Day 51 and I achieved a lot yesterday with no journal to write. I responded to emails from writers and attended to the backlog of early entries for the recently established repository on my website forum where new stories written in the time of coronavirus are being collected. I’m proud of the writing already published there. I admire the pragmatism and courage and appreciate the honesty. You feel the writers are talking to you and revealing something about themselves in the time of lockdown. This is what I value about life writing as a form of creative expression — its directness of delivery, the straightforward tone, the way the best of life writing resists frills and whistles, it is what it is. Anybody can write the story of their life, or just a vignette like opening the curtain on a small slice of life, or focussing on the events of a day, an hour, a minute if you choose, telling the reader exactly what happened. You don’t have to try too hard. You just tell it like it is, as though you are telling the story to a friend. I hope that more readers of this facebook journal will put pen to paper and write a page, or even two about their experience of living in the time of coronavirus, so there is more than just my voice writing on and on for the historical record.
Last night I didn’t miss staying up late to write but I did notice the gap. It occurred to me I wouldn’t be able to find out what I thought of day 50 in the time of coronavirus. Because in the act of writing at the end of each day there is an opportunity to process events and make meaning of them. The early night though was a big help because the following morning I drove north, for the first time, up to a sandy bay on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula to visit my family.
Remy had woken in the dark an hour earlier than usual with the words, ‘Mormor is coming today.’ And what excitement for all of us. Immediately on arrival I was taken on a tour of the whole of their small house, shown the silver balloon in the shape of a three for the birthday I missed because of the virus, and taken upstairs to see the new bed, and the new duvet with a pattern of black and grey sleeping sloths hanging upside down. I was re-introduced to all the soft toys. I was given a ‘show.’ And I sat on the floor and clapped and called ‘Bravo, bravo,’ as he brought out one beloved ‘friend’ after another; the little pink flamingo, called Flora, the beloved teddy bears, Winnie and Bernie, from Bern, the Steiner doll called Flynn, the pukeko that squeaks, the soft hedgehog, the “oh, oh, o, oh o,” never referred to as penguin because that was the sound that came out of the button the eighteen month-old Remy repeatedly pushed by the penguin enclosure at Kelly Tarltons. The sound has stuck. There was also the rabbit with the pink dress and pale gold socks knitted by a ninety year-old writer, Dawn, from one of my early writing courses, and an ibex, a gift from the family in Switzerland.
My grandson talked non-stop throughout the day, he recounted the weeks since I’d last seen him, he talked about his creche , the birthday that I missed, and then he said, ‘And then it was coronavirus,’ with a big exhaling of breath and we all laughed. And he laughed too and the day felt like that. Happy. Joyful. A reunion of loved ones and a relief. When it was time to go, of course he didn’t want that. He wanted me to stay the night. But we promised another get together, this time at my small home on the side of Takarunga, very soon.
After I’d gone his mother was barraged with questions, ‘Are you sure Mormor lives in Devonport? Why doesn’t she live at the big house with the piano? Where is her cat? Will she get him back from Holly? Who lives in the piano house? Who is Ruth?’ It is hard for him. It is now exactly a year since I lost my home and in that time I’ve lived a nomadic existence. I’ve been to London and interviewed poet Fleur Adcock, to Estonia with my friend the author Miriam Frank, to Switzerland to stay with family. I’ve lived in Mt Eden and had a writer’s residency at Karekare. I spent a month in Christchurch in the summer and returned to live in Epsom and now Devonport. He finds it confusing. I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round only it isn’t the fairground and it isn’t fun and I still don’t know when I will get off and step into the security and stability of my own home.
These feelings were jostling in my head today at the lawyer’s as I signed my will, finally, plus the memorandum of wishes, and then as we deliberated over the endless implications of the enduring power of attorney for personal care and property. Towards the end of this discussion my brain stopped working and I couldn't think clearly. I had no idea anymore what I wanted. The questions and the morbid nature of them were knocking on my brain and I’d had enough, ‘If you were to die on leaving the premises, if you were die in the next year, if you were to lose the capacity to make decisions about your wellbeing and welfare would you like the first attorney or the second to make decisions on your behalf? Would you like them to take over your bank accounts? And if I was to go down the same track as my mother and succumb to MS and need hospital level care how would I divest of my money and who would act on my behalf, on and on like this… I drove back in a daze over roads I had not seen and in traffic I had not experienced for fifty days. On arrival at my small refuge I got into bed, something I don’t do in the daytime, and turned to a book to escape.
Later in the evening I went on a brisk walk through the darkened streets, lights spilling through hedgerows onto the path and illuminating the way, the colder air hitting my face and waking me up. Here and there I stopped to pick flowers and foliage in the dim light, feeling for the stems and the point where they branched off and snapping them. It was when I began arranging them in vases, making something lovely from a random collection that I began to feel restored again.