Shy Halos

Corona = Halo

From the Cambridge English Dictionary:

Corona – a circle of light that can sometimes be seen around the moon at night, or around the sun during an eclipse…

If you were to type the word Corona into a search engine, you would be flooded with results about the coronavirus pandemic and Covid – 19. These are dark times, an eclipse of our usually sunny lives. People are locked in their houses, avoiding contact, afraid of this unseen enemy that can pass to us from seemingly healthy friends and neighbours.

But dark eclipses can have a silver lining. Like a halo around the moon, dark times can highlight the generosity of spirit and kindness of so many people. We all give thanks every day for the NHS, for their bravery and selflessness, but there are other halos out there, too, hiding in unexpected corners.

Take those in the caring profession, looking after all the sad and confused people in nursing homes and residential care facilities. And the retail workers, the delivery drivers, the kids stacking shelves, the freight ship crews, the airport workers and port workers keeping the supply chains open.

If, like me, you are a member of the Very High-Risk category (I even carry a card to prove it!), you’re probably even more anxious than most. If you’re a carer for a high-risk person, or if, like me, you are a carer for a very elderly relative, that ups the stakes even more.

As a family, we chose to self-isolate a little before the government advised everyone to do so. This involved Fraser working from home, changing our sleeping and daytime arrangements so that we all have our own dedicated space in the house, etc. It also meant keeping my dad away from his day centre, which he loves to go to three times a week. There, the more mature folks sit shoulder-to-shoulder in a warm, stuffy room, the perfect petri dish for growing bugs, even with the exceptional hygiene they have there.

Two weeks ago, we began to eat our evening meal in the lounge, on our knees, instead of crammed around the kitchen table as we always have before. It gets messy, but I’ve learned not to cook Spaghetti Bolognese anymore.

With some strategic planning (NOT stockpiling!), we’ve been managing our food supplies quite well so far. The young and healthy Katrina has been going out to shop for us to Iceland and the local pharmacy to collect our asthma meds and my arthritis injections. She washes her clothes and showers when she gets home, and we disinfect all packaging before bringing it into the house. It’s like a surgical procedure, double-gloving and all!

Bread and milk have been a challenge. With five of us in the house, all munching cereal and toast and drinking tea and coffee, it soon runs out. So, we decided to send Katrina to the local shop, Carlisle’s. As we have two elderly neighbours*, I phoned them both and asked if they needed any supplies fetching. One was okay, the other was not. I took her order and prepared to send my beloved daughter out into a cloud of unseen viruses.

First, I texted another neighbour who works in Carlisle’s to check the optimum time to shop and avoid crowds while still finding food on the shelves. She phoned me straight back and offered to do the shop for us, including our elderly neighbour’s shopping. She was able to buy our groceries as soon as the delivery arrived at the shop (bread, milk, fruit and soya milk for the one with a food allergy that could put her in hospital) and store them in the walk-in fridges. She was careful to stay within the guidelines for rationing but we still got everything we needed.

So here is another one of our shy halos, gleaming in the shadows. Catherine is over sixty, but as spry as a twenty-year-old and sensible with it. She has offered to repeat this up to three times a week for us and for our neighbours.

Spring of 2020 is like no other spring we’ve ever experienced. My dad, who lived through WW2, remembers rationing cards – although his family were so poor that rationing was an improvement for them; they discovered what butter tasted like. This reminds him of that time.

He’s sad and confused at the moment. He can’t understand why he can’t go to the day centre, and thinks it’s because he’s done something wrong. This morning, he tried to make a break for freedom. He set off with his big coat and his hat and his stick to walk to Bardan Cottage Day Centre. Bardan Cottage is at least twelve miles away, and he wouldn’t have the first clue how to get there, but he doesn’t realise that.

If only he knew how lucky he is. Another family member’s mum is in a nursing home, also with dementia, and her family can no longer visit her at all. Dad doesn’t know that.

This rambling blog is by way of reminding myself and others, through a dark time, that there is still kindness in the human animal. There is still selflessness.

So, let’s keep all those halos shining. Let’s remember that there’s another meaning for corona, and may that help us through this crisis.

See you all at the other side.

*The expression neighbour should be loosely applied here. This is rural County Down. Can’t actually see any of our neighbours…

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