Seasons of Lockdown - By Mary Meilton
Life was normal, unremarkable, ordinary.
There was a virus mentioned on the news, but it’s fine I thought, that sort of thing doesn’t happen here.
First, we got sent home from work, and it felt almost exciting. The prospect of not getting up at 7am felt like a treat.
But as I looked around the room on the day we were dismissed, I couldn’t help but think, what if we don’t all make it through the other side?
Rumours were that this could last 12 weeks, I didn’t believe it, the world couldn’t possibly stand still for 12 weeks.
I packed my bags and headed straight to Wales, I had family who needed me. I planned to be there for 4 days.
Suddenly we were thrust into a world of hand sanitiser and face masks. The kitchen table became a classroom as I simultaneously tried to teach 4 children in 4 different year groups.
46 days later I finally came home.
46 days away from my community but I felt more connected than ever. WhatsApp Quiz nights in my neighbourhood became a weekly event. Friends who were too busy suddenly became available. Isolation had never been so sociable.
I was finally home, but it didn't feel like home anymore. Locked in the house 24 hours a day with my Grandma and her dementia. Caregiving was exhausting and support was disparate.
As lockdown started to lift, and the world began to emerge again, I found myself in a new type of lockdown- a hospital admission.
Staying in hospital is scary. Staying in hospital during a pandemic is terrifying.
I spent 64 days in the city of plastic aprons and masked faces. Visiting was restricted to an hour a day, pre-booked, socially distanced and clad in plastic.
The treatment was slow, staff were exhausted as they fought to keep the ward running against a grossly understaffed rota.
Isolation set in as I watched the outside world start to break free. Shops opened, cafes filled and friends could see each other again. I watched with envy as I sat in bed, desperately trying to dodge the COVID storm whirling around the hospital walls.
COVID had stolen my spring and illness had stolen my summer. I was home and I was ready to live again. But COVID wasn't done yet.
A summer of socialising had taken its toll and the rates began to rise. Shop shutters slammed shut once again. It seemed as if I'd missed my chance.
This time was different, there was less hope. The quiz nights didn't return, and zoom calls no longer held much appeal. Everyone just seemed a little bit sad.
But there were whispers of a vaccine, a tiny speck of positivity on the horizon. I was careful not to get too excited, hope was becoming hard to find but easy to lose.
The storm of a winter lockdown continued to rage, but the hope of a vaccine began to shine brighter. It was real, it was happening. Pictures emerged of smiling faces with small jabs in their arms, never did we think we would be so happy to be pricked by a needle.
Christmas was hard. Expectations were raised and expectations fell. But my family were safe and well and that was the real gift this year.
I moved out of my home I had lived in for 22 years, waving at the neighbours who had watched me grow up from a distance.
As I arrived on my new street, my new neighbour reached out a welcoming hand.
I rejected it.
"Covid." I said. She apologised.
The trials of lockdown hit me hardest at the start of January with the loss of my Grandma. Not being able to hug my family and grieve together was torture. Every fibre within me wanted to break the rules, but we hadn’t come this far to simply throw it away now. So as painful as it was, we grieved in isolation. Our only comfort was that by staying apart, we reduced the chance that we would have to grieve for each other.
As 2020 departed and 2021 took its place, the world began to reflect. And I reflected along with it. I miss how life was before COVID, but I know that things can’t just go back to how they were. The virus has changed all of us, whether it will be for good or for bad, I can’t be quite sure. All I know is that when I can finally hug my family again, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go.