Day 59

Written 16 May, 2020

 

I wake up to a silvery morning.

 

 

The house at the bay’s end has just been bought by T.  One day I was rowing slowly across the bay, dipping my oars in deep, pulling hard but easily, and he came up behind in his motor boat and asked if I wanted a push! I loved that. No one else here has been so jolly. In New York and London, he’s a famous entertainer, but here, I hope he’ll just be a good neighbour. I peeped in his windows the other day with A. He’s painted the walls my favourite blue. A tells me his house, once as much in the Arctic Circle as ours, is now toasty warm so his old mother can visit.  Yesterday I emailed him asking what magic he’s done. Today he’s emailed back, inviting us to tea or wine. I’ll wear my video top, and borrow K’s snow trousers, the only warm but elegant thing in our house. I want to arrive in my rowboat, but is GG bendy enough to get in it? And am I superwoman enough?

 

Later: He isn’t. I’m not. I pick T a bunch of the everlasting sorrel leaves, upright and bursting with green freshness but somewhat snail holed. They’re rather like green rabbit ears.   We  agree to walk around the track. On the way, A invites us to pick their rocket or otherwise it’ll go to seed, I know it’s third generation and will be too spicy for us but I add it to T’s bouquet, and N stops us to talk about the rain, no better than dust. Ad is chatting to him, with Tilly the dog. He thanks me for leaving the flowers for his wife.

Is she liking living here?

He assures me she is.

 

T’s house is full of light, azure and white light, and we sit in sunshine on his deck and drink tea, and get to know him. Everything is new, fresh, clean and enviably uncluttered, chairs aligned, cushions positioned. He shows us his boatshed,  hanging companionably over the river, with huge raffia lounging divans that on a hot day, you’d lie in them with your feet almost in the river. He tells us that he’s had them for 20 years, but at last they’ve found their iright home. I’m relieved that the chair’s legs are unravelling.

How old is your mother?

She’s 75. I need to look after her.

I don’t like to point out we’re pretty old too.

He’s the perfect neighbour, bonding with us both, GG over shoulder reconstructions (he’s had two), me over lighting fires in 44 gallon drums, affable, amiable, offering help, asking for help. He says he explored  the upper reaches of our creek but turned around, scared, for it’s true,  you could easily get lost amongst the mangroves and never find your way out.  But on the right tide, if you know your way, it’s heaven. We offer to take him on Monday to heaven.

I get home to find an email reminding me about a chapter on creativity I promised I’d finish by June. Instead i  drag bits of the old water tanks half way down to the pontoon, put a garlic and fennel chicken dinner on the BBQ, set the fire in the pot belly, pour myself a gin and tonic, and only when it’s dark and cold, do i start work.

But overnight, an email reminder of what’s going on in the  world from S in New York:

Dear Sue,
I pretty much fell down the rabbit hole after watching Dr. Bright give his testimony. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/14/rick-bright-testimony-coronavirus-trump-ousted-whistleblower)
How on earth was the White House so dismissive of what he had to say, the facts he gave?https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/14/rick-bright-testimony-coronavirus-trump-ousted-whistleblower Why did they hide these facts from the public? Why did they demote him? What nation am I living in? One more dedicated public servant excoriated for speaking truth to power. I am living in a country with way too many people who value their skewed sense of freedom to do whatever the hell they want over the liberty of us all to have rule by law, respect for truth over lies,  belief in science, and a federal government that does its job for us rather than politicians’’ greed and self interest… Without those values we will go under. I think we are going under, Sue.
Every day I wonder how many of us will die unnecessarily because of these stupid stupid people egged on by the evilest, most ignorant president our nation has ever known. Why him and a pandemic, too. The perfect storm.
Meanwhile I keep writing and rewriting thus book about Poe and his wife, and death. I keep weaving and unravelling it, afraid to stop for I fear it will have no home and that will just magnify the uselessness, the powerlessness I feel. It is hard to believe my life matters anymore. On the street with all the people without masks shoving by, it is easy to believe we don’t matter because they make it clear we are old and they want to get on with life, no matter who or what dies along their way.
She’s living through a nightmare far worse than the one we ran away from, and  tomorrow morning will be far from silvery for her.

 

3 Responses to Day 59

  1. Hi Sue, it’s been a while since my last post… I’m unsure as to how long exactly because lately the days have seemed to blend together, all hazy and repetitive, one after another after another.

    “Waiting” has never been my forte; I’m impatient, uncomfortable with stagnancy, uncomfortable with the feeling of being in a “limbo.” As difficult as it has been at times, I’m refusing to regard this period as one to merely “get through” – life is far too short to wish away parts of it. Still, I catch myself waiting. For what? For clubs to open? For sport to begin again? For weddings and birthdays and barbecues? …no. No. I realise that when I “wait” it is really only for one thing: to be with S again.

    Since we last talked my work has changed – I now have the role of seeing patients who have had COVID, the ones coming out of ICU who have been seriously ill, on the brink of death, even. Fortunately, they are no longer infective (though that doesn’t stop me from turning away in mild paranoia when they begin to cough during our treatments). Seeing these patients hits home the severity of this, of how bad things could get. I see a previously active 50 year old man, now gasping for breath after merely getting out of bed, and I think of my Dad, of my Uncles, of family friends. This man will live, he will likely make a good recovery, but it will take months and months – years, even – before he can feel anything resembling “normal” again.

    As strange and mad as it may sound, I wouldn’t want to be working anywhere else during this time. The hospital is a place of solace for me – a place of camaraderie, solidarity, purpose. Especially now, working directly with this thing that has been interminably dominating our media, our minds and our livelihoods. For the first time, I feel really “on the front lines.” I have always felt more comfortable in the thick of things rather than on the side lines. I prefer to face things head on, to be of service in some way, to feel useful. So, absurdly, I feel very lucky to be a part of this, to be really in the midst of it, to see and hear and experience this moment in history in a hands-on way.

    So as my patient list builds up, I see more and more people who have circled to hell and back, each with their own unique story to tell. And I realise the numbers you see on the news don’t do it justice – could never do it justice – because this isn’t about numbers, it’s about people. Each number is a person, a real person experiencing real suffering with a real story to tell, and it is so hard to grasp that fact just by looking at graphs and tallies.

    As I see my patients make progress, however slow, it drives me forward, it keeps me going. This is why I chose this profession, this was the whole point – to help. And now I get to see people – help people – take their first steps after being bed bound for months, and it simultaneously breaks my heart and warms it. However small my contribution, I feel very lucky to be a part of this, to be a part of something that little bit bigger than just me.

    So I go to work, and I get purpose from work, and I come home and I use this quiet to write, to read, to move, to learn. And always, still, a part of me continues to wait. I wonder if everyone experiences love in this way – as a bittersweet ache, a rich longing, a myriad of conflicting emotions. I catch myself waiting and wishing away the days, and I feel annoyed at myself. And then I cut myself some slack. Because I only wait because I love, I only ache because I love. And to love like this? How golden. What a gift.

    • Beth, this is so precious to me. So extraordinary to know. And wonderful that for all your exhaustion, you managed to write this. I hope writing it, telling it, is of some comfort. Whenever you can, any time, any moment, keep in touch.

  2. Beth, a beautiful bouquet of your experiences, thoughts and feelings in the front line.
    Many thanks
    Shelley

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