Like many people, I have recently visited my mother and had to say goodbye to her knowing that I might not be able to see her for a few weeks, or even months. Not even a hug too say goodbye, as I couldn't get too close.
I live in London and my mum is in Norfolk, around 3 hours drive away. Fortunately she has good neighbours who can help her get food and prescriptions, and I will try and get up to see her in the coming weeks; if permitted. An essential journey some would say.
I speak to her on the phone every couple of days as usual and she is setup with a tablet and WhatsApp connection - with the screen locked so she can't accidentally move off the home screen and into set-up or, for her, other mysterious places.
So on the last trip I tried to explain to her that she should stay in and stay away from people. She's not taken this too seriously saying she'll just pop to the shops nearby, which is a little worrying.
But I have realised that it is not that she doesn't understand or isn't taking it seriously, it's just that she goes out so little these days that being self-isolated means much less to her than most other people.
Self-isolating when you don't normally go out anyway doesn't cause so much distress
In some ways, during a crisis like this, I see it as a blessing, but it has also made me sad to be reminded once again how isolated and alone she is all of the time.
Since suffering a stroke and then losing my dad five years ago, she has also had some recent health scares and doesn't go out as much. She gets breathless so doesn't take the bus and walk around the local towns of Norfolk like she used to.
Riding the buses on her free bus pass was her thing. Hailing from Northern Ireland she likes to chat. She'd chat to the bus driver, other passengers or shop keepers, just to get out of the house she said.
Alas that time has gone for her now and she only goes out rarely. Perfect for a time when everyone else is self-isolating but not good for the everyday.
A big thank you to my mum's neighbours. Do your bit for your elderly and isolated neighbours these coming weeks; but don't go in or give them a hug!