In these days of Covid-19, everybody’s got an opinion about the virus. Some say it’s the worst thing that’s happened to humankind, “Look how it’s upended our lives!”
Others say Covid-19’s giving the earth a chance to breathe again, “Just one look at formerly air polluted cities and you know that Covid-19 may wear the face of evil but its intentions, in the earth’s defence, is good.” Also, say the same group, “Witness how it’s brought families together, all under one roof, experiencing quality time.”
By the time Covid-19 arrived and lockdowns were enforced, Jake had not only turned 75, he’d somehow managed to pick up the virus and, given his advanced years and a lifetime of smoking (which weakened the lungs) he succumbed
“Now, there,” says my mate Barney, “lies the point of divergence. Under the same roof.” Not all families, forced to live “in proximity,” continues Barney, “are experiencing quality time. In many cases, the hours together are beginning to take a heavy toll.”
Nerves are stretched until they resemble clotheslines from which dangle a hundred arguments and disagreements, according to Barney.
I ask him if he has been doing a spot of covert Covid-19 lockdown journalism? By way of reply he narrates a recent account of an event. The event being a funeral.
The funeral being an elderly man in his seventies, Jake to his mates, Jacob to his family of 14, who all at this time found themselves closeted in the same house.
Second-hand car sales
“I used to know Jake back when we worked at a second-hand car sales company,” says Barney, “Jake was considerably older but he had an uncanny flair for sales.” His manner with a customer was to be seen to be believed, according to Barney.
Jake could smooth talk a sale in no time, while the buyer, “Would be like with his jaw dropped open, Jake was that good at making a pitch, with the right words to go with it.”
However, says Barney, and pauses in his narration. “Jake, behind closed doors, when he wasn’t on the shop floor, when he thought he was not being observed … mate, he had the most vile temper you could imagine.”
It was unreal, says Barney, to see two such conflicting traits in the one individual. “One time, he beat up the assistant sales manager who had dared to infer that Jake may have fudged the commissions register in his favour. It wasn’t a beating, mate, he left the guy smashed.”
That was the only time, though, that Jake had let his facade slip, at work.
However, says Barney again, and pauses. “I got to know his eldest son rather well. We would go out on evenings after work and socialise over a beverage or two. It was here that I learnt that the true Jake was the one I and my colleagues at the workplace rarely saw.
I still remember his son, Derek’s, words, ‘Dad’s a monster at home. You wouldn’t want to be in the same room as him. So, spare a thought for my mum, who shares a bed with him.’”
And so, by the time Covid-19 arrived and lockdowns were enforced, Jake had not only turned 75, he’d somehow managed to pick up the virus and, given his advanced years and a lifetime of smoking (which weakened the lungs) he succumbed.
“At the time of his passing, even funeral restrictions are in place,” Barney reminds me, “only 10 people allowed. So, a show of hands was required.” Who among the family wished to attend?
“Guess how many attended Jake’s final send off, mate,” asks Barney.
He then quickly supplies the answer, “None. Nobody went. He went out alone. You know back when Derek and I used to meet up for a drink, he also said something pertinent that their patient, long-suffering mother often used to say in the house, “When anger walks it is strongest. Let it rest and it gets weak.”
— Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.