Many of us are understandably worried about our older relatives amidst this global pandemic. So, I am reassured when I see another illuminating Facebook post, or an email, from my dad who turns 78 in July. Dad has lived in South Sudan since early 2018, where he has been working at a teacher’s college operated by an organisation called Solidarity with South Sudan, near the capital Juba. Well, he was working until a couple of weeks ago before the South Sudanese government closed educational institutions in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.
As each day brings more news of the spread of coronavirus globally, the concern now shifts to Africa where the World Health Organisation has warned we could see as many as 10 million cases within three to six months. I find myself checking the “coronavirus cases by country” tables, refreshing the page for any changes much like I used to check the football scores. At the time of writing, there have only been a reported four confirmed cases in South Sudan, a figure which has held steady for the past week. It’s hard to know how accurate that figure is. Humanitarian crises are certainly not unfamiliar to the developing country. If the coronavirus were to spread through Africa as is warned, dad could quite possibly catch it. He could quite possibly die. Despite this, I oddly feel less worried about him being in South Sudan right now than if he were here in Melbourne.
What stage of self-isolation are you at? I’m looking back at Celia of early last week. I had seemed to be at a pretty good stage considering there was and still is a global pandemic outside my well sanitised front door. I had fully embraced the ideas in those judgy “Here’s what you should be doing while self-isolating” articles and begun to use the word “pivot” when talking to job recruiters and financial advisors.
Without having a commute, an office or a full-time job after temporarily being stood down to worry about, I was confident I could fill the empty days pretty well. I would build up my freelance writing client base. I had also often fantasised about early retirement, and this was finally an opportunity to make my dreams reality. I could get around to projects I kept putting off for rainy days or not being able to do because of that poor excuse of not having enough time on my (well washed) hands. With 24 hours of every day for the next couple of months in my sights, I was excited as I started planning my week.
Starting Sunday, I scheduled morning Tai Chi with beginner videos on YouTube and slow-cooked the fuck out of everything I could find. I Instagrammed every meal. Afternoons were for walks, my imagining was that once I had built up a level of fitness (my fitness being at a level zero), I would turn the walks into jogs, then eventually runs. I re-potted plants, started listening to self-improvement podcasts and started a fresh new writing journal. I sanitised my front door handle, keys, fruit and the actual hand sanitiser bottle every 45 minutes. Mega productive.
Then Thursday came.
On a night out a few months ago, I was on my way back to the bar from the toilets when I overheard a dear friend talking about me. She pretty much went to town.
“Celia is so shit. Nothing she does is of worth. Have you seen she has a website? What for?! She thinks she can write. Those little blogs of hers are lame and depressing. Oh, and those beer articles, is she an actual alcoholic? Who writes about beer? No one is impressed.
She tells me she goes to the gym. Do you know she only goes for half an hour a week? Half an hour!! What a joke. As if that would do anything. She’s fat. And don’t get me started on her fashion sense. Does she even have a mirror in her house?!"
Her words kept coming. All I could do was stand there and take it.
I got picked for jury duty once. I remember it was summer and a damp type of humidity; the tram journey to and from the courthouse was a bit like when you blow dry your hair in the bathroom when the person before you didn’t turn on the fan when he had his shower five minutes previously. It was the end of February, and the jury summons had arrived after I had successfully deferred my first summons with the reason “I have a scheduled Christmas party in December.” Priorities.
I was actually quite excited to go to court. Imagine that I was picked to be on a jury for a case involving a celebrity? I hoped that I didn’t get a gruesome murder. Unless it was a gruesome murder involving a celebrity, of course. I consciously decided on an outfit that was very neutral. Inoffensive. The reasoning was I had a better chance of being selected that way.
As we waited in the jury pool room, I spied a mature aged lady with a kind face, in a vibrant floral blouse. With a wide smile, she excitedly took a seat at the extreme front to hear the briefing session, attempting to engage others around her in conversation, they attempted to busy themselves with their iPhones.
Today we drove to my Dad’s place to pick up some bits of furniture and boxes of various family items destined for rehousing in our place. He’s moving out and off on a road trip, to spend time up in the warmer climes of Far North Queensland. There’ll be picturesque places for him to write, and giggly chocolate-loving grandchildren to keep him on his toes. He doesn’t like living alone.
As we pulled into his street, it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be coming to this suburb for a while. A suburb from my childhood, forever linked to my parents and my siblings. Now, I was a little hungover from celebrating a wedding the night before. I tend to get a little depressed when I'm hungover. Nevertheless, I became sad.
Give or take, I’ve spent every Wednesday with Dad over the past year and a half. Just hanging. Working side by side on our laptops. Yes, occasionally going to the pub for beers at lunchtime, occasionally having afternoon naps, and occasionally one of us (okay me) taking photos of Dad napping and posting them on Twitter.
I was sad because I realised I was mourning. Sad that another little family chapter was coming to an end.
Here you'll find some unfiltered musings from my brain.
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