They appeared in March.
The forerunner, Leo, took over the television channels to tell us that our lives had changed forever. He didn’t mince his words as he related the new normal. Such a heavy weight on young shoulders, so he placed it on all our shoulders. We soon discovered that he was not alone…he was one part of the Holy Trinity. He was Leo, but was he the Son or Holy Ghost?
Within a few days, we had met the other two. We knew Simon from when he was thrown in at the deep end as Minister for Health. He didn’t sink, he swam with the sharks and earned his stripes. We trusted Simon, and the greyer hairs that overtook the black just served to endear him more to the Irish people. Then came Tony, the undisputed Father…The stem that pulled it altogether. When he spoke, we LISTENED.
From March 12, each evening at 5.30, with bated breath, we waited. Dinners went cold, walls were left half painted, grass half cut, and banana bread left to cool alongside the sourdough creations. We kept our eyes on the screen until Tony made his way into the studio, arms loaded down with files containing all that he required us to know even if we didn’t want to hear it. He would sit, sort, and hold us in the palm of his hand. An outer calm that masked his inner turmoil. He told us of those who had died, those who were in intensive care, and those who were sick. We got statistics and charts. We sat there and nodded because we knew he had our backs. He was our father, teacher, mentor, and anyone else we needed to help us navigate Lockdown and the reality of ‘new normal’.
When Tony had calmed us all, he handed over to someone else and, at times, that was Simon. These two helped smooth the rocky road through the pandemic. The country was closed…and we now lived in a giant prison yard. We exercised within a two kilometre radius of our homes. Those over seventy were told to stay inside and cocoon. This sounded like a lovely, cloud wrapped place to be. For many perfectly healthy seventy year old people, cocooning required them to stay inside and have their groceries delivered by relatives or caring volunteers. Nobody wants to feel like a burden, and nobody wants to feel so…old.
Lockdown was reviewed every three weeks and one or more of The Holy Trinity filled our screens at these intervals. Leo usually peppered his bad tidings with movie quotes. On March 27, he channelled his inner Terminator. ‘These are radical actions aimed at saving as many people’s lives as possible in the days and weeks ahead. We’re not prisoners of fate. We can influence what’s going to happen to us next. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.’
Some weeks brought a little parole, two kilometres became five and we could admire our children and grandchildren if we stayed outside the window. If your family lived beyond this magic number, then tough luck. On June 6 when things were looking up, Leo decided that The Lord of The Rings was the appropriate film to quote from. ‘So, this afternoon let me end with words of hope. In the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Thanks to your hard work, your choices and your perseverance, that new day is approaching.’ It took a lot of wine to soak that one!
Yet, we knew it was for our own good, so we took it on the chin. As long as we got our daily fix of some, or all, of The Holy Trinity, we were resigned to our lot. When Leo finished with his motivational quotes, he really drew us in and would be long gone before we realised that we were still in dire straits and would suffer the consequences of this pandemic for generations to come. Loved ones who became ill, went to hospital and died alone, simply vanished from this world. Closure was robbed from those who needed it and deserved it.
Yet, Leo, Tony and Simon made all this more bearable. Simon went greyer but soldiered on. He was a lot less poetic than Leo but that was okay as well. On May 15, when there was some discussion about reopening Garden Centres and not Home Stores, he gave us all a giggle with his nugget of advice: ‘Now is not the time to dickey up your house and buy curtains.’ Yet this was exactly what everyone had been doing since March. The painting, pruning, grass cutting, and wardrobe clearing were only overtaken by the cooking up of daily three course meals and baking up lorry loads of shagging banana bread. We began to make the best of a bad situation and we were all in it together. We missed having our families around and sharing food and wine with our friends and neighbours. Even when we all began to look like grey badgers, the root spray gave us a slight reprieve.
Life trundled on and we hoped and prayed for the light at the end of the tunnel. Little by little it became apparent that we would have to find the tunnel first. All those cancelled weddings, communions, christenings and confirmations would never be held with the same freedom as before. They became part of a backlog to be sorted. Still, if we had The Holy Trinity to guide us, all would be well.
March, April and May passed with way too many Bank Holiday Mondays and then came June. On June 27, Leo was no longer the leader of the country and got relegated to second place. Simon was sent to sort Third Level Education, and In July, we lost the glue that held us all together. Tony stepped down for personal reasons.
The replacement trio couldn’t fill the very large shoes of their predecessors, but we still listened…Didn’t we?
(c) Margaret Kelleher