by Lesley Lightfoot
Do us a favour, oh do us a turn, yeah don’t go away
Mum’s stock answers for ‘no’ whenever you asked for anything.
Care Homes – throw out your dead.
I’m going to die on my own.
She is wearing odd shoes, she is struggling to put a cardigan on, she can’t
hear through the glass. ‘The sleeve is inside out mum.’ I am months outside her window, standing in a bush or masked, two metres away in the garden. She is slumped in a chair.
I want to go to my room
I can’t go with you.
You’re clever. Can’t you speak to the authorities?
Who? Matt What-a-cock and Ice Maiden, Head Girl-Whately, the ‘I Don’t Care’ Minister?
What would she know of a sing along, making mum a Carmen Miranda turban to dance round the lounge in to ‘I like You Very Much’?
What would she know of me holding mum’s friends’ hands, salt of the earth Rita.
Allo toots, dontcha you look lovely!
And Sunny Margaret,
You want to put your overall on darlin’, you’re always doing something when you come and see us.
Now there is no more singing. Rita and Margaret are gone.
I start a petition for relatives to be tested. I am led to the national heroines Jenny Morrison and Diane Mayhew with their Rights for Residents campaign. We write to the authorities. Twatt What-a-cock and the Ice Maiden squirm. I sob, on the phone to head office, on radio, national television.
I am allowed to see Mum, distanced, in a decorated garden shed, for her birthday. It’s raining and chilly. She shakes violently from Parkinson’s. The paramedics are called.
Don’t leave me!
I know how to hold her trembling legs but I am not allowed to go near her. She is taken to her room. Her birthday. Nobody puts her cards up or unpacks her gifts. I am alone in the rain. I am on the bus when I see Mum waving her VE Day flag at me.
The Ice Maiden prides herself with how she has brought families together in hermetically sealed, screened rooms.
The intercom whistles and echoes.
Lesley? Who is that sitting next to you?
There is nobody. We have never felt further apart.
Bojo promises we will all ‘hug for Xmas!’ but doesn’t check with care providers first. Pratt What-a-shmock squeezes out crocodile tears, as though he has discovered the vaccine himself – he makes my teeth itch. No sign of the Ice Maiden. Mum has five falls in December. Bruised face and ribs. The staff test positive. No wave at the window for Xmas.
Mum is vaccinated – I STILL can’t go in. More waving.
The Campaign, led by women, made up mostly of women has the media and the Human Rights Committee behind it. Head-Girl-Helen doesn’t have to do any more homework on her school science project ‘How to Cruelly Mock and Taunt the Confused and Abandoned’.
Boris the ‘build, build’ builder is shamed into announcing new guidance. Every resident is entitled to an ‘essential care giver’. The same ‘non- essential care giver’ they have been protected from for a year.
Hello Mum. I can’t hug you and I am wearing a mask. But I can stroke your hand and paint your nails. Touching not waving. The double act is back.