Crokinole - pre-lockdown

Carer or gaoler?

In which lockdown catches up with us

We’re posting this on 2nd February, which is both Groundhog Day and, according to the church calendar, Candlemas.

  Back in November the UK, with everyone desperate to lighten lockdown, there was an early rush on Christmas decorations, and especially trees.  People calculated that if kith and kin weren’t descending, that made more room for a nice big tree. (Better behaved than the family and, nowadays, dropping less on the carpet.) There was also a lot of discussion in the media about when to take the Christmas decorations down, with everybody desperate to cling on to something bright and twinkly. The twelfth night tradition was trumped by a much better idea – we were reminded that Christmas used to last a full 40 days ending in February with Candlemas. More feasting, more hunkering down, more lights. What’s not to like?

Terry’s been frustrated because we haven’t posted for ages, and that’s because nothing has seemed worth sharing, with everything so dull and dreary,  and so much bad news in the air, our own and other people’s.

I think, approaching Groundhog Day, he’s scared that if he steps outside and sees his own shadow, that’s going to mean another six weeks of winter, so why risk it? Let’s face it, in 2021, anyone could excuse a groundhog for saying, nah, stuff this for a lark, I’m not going to poke one whisker out of my burrow this year. (Sorry, you’ll have to translate that into American English.) 

So, Terry dear heart, I hereby challenge you to recall the following.

  1. We spent our Christmas in a support bubble with two dear friends, one of whom is recovering from acquired brain injury, the other caring for her. A much bigger job than the regime of benign neglect that you get from me. Wasn’t that important?  
  2. On 27 December, we lost my Mum. She was 90. We’d skyped that day, she was on fine form. After all your escapades together, she deserves a mention, doesn’t she?
  3. Also, loose ends!!! The guitar. Ages ago, we posted about your continued effort to improve fine motor skills so as to play again, and you mentioned getting a keyboard. Well, twice recently I’ve come back from a good long walk to hear you seriously practising.

OK, so you’re a limp rag today after yesterday’s 8 Brocades (qigong). But you are hanging in there, and I’m hanging on too.

 You see. That’s typical of life with Gill! She starts off thinking, then she remembers things. Then she reminds me and I have to admit she’s right. Again! I don’t really understand the reference to ground hogs, maybe a new recipe? I can pick out many good happenings but inevitably they rapidly become clouded by the feeling of captivity that lockdown generates.

Christmas was a major high spot. Seeing Chris and Marion after so long was wonderful, though it does seem it will be a long time before we are able to see them again.

Marion has to keep re-learning about lockdown. But she’s got Christmas off pat, and we had an easy, relaxed time. No hugs, distance kept, hands washed, and virus washers scrubbing the air, but we were all very thankful not to be alone. Many of the board games we used to play at Christmas are not really practical now, but this year’s hits were 3-D Snakes and Ladders, and the Canadian game of Crokinole, which is as much fun to watch as to play. If you don’t know it: it’s a bit like curling, in miniature, crossed with tiddlywinks, except that, unlike curling, it’s fast and can have your eye out. Two players sit opposite each other and flick wooden discs at a small hole in a polished board; the rules are rigid, that there must be one buttock on the chair at all times. (I guess they have the equivalent of a square leg umpire, wonder what it’s called?) Terry played mainly left-handed, with an occasional go at the right.  Usefully addictive.

Our friends left us after Boxing Day. The world came crashing down when we received a call from Gill’s sister, Cindy, 650 miles away in Shetland, to say that Jean had been rushed into hospital. She died later that evening. There have been countless heartbreaking stories of sickness and loss this year, and we’re thankful  she didn’t have to suffer a long, drawn out illness; in fact she was her usual self, laughing, joking and being lovely to everyone right to the end. I knew, immediately I met Gill, she was the woman I would love and want to be with forever, and it turned out to be even better than that. What I hadn’t expected was a mother-in-law who broke all the rules. She was fun, a great pleasure to be with and I rapidly fell for her too. During the pandemic, we’d got into the habit of chatting on the phone every day, and her mantra was, Make the most of things, enjoy yourselves while you can.

We can’t get together as a family yet, and now we’re back to an even bigger level of lockdown. We are lucky to have countryside all around us here. The downside is pavements are very narrow and uneven or non-existent so it is very difficult to get out. This means exercising at home, mainly using weights, exercise bands and doing tai-chi, but walking recovery has definitely dropped back. Lockdown also means that Gill, apart from occasional forays to top up food stocks, is always around. This is lovely, but does inhibit my progress with the guitar.  The embarrassment at the sounds that now come from it means I pick it up less when she’s around. (Maybe there’s something wrong with my guitars?)

When we started the blog we said we’d share the good stuff, and you may be feeling this particular post has been a bit of a whingefest.  Read on! There’s been a minor breakthrough.

It’s  many months since Terry walked any distance at all.  Just getting about the home, his foot is sticking to the floor all the time now, and he’s never really getting into his stride other than on the treadmill. And I’ve been much less mobile too. In normal times, I’d be out and about several times a week,  to choir practices, writing group, tai chi and yoga, taking Terry to physio, and popping in to the shops. All this buzzing around has stopped. A couple of years ago, a beautiful country park and garden opened to the public just ten minutes from where we live. We visited once together, and ever since, I’d been waiting for the weather to be right and Terry to feel up to going back. The whole summer passed. In October I made the decision to go on my own.

Why oh why did it take so long for the penny to drop? It felt like a sort of treachery, to enjoy a walk in nature when Terry couldn’t. But of course, he didn’t mind one bit.  We all need space!  Especially in lockdown, when roles can easily  slip from spouse to gaoler. Last week, there was snow, and a brief spell of sunshine, so off I went again. I had the rare treat of crunching through snowy woods, and Terry had the joy of my temporary absence. Freedom! He got the guitar out. Recently there’s been a far clearer rhythm, recognisable chord progressions, and far more tone, to such an extent that this time, when I came back from the woods, I could actually hear him playing from outside the house.  I crept in and sat listening (his den is upstairs). No amp. OK, he’s strumming not picking, but this is a triumph worth sharing and it warmed my heart: especially hearing him run through the songs we were learning in 2013, just before the stroke.

He was pretty pleased with himself. We both feel better for these mornings apart.

So to any carers who have cabin fever, our strong advice is, if you get the chance to nip off for an hour or so, take it. Without guilt. You are probably doing your loved one a great favour.

1 thought on “Carer or gaoler?”

  1. Great blog as always, and especially good as guitar playing is one of my favourite things to do also.
    Plus walking in Nature with my dog saves me from going completely mad in lockdown.
    Take care both of you.

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