By Paul D’Alton
To put it mildly, my close family and friends are perplexed, if not to say the least, completely aghast.
Myself and my 82-year-old mother, a robust character, have spent over a month together in 24-hour, self-enforced, self-isolation in our Roscommon home.
We have face-to-face had no contact with anybody, human or four-legged, except to smile and leave porridge oats on the kitchen windowsill for our beloved little robins.
The fact that there have been no rows, no fights, no arguments, no locking of horns, is to many of those who know us, simply inexplicable, in fact to all of them, utterly astonishing.
Even I, no shrinking violet myself, am staggered that neither of us have yet to swing a metaphorical sword at each other, or rooted through the medical cupboard in search of some Valium or Xanax to calmly sedate either one of us, although there’ve been times when I’ve been sorely tempted.
Because I don’t drive, and we’re only five minutes from Roscommon town, Mother drives me in, remains rightly cocooned in the car, whilst I, with surgical gloves, do our weekly shopping which, apart from food and basic necessities, also consists of crates of wine that would easily provide for a wedding of 200 people.
We have settled into a content, and hugely unexpected, routine. I work from my office, thankfully still in contact with my editors and TV producers in Dublin, New York and London.
Mother, like a love-struck teenager, has become fixated with the wonders of WhatsApp, updating me on the well-being of family and friends.
Sadly, and much to my daily irritation, with her new smartphone she has also discovered, to her amazement, the wonders of mobile ‘phone News Alerts, which, infuriatingly, usually means I must endure an almost hourly and daily rendition and monotonous update of what Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are doing in Canada, Los Angeles or wherever, of which I really couldn’t give a damn, and in normal circumstances, nor could she. But these aren’t normal circumstances!
In revenge, much to her muted chagrin, I have CNN on 12 hours a day because Donald Trump, even in these darkest of times, is the greatest comical character ever invented, beating even the likes of Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Mother partakes of getting her own further revenge back when I suggest watching a particular TV programme with the slightly acidic, sarcastic response from her: “Well, if you think that’s worth watching!”
So I leave the programme on, just to annoy her!
Solace comes at 5 pm, which in our house is time for the cocktail hour to kick off, with a vengeance. Opening the first bottle of wine, Mother, who doesn’t drink, pours a glass of water for herself while I empty into the wine glass nearly a full bottle, the first of many, to anesthetize the ensuing evening ahead.
Dinner is cooked by me. I try to keep the menu varied, from Bacon & Cabbage to stir-frys, and the only bone of contention comes when I hand her a full plate only for her to respond “That’s far too much for me”, and then within ten minutes she hands back an entirely empty plate, as if she were a dog finished gnawing at a bone.
She has also developed, doubtless to annoy me, the infuriating habit – just as I’m watching a particular important update on the TV news – of calling her sister in Cork or my step-mother Anne D’Alton and other friends, and talking at megaphone high volume about…well, nothing really, so in an act of petty revenge, I unmute the TV so she has to shout further down the phone line, mother throwing me a look that could sink a thousand ships!
That all said, and with so many people suffering and putting their lives on the line to protect us, it has strangely been a time when myself and my mother have spent so much proximity to each other since I was a child, and we’re blessed.
She, most importantly, is healthy and happy, as am I. Like any familial relationship, over the years we’ve had our ups and down, but that is only normal.
But this of all times has reminded me of why I love her, and those in similar situations will doubtlessly be feeling the same. Until, that is, I have to listen to the latest, daily friggin’ text alert about Prince Harry and bloody Meghan Markle!