• Tilly Rivers

Looking after Mum in Lockdown

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

‘Today is probably a good time to clear out the garage,’ said Mum this Good Friday Morning. ‘Since we can’t go out.’

I closed my laptop with a low groan. I’ve been successfully avoiding cleaning out the garage for the last five years – ever since I sold my house with vague plans to emigrate to Australia – and left all my boxes in her garage. I trudged in and gazed bleakly around. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just I have better things to do. Like taking up sculpture or poetry.

‘Oh, but we can’t,’ I said brightly, having just had a brain wave. ‘All the recycling dumps are closed. Nowhere to take it.’

‘Are you sure?' she asked dubiously.

‘Yes, definitely.’ Hmm. Are they though? No idea. Let’s hope so.

The problem is that when I make my usual fleeting weekend visits, Mum cooks me a hot pot and lamb roast, makes full English breakfasts and does all my washing and ironing. But now I’m here for the lockdown, she unreasonably expects me to do chores.

Well, I say unreasonably. If I’m perfectly honest she is a bit under the weather at the moment, and this uncharacteristic frailty might have something to do with the fact that when I was taking her out for a leisurely drive on Dartmoor in the run up to Mother’s Day, I wrote off the car in a head-on collision with my rather bemused mother in the passenger seat. The airbag thumped into her chest with all the force of a herd of elephants and the slicing seat belt didn’t help matters.

She sat there looking even more bemused as I frantically pulled at all the jammed doors trying to get out of the smoking car and rescue her. I finally scrambled into the back seat, managed to squeeze out, grovelled over the bonnet and attempted to pull her heroically to safety.

‘I think I’d better just sit here for a bit, dear,’ she said placidly. ‘And get my breath.’

So, while I raced up and down trying to get a phone signal (impossible,) to call my son/an ambulance/on God, and occasionally bursting into tears, she continued to sit there, quietly assuring the young girl in the oncoming car – who was unhurt – that she’d be ‘fine in a minute.’

I was still flapping around like a chicken with its head chopped off when the ambulance arrived and drove her into a nearby hotel carpark. The kindly paramedic assured her that the chest pains weren’t anything to do with her strong heart but probably the result of a cracked sternum. Her blood pressure was also absolutely fine. No need for hospital.

‘What about my blood pressure?’ I gasped, having panted up after them and slid open the ambulance door, ‘I feel faint. I can’t faint. My Mother needs me!’

‘All I need is a cup of tea,’ she said patting my hand as the ambulance driver gave me a dirty look. ‘Let’s pop into the hotel while we wait for a taxi.’

I left her leafing through a gardening magazine in the lounge, with a pot of Darjeeling, munching her way through a pile of scones, while I frantically continued to try and call my son/the insurers/on God, still bursting into occasional tears and convinced I was going to suffer from PTSD for the rest of my life and never eat again.

Anyway, my PTSD nightmares apart, the downside of the accident is that Mum’s cracked sternum is hampering her movements somewhat. So I’m being forced into startling activities like gardening (I don’t have a garden), cooking nutritious food on an oven, ( I usually heat up ready meals in the microwave,) and gasp, ironing on a board that is seventy years old and weighs more than her.

But I really mustn’t complain. Things are looking up. Mum is on the mend. She bought me my early morning cuppa today, and the paper. So thinking long and hard about it, perhaps I ought to shelve the poetry for the moment and get down to the dandelions.

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