covid-19, coronavirus
Representational image. Image Credit: Pixabay

Paul’s car needed its annual MoT — the certification that means it’s safe to drive for another year. As models get older, you never know what condition they’re in. Paul is 80. The bodywork is creaking, there’s some issue with his hydraulics and the headlights aren’t working as well as they used to. But his mind isn’t dim at all.

The car sailed through it. If only we could replace our bits and pieces as well as we’re able to keep cars on the road.

The journey has been rough lately for Paul. Mark, his eldest son, who was an undercover police officer working for Scotland Yard, took early retirement. He and his partner bought a little farmstead in rural Croatia, loved growing all their food, picking vegetables for the winter, making their own wine and cider and living as simply as possible.

If that sounds idyllic, it was. But Mark began to feel unwell, was diagnosed with aggressive liver and esophageal cancer and was dead within a year.

His other son, Simon, used to work on the North Seas oil and gas rigs, three weeks in, three weeks out. The field is coming to the end of its life, oil prices have been low, Simon was laid off and did three days’ work for 18 months. He found work in September.

It’s in Murmansk, Siberia. Eight weeks in, three weeks out, living in a workers’ gulag with an hour’s ride to and from site in sub-zero temperature on a bus with very rudimentary heating, and running teams of Russian scaffolders who speak little or no English. But it’s a job.

And then there’s daughter Rachel, an intensive care unit nurse who has been run off her feet dealing with the most serious coronavirus patients who linger in that induced-coma state between life and death where neither outcome is guaranteed and where either would be a blessing.

Naturally, given all of the restrictions that apply to meeting other people, Paul and his wife, Sue, have been pretty isolated.

Sue, bless her, isn’t doing well. She loves to paint and work with crafts. Her taste is gone, lost in the rounds of radiation that burnt away the tumours in her neck. She is now blind in one eye, and the sight in the other is going too quickly now, where shadows have replaced light. And Paul worries for her mental health, given all that has happened these past couple of years.

The last time the family were mostly together was in the darkest and last hours gathered by Mark’s bedside in Croatia then trying to celebrate his life when crushed by his passing.

They haven’t seen Rachel in person for well over a year — and the same goes for her three children.

“You know,” Paul said with the tone that actually means he knows only too well and is about to tell you exactly what he means, “this coronavirus is cruel.”

“We are both in our 80s and the pandemic has robbed us of a year of life at a time when we don’t have much time left.”

How profoundly true. I never thought of it like that before.

“At our age, grandchildren are important,” Paul said. “We have missed out on birthdays and Christmas, gatherings and the like. We won’t get that time back.”

The old are looking at the clock knowing all too well — the aches and pains of advanced years serve only too well as a sore reminder of that — knowing all too well that there is little left. And the pandemic has taken away that most precious commodity of all.

The car passed its Mot with flying colours. It’s old motor has plenty of life left. Paul and Sue? …