Small confinements, big worries and back to the windows

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Virginia Fallon is a Wellington-based Stuff editor and senior columnist.

OPINION: The baby is sick; all flushed cheeks and skin going from disturbingly hot one minute to comfortingly cool the next. He constantly wants to be cuddled and, the few times he doesn’t, cries real tears; big fat that we have rarely seen him lose before.

Luckily, he’s not the kind of creepy patient we feared as the coronavirus focused on our family. He eats his vegetables and drinks his milk, he just does it superficially and without his usual joy.

Every once in a while we get a smile – or at least the dog does – but most of the time it’s a solemn little Buddha, a bloody lump of sickness wedged against his grandmother’s chin. She’s sick too, everyone’s sick these days.

In March 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked people aged 70 and over to stay at home as much as possible.  (Case)

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In March 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked people aged 70 and over to stay at home as much as possible. (Case)

Because I’m not sick, I can visit the baby from behind the window, that’s where I’ve been hanging out for about a week. Sometimes I put things down and sometimes I pick things up, but most of the time I’m just there, crouching in front of the window, looking at the sick baby; sick granny; healthy dog. I drive 40 minutes each way to do it.

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I sat on the deck below the window yesterday and the sight of my disembodied head floating above the ledge managed to coax a half-smile from the baby. Normally his smiles involve gums and squinting, but this one wasn’t much more than a flicker of his lips. The dog pushed its way past him and his grandmother to press its nose against the window.

The day before, I had also pressed my nose against the window, trying to make the baby laugh. “Where is the pipe? said her grandmother because my brother and I used to do the same thing when she was in the garden, so she would spray water on the glass. She is 74 now, right in the danger zone of the virus.

Much of my window-loitering is of course because of this. That way I can keep a close eye on her, despite all of my medical training having taken place at a veterinary school and clinic. I am not entirely useless; I could microchip the dog again. I suppose.

Virginia Fallon is back in front of the windows offering veterinary advice to humans.

JERICHO ROCK-ARCHER/Stuff

Virginia Fallon is back in front of the windows offering veterinary advice to humans.

The baby doesn’t need me because he’s in excellent hands. His grandmother spent most of her life caring for the sick, relieving symptoms of illness and treating illnesses, but because she is my mother, I disregard all of that.

“Does your chest hurt?” I shout out the window. “Do you have a temperature? A headache? General discomfort?

” I can not hear you ! she says, so I change course, offering to take the baby while she rests.

“I’m fine,” she replies. Testing my theory further, I ask to borrow some money.

” I can not hear you ! “, she says.

All my doom and gloom aside, she’s doing just fine and, like most people, will probably remain so just fine. I like to think that by keeping watch outside the house, I can make sure of that.

The last time I hid outside my mother’s window and yelled at her through the glass was during those strange days of confinement. A big part of our early Covid response was to protect the elderly, our taonga, so in 2020 I took her home and there she stayed for weeks, on the other side of the glass. Sure.

But the days of these powerful government responses are over and we now find ourselves with a broken health care system, everyone sick and families across the country doing much the same thing as mine: standing in the windows and hope for the best.

Just small confinements and big worries. That’s what we have left.

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