My first blog
|Katherine smiled at Mel as the younger woman entered her bedroom. "Good morning, Mel," she said, smiling.
"Good morning, Katherine. What a beautiful morning."
Katherine looked for the smile beyond the mask, for the upturning of the carer's eyes to show the connection between the two.
"I hear somebody has a birthday today. Is that right?"
There. The smile threaded through her voice.
"Yes. But I try not to count them too much at my age." She reached for the cup of tea Mel had placed on her table. "Thanks for this, dear. I was parched this morning."
"You're welcome. I'm only stronger it's nothing stronger than tea. You should be drinking something cold and fizzy today." Mel chuckled as she stood in the doorway. "When you've finished that, I'll help you have a zoom call with your son."
Katherine nodded, a lead balloon falling to the pit of her stomach. Since the pandemic began, John had only visited once. He came alone, and Susie stayed at home with the children. She missed them all. She missed their weekly visits that always brought such fun and laughter to her world.
She sipped her tea and settled back in her chair. Last year, she turned eighty-nine. All her family surrounded her and wrapped her in their love. They all spoke of what she would do for her ninetieth. A day trip to Weston Beach with lunch at Harry Ramsden's. Maybe, even, a party with all her friends and family. Not that that number was anywhere near as high as it had been in the past. She had looked forward to her birthday.
Until the pandemic arrived.
Katherine's care home had closed to visitors three months ago. Residents she counted as friends entered hospital and never came home. Everything changed.
"Are you ready, Katherine?" Mel entered the room. "Have you got your iPad ready?"
Katherine reached for the tablet. "Here. You'll have to fire it up, I'm afraid. I can't use the thing, myself."
Tapping the screen a few times, the picture came to life. Her son's smiling face appeared as if by magic.
"Hi, Mum. Happy birthday!"
"Happy birthday, Nanna!" Daniel and Matthew waved and commenced singing. When they reached the end of "Happy birthday to you" Katherine felt a warmth spread through her bones.
They spoke for twenty minutes. It seemed much harder to hold conversations these days. When Mel returned to the room, she brought Ivan with her.
"Right. Are you ready for us to take you to the communal area? We have a little surprise."
Images of mint chocolate chip ice cream and Baileys on ice flitted through Katherine's mind. I would love a glass of Baileys right now.
A chorus of "Happy birthday!" sounded as she entered the living room. As she settled herself into a chair, people started to sing. From the corridor, Mel emerged, carrying a cake.
"Oh, this is wonderful," Katherine said, her cheeks flushing.
"No candles, I'm afraid. We can't have anyone blowing onto it." Mel placed the cake on a table in the centre of the room. "Wait a minute. One more surprise ..."
She pulled up the blind covering the window next to Katherine.
There, the other side of the window, stood Katherine's daughter and grandchildren. "Lena." Katherine gasped. "My girl. And Harry and Carla. Oh, look at you all." She watched as her daughter placed her hand against the window. Standing slowly, she turned to face her little family.
With all her heart, Katherine wanted to hug her daughter and grandchildren, to feel the warmth of their skin, smell the scent of their shampoo. But, this birthday was not like any other. This year, she had to be content with almost-contact and cake without candles.
By the end of her day, she returned to her room, the sweetness of strawberry jam and icing still on her lips. "Next year, I will be with my family. Next year will be special." She paused. "Maybe, I'll do a wing walk, or something."