Day 20:  20th April, 20th poem:

The challenge from napowrimo for today is to write a landay. That is a 22 syllable rhyming couplet with 9 syllables in the first line and 13 in the second. The form comes from  Afghanistan and is usually written by women. I thought I'd give it a go.

Do not  stare, I'm no different , I'm me,
Downs syndrome is who I am, pleased to meet you, don't flea.

Why did you throw me out in the cold
Please let me back home in the warm, I'll be good, not bold.

Don't pass by without a second glance
Look me in the eye, give some money, my life enhance.

This baby she won't stop her crying,
If she don't stop, I'll go round the bend, I ain't lying.

You never came home last night to me,
So from that I take it she was better company.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Yes, I'm Thankful

 17th January 2021.

Yes, I'm Thankful

This morning, while wasting time looking at Facebook, I came  across, Astrid's Ten Things of Thankful, which she had difficulty posting on the link. Reading it brought to mind that, although I haven't recently expressed it, I am, myself,  thankful for many things. Yes, there are many blessings in my life. So, here are some.

1. For life itself,  every breath that I take, reminding me that my death will come soon enough, but just now I have some more living to do and I'd better get on with it.  I thank God that for bringing more life into the world through me. I'm thankful that my dear husband was part of that. All those beautiful souls who are our children and grandchildren. 

2. My birthday this week, even in Lockdown was a lovely celebration. I'm thankful for family and friends that made me feel special. A family zoom party with my grandchildren reading favourite poems and bringing news, one even baking a cake, but eating it herself because she can't visit, all brought tears to my eyes - in a good way. A friend who dropped in flowers, another who delivered a bottle of Baileys, a daughter who brought plants and a bottle of Riocca, a son who got me a bar of chocolate,  multiple phone messages, singing in the Writers Hour zoom session and again at Open Mic- so much love out there for me. Incredible.

3. I'm thankful that I've written so much of the memoir. Editing now. It'll take a while but, most things are on the page. I never thought I'd get this far. Hopefully , it will actually get finished. 

4. And for finding and working with The London Writers Salon I am hugely thankful. Writing with the group everyday has given me purpose during this time of Pandemic. Doing the Artists Way with some fellow writes from the Writers Hour has been life changing in many ways, giving me especially the courage to own, use and be proud of my own words. It's been a brilliant journey and I've made wonderful friendships, that I hope to keep. 

5. For the wonderful privilege of living by the coast, with chances to listen to the sound of waves, rhythmically performing their work hour after hour, day after day, never the same, creating stories , pictures, building dreams . Listening, you will hear of distant shores, every drop in the ocean with it's tale to tale as it makes it's way around the earth.  Coming away, behind the coastguard hut, the sudden silence embraces you. Silence has many shapes . Sometimes, it's rocky and hard and You might try to avoid it, another time it's soft, comfortable and you want to hug it. But the silence behind the shed is surprising in it's empty vastness.

6. I'm thankful  for my new pile of books. Not easy to spend the money on me, courage was needed and called on and came . I now have seven books waiting . Better than having no books to look forward to. At any time now, I'll be able to find something to keep me occupied. Love my books. Maybe I am a booky  type after all.

7. I'm thankful for my fountain pen, which I love and which I have found a new cartridge convertor for. Are you thinking what is a cartridge convertor? I had the same thought. But it's quite magical. Instead of buying cartridges, now I will have a bottle of ink and fill up the convertor. Much more efficient - apparently. I'll let you know on that one.

8. And for feeling that there is hope. Yes, I am thankful that I can see hope for a different future. But hope is of the moment and I don't look to far ahead. Each hour, each day brings it's own dose of hope and I grab it ride with it.

9. This week I cleaned the bathrooms. They are both shiny and clean, which makes me happy. And when the bathrooms are clean it means I'm avoiding some other work I need to get on with. It's good to be under pressure sometimes. At least the housework gets done.

10. And have I said it already , that words can't contain the thankfulness I have for my hubby and all my family. A gift indeed, a blessing.

Well I didn't think I'd get to ten things, but there you go.  


Friday, January 15, 2021

I Wanted To Be A Writer

 15th Jan 2021

I Wanted To Be  A Writer

15th Jan 2013.

This day eight years ago, 15th January 2013, a Tuesday, my 59th birthday, I started this journey, this writing life.

I had no idea  - that less could be  more, that I’d have to kill my darlings, that there’d be no muse,  just hard work and lots of it,  and who knew how absolutely necessary, the housework would suddenly become. I’m so damn proud of my shiny bathroom just now.

So, there I was, stood outside the door. Ok, deep breath, raise your head, grip the handle.  I gulped down the sick feeling, down into my stomach which itself was fighting to regain some kind of stillness.  Through the double glass doors, I saw two ladies already sat at the large table.  I joined them. We made small talk as others came into the room.

“Hello, I’m Marian, mother of nine and grandmother.”  My hands clammy, my mouth dry, what on earth was I doing here?   Ten “would be” writers gathered together for a six week Creative Writing Course, we took turns to introduce ourselves. 

I’d wanted to write as far back as I could remember, paying a lot of money in the late 70’s for a distance writing course. Learning in isolation though? Not my thing. The books went in the loft, then into the bin when we moved. Though my confidence was knocked, the desire remained.  I had to dig deep to find a grain of courage to try this new workshop.  Would I now, actually be able to? Would everybody be better than me? Would my dream be shattered? Because, then what? I’d always used the excuse that my brain hadn’t got any usable mental space for writing, it was so full of the worries and minutia of bringing up a large family. 

Strangely though, I’d been looking forward to this day for longer than I cared to admit.  Occasionally, in the past, passion would take hold of me and I’d have to write to a paper or magazine. even had some articles published, mainly in Catholic papers and Parish newsletters. But nothing that would class me as a proper writer.  Would I ever deserve that title?

But my main push to start, was the sense I was running out of time. A stroke I had the year before, certainly made me think. All those wasted moments of the past – nothing to be done about them.  Dreams for the future?  Only wishful thinking … unless... I knew leaving things for later would mean they’d never get done. So, no time like the present. When I handed the cheque over at the start of that first session, I knew that it could, change everything.





Friday, January 1, 2021

Day 1 2021

 1st January 2021

I have 3 reasons for celebrating today

1. Happy New Year to you all 

And thank you to those who have read and commented on my blog over the last year. All your encouragement is much appreciated. With more than 65,000 visits, I feel that my words are getting out there in some way or other. Please keep the comments coming, especially if you have any ideas or suggestions to make. I think seriously about every comment I get knowing that they're rarely given lightly. 

If you would like to be a guest writer on my blog and have anything you would like to be published please  do let me know. 

How are you going into 2021? 

Are you fearful, bringing with you anxieties from 2020, that strange year that most people want to run from as quickly as possible?  Are you able to leave behind those worries and start this year with a clean page, a new chapter of your life? 

Myself, I found so much joy last year that I can only hope that, in some ways, 2021 brings me at least the same again. Obviously, I don't mean  that I don't also hope that we come out of the pandemic, of course I do. But it was because of the pandemic that I found myself at my computer and gave myself the permission, at last, to call myself a writer. Having a short story published half way through the year helped too. 

So, I wish you blessings for 2021 the Gaelic way:

 May your giving hand never fail you.

May we all be alive at this same time next year.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand, and never close His fist too tight!

  May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live!

  May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.

2 Happy 8th Day of Christmas

Do you still have decorations up, or has your tree been packed away since the evening of the 25th having been up since the middle of November?

Many people told me during the second half of November, that they'd put the tree up and decorated the house early this year to give themselves "a little lift" , "a bit of joy" to help them live through the unending, depressing and constant bad news that just seemed to permeate our skin and become part of us. 

Those same people were then fed up with the Christmas tree and desperate to take it down as soon as possible.  Ok, kids we've had the presents let's take the tree down.

In our house on the other hand we rarely put the tree up before the week before. The first thing to appear is the advent wreath four weeks before Christmas.  The crib comes next about two weeks before. 

With the tree only decorated only a few days in advance of the day itself, and sometimes I leave it for Christmas Eve, none of us are ready to see it go as early as St Stephen's Day ( Boxing Day) and are eager to keep celebrating for the whole twelve days. 

This year the 1st January was very different for us. Usually we have a family get together when we do Christmas Day all over again, even with crackers and Christmas pudding. But today we all ate in our own homes, gathering in the afternoon for a Zoom family Christmas quiz. And what a time we had. The competition was fierce . Each small (?) family group had five questions to ask. As we went through them it was clear that many would be repeated because others had them on their list. A scramble then to get more to add to out list. There was an art competition  for all ages, a word game where we had to race around the house finding items that began with all the letter of the words Jingle Bells. The children were great at this, running for eggs out of the fridge and grabbing pens for the letter i for ink. There was so much laughing that in the middle of it all I was in tears, thanking God for them all. We may not have seen them in person and that was sad. I'd like to have had hugs. But we did have the best of times and it will be remembered. More shananigans have been planned for the weekend. I'm looking forward to it all.

  3 The Feast of Mary Mother of God.

This is one of my favourite feastdays. Hubby and I went to Mass this morning. It was lovely to see the church full ( well as full as it can be with the restrictions).

We even sang the Salve Regina at the end. 

What did you do on the first day of 2021?