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Keeping our distance from loved ones is best Mother's Day present

Kathy Donaghy



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New norm: Kathy Donaghy talking to her mother while respecting social distancing. Photo: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

New norm: Kathy Donaghy talking to her mother while respecting social distancing. Photo: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

�INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

New norm: Kathy Donaghy talking to her mother while respecting social distancing. Photo: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Tomorrow will mark a Mother's Day like we've never experienced before. For those of us with mums over 60, we know the best advice is to keep ourselves and our kids away for now as those in the over-60 category are more at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus.

This is one of the most difficult aspects of the social-distancing phenomenon that we've become all too aware of. No dropping in to see your mother for a cup of tea and a chat, no impromptu visits with the kids and no hugs from granny until the threat has passed.

On my way home from doing a grocery shop yesterday, I stopped at my parent's house with a few supplies. I deposited the bag of shopping at the door and quickly retreated. My mother, now 70, came out to the hall door dressed in her 'work' clothes. She has spent the week like countless others tidying presses, sorting wardrobes and spring cleaning.

I stood on the lawn as she stood at the door and we talked. My dad stuck his head out the window for a catch up. We have done this dance many times now. The first time it happened my father, who is a few months short of 80, asked me: "Is this what it's come to now - you're not coming in?" and I answered that this was the way it had to be. He's not putting up any arguments anymore and my parents are not leaving the house at all now.

While I was standing there on the lawn I was aware of how faintly ridiculous it all seemed. But also how serious this is and how lucky I am to have both my parents healthy and well.

My mother came over to my car to wave in the window at the kids, with me standing half way across the lawn all the time. Through closed windows, they told her they were doing well and that they were being homeschooled now but 'real' school is better because mammy doesn't have much patience. My mother laughed.

As I drove off she stood at the front door waving until we were out of sight as she has done every time I have ever left my childhood home.

This scene is being replicated up and down the country as adult parents of children try to make sure their own parents at least see their grandchildren.

Skype and WhatsApp videos have become the new best friend of grandparents who miss regular contact with their children and grandchildren.

But it doesn't make up for the missed hugs, the calling in for a chat, the squeeze of a hand or the sitting down at the kitchen table to talk about the goings on in our lives.

Perhaps one of the things we'll learn when the threat of this global pandemic has passed is not to take these simple things for granted any more. We might realise that they're the real stuff of life; that they're not that simple at all.

Mother's Day, like so many others, has become a Hallmark celebration of buying stuff.

And celebrating mums has become social media fodder.

In recent years there has also been a growing awareness that the day is painful for those who have lost babies or those who are longing for children and see another Mother's Day pass with their own dreams fading. It's also painful for those who are grieving the loss of a beloved mother.

For thousands of others up and down the country Mother's Day will mean something different this year. At a time of social distancing, doing something meaningful is a challenge. And yet it's right that we celebrate our mothers and let them know what they mean to us.

As I drove away from my parents' house the other day, the last thing my mother said to me was "we're grand and we're going to be grand".

Her thoughts were not for herself. She was trying to reassure me in the way that mothers always do with their daughters.

After this is all over, when we can call in without fear of contagion and sit again at the kitchen table with our mothers, we'll realise that Mother's Day isn't something to be marked with a card once a year.

We'll realise that every day we get to see them and spend time with them is a cause for small daily celebration.

Irish Independent