By HOWARD FELDMAN
This morning, I realised why the world needed COVID and why we most likely still do. The backstory is this: early on in lockdown it became clear that my father was seriously ill and that he would have a limited time. My mother passed away three years ago and he lives alone. He was 83 when lockdown started and as his children, we had some difficult decisions to make. We knew that if we admitted him to a hospital, we would not be allowed to see him and that in all likelihood, he would be alone until the end.
And so, we decided as his children that we would care for him at home, with nursing. The decision meant that we would all have to be particularly cautious around COVID exposure in order to protect him. That is what we have done, and I am grateful and appreciative of the time that we have had with him.
Six months later, it is clear that the journey is indeed coming to an end. The last week has been particularly rough as our world has become smaller and our focus revolves around him and his journey.
As a morning show radio host, I decided that I would take this week off to be with him. I have managed until now, but as the situation progressed, I realised that it would be more difficult to leave “my stuff” at the studio door. This meant that I could stop at the local coffee shop on the way to his home. I had not been to the coffee shop for some months, for the reasons mentioned above, and to some extent it was strange to see people sitting there, carrying on their lives as normal. I am an extrovert and have missed people, so I walked up to say hi to a table of guys I know, but have not seen because of COVID. This was the greeting,
“Geez bro, lockdown has been good to you, hey?”
This jab was meant to indicate that I had gained some weight during the last few months. Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. Maybe I am just as fat as I was before lockdown and maybe I have added a few. But the comment knocked the wind out of me. I am no stranger to abuse from listeners and readers and I generally can handle it. In fact, I pride myself on “not being sensitive”, but this felt more cruel than it needed to be. He, of course, could not know that I have sat with my father saying the prayer for the dying twice over the last week, that my siblings and I make sure that he is cared for as best as we can, and that my son sleeps there so that, if something happens, my dad won’t be alone. He couldn’t know that my phone is always on as we wait for a dreaded call.
He couldn’t know that it was the first time in months that I had ventured out and that his would be the first words that I would hear this morning aside from an update on my father’s health. But his words were still unkind and they stung.
A close family friend never misses an opportunity to speak at gatherings. Over the last few years, he has repeated the same message over and over again. “Imagine,” he says, “that everyone we meet has the words ‘Fragile, handle with care’ on their forehead.” The idea is simple. We have no idea what anyone is dealing with, or what hell they are living through. We have no idea just how much a flippant and callous comment could be perceived as being cruel.
Today, I was ‘fragile’ and I needed to be handled with care.
COVID has redefined the world. I have seen people doing the most incredible and magical things. I have seen strangers reaching out to others for assistance even when they had so little. I have also seen a constant flow of care and concern flowing in all directions. I have seen that the repositioning of the world brings out the best in people. As hard as this period has been, I still believe that the world is better place for having faced the pandemic.
But each class has slower learners and those who refuse to see the what is so clearly in front of them. I just wish that they would hurry up and get on board so that we can all move on to the next lesson.
Howard Feldman is Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis.