It was February one year ago when I last got to see him. After the first case reached our shores the home closed for any and all visits. Like so many, I never got a final visit.
I have been quite reminiscent lately, as we all have really. One year ago everything has been so different. For me, it has been one year since I last really seen my grandad. One year since I sat by his bedside and held his hand while he sang to me. Jim Reeves was his favourite, most recently. Every weekend I would make my plans around seeing him. I would look forward to our time together, always saddened when our time was cut short due to work.
We would call him regularly during lockdown. He was never a very emotional man, but one of my favourite memories was calling him last March when he told me that he missed seeing me smile.
I remember watching the news every single day to hear any further updates on the nursing homes. And I specifically remember the day his nursing home had their first case. I was in tears at the idea of something happening to him. Sick to my stomach. My grandad had been through so much, especially in recent years. He was originally brought to that home for palliative care, but they helped him so much so that he was okay again. The concept alone that he could get this illness crippled me, every day, for months.
Somehow, grandad managed to be one of a handful of residents who never contracted Covid-19. However, a mild version of dementia had my grandad believing that he was being picked on and locked away from everyone else. He felt as though we didn’t care about him. Thankfully when calling him I was able to explain about the ‘bad cold’ going around and that we all had to be extra careful. I promised that as soon as I could I’d be there to see him.
On the 9th of June, we were finally allowed to have a 15-minute window visit as a family. One 15 minute slot per week. We took what we could get. I vividly remember feeling with a kid with how excited I was on the car journey up. It was my aunt, uncle, mam and I. We gathered around the window, playing country and western songs for Granddad to sing along to. A genuinely heartwarming 15 minutes.
The following week, on the 16th of June, we had another slot. Unfortunately, this time they could only leave him with us for 10 minutes. His wonderfully mischievous smile is embedded in my memory as we parted ways.
The nursing home’s visitation policy changed the following week so it was a month before I was able to see him again. But that is when everything changed.
It’s all a blur now, but in early July we got a call that he had some infection. An infection he had many times before, only this time he wasn’t able to fight it off. He was given days at most. He was only allowed one visitor a day at this point for fifteen minutes, for as many days as he had left. We could only hope he would long enough for us all to get our fifteen minutes.
By the fourth day, it was mam’s go. The manager of my grandad’s floor saw us and allowed me to also go up that morning. Before entering the building they took our temperatures. We were assisted in getting all of the appropriate PPE on. This included a disposable gown, gloves, face mask, and a shield. They allowed us to go up individually which I was awfully grateful for.
It killed me as I was sitting in the same spot that I had so many months earlier how the times had changed. All I wanted was to hold his hand in mine one last time, not with some plastic glove between us. I missed the warmth of his skin. I missed his voice singing to me. That mischievous smile I had seen just one month prior, his eyes winking at me.
Shortly after we left we got the phone call. I haven’t felt the same since that day.
I’m not entirely sure what I want to get out of writing this. I just want to share my experience with these Covid-19 restrictions. I would do anything for more time with my Grandad. But I understand why the restrictions were there, and why they still are. I was terrified every day of a phone call saying that he may have caught it. But I can only imagine how that fear would have been amplified if the restrictions were not there. If I had been able to visit him and been the cause of him being infected, I’m not sure how I would have coped. At least now I can look back with the confidence of knowing that the nursing home did their utmost best. And I will always be grateful for that.
My friend, my best friend. I love him forever and will always cherish our days together.