Privilege and Panic

Kelly Grehan

I’ve never felt privileged like I felt this morning.  

I woke up this morning, sent my kids to school and my husband and I both settled down to a day home working.  No one in our household has any history of illness, indeed both my boys have impeccable school attendance records.  If I were to need to be off work I would get full sick pay, we could continue to pay our mortgage.

That’s not to say I am not experiencing moments of panic and horror at what is happening, but, for us, there is an unreal quality to it.  The biggest danger to us personally is for the four of us to end up stuck indoors together for two weeks and for our holiday to be cancelled.  

Our lifestyle – caused mostly by luck with health and circumstances – has shielded us from the horrors that now face many of our friends and neighbours.  We can, more of less sit back and follow the government advice and know that no difficult decisions await us.

I am painfully aware that, had this crisis occurred five years earlier, when my mum was suffering what turned out to be a terminal illness every action we took would have taken on a critical concern as any of us contracting the illness could have shortened my mum’s life and meant we could have been bared from seeing her – a thought so heartbreaking it’s hard to bear.  Then there is the thought of how my aunt, sister and I would have looked after my nan, who lived in sheltered accommodation had we been forced to self isolate when she was alive. In either circumstances we would have had to arrange our lives in an effort to try to stop us contracting the virus because the consequences of getting it would have been so awful. That would have meant keeping the kids off school, so not working and then all the financial and practical implications that would bring.

And, it is with heartbreak I watch friends now consumed with fear as they worry if decisions they are making are putting themselves or their families at risk.  I see people – who this time last week were making a decent living – not knowing if they will have jobs this time tomorrow or if their company can survive this week.  I cannot imagine the weight of trying to decide whether to stay off work because you have coughed a few times – knowing that doing so will mean you don’t get paid for at least 2 weeks and going to work means you might endanger others.

I see friends who cannot visit the parents who live in care homes and others cancelling long looked forward to trips to see family abroad or far away. I worry for  mums of disabled children fretting because they cannot get the larger nappy sizes they need or the specialist wipes they relied upon.

Never has life seemed as fragile or as unpredictable as it does now.Try as we might there is little we can but carry on.  I sent my love and admiration at everyone doing their best through these difficult times.

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