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When I left end of January, having helped my mum line things up for my sick father and sorted out practicalities, I made her a promise: 24 hours, that’s how close I was. Just one day.
I was always almost there, I told my mum. She was not alone. Regardless, I would fly back to South Africa in mid-April. Not that long, I said. My sister in the Cape was even closer, as little as five hours away given time to pack, to travel.
All our parents needed to do was sound the alarm. We were the cavalry, boots polished, horses saddled, ready to ride. Then God laughed. And the world shut down. Needless to say, that help is needed now.
My dad has deteriorated and all is very far from well. Ten-thousand kilometres, 14 days of quarantine upon arrival: that’s how far away I am, even if there were any flights. It’s the weirdest feeling, looking up tickets.
There’s literally not one commercial passenger plane going to South Africa until 29 April, not a single solitary flight for the next 10 days. Then the “quickest” trip, entailing three stopovers including one in Lockdown London, is 35 hours, arriving on 1 May.
So a 10-day wait, 10,000km, 35 hours of travelling, then 14 days in quarantine … That’s how far away I am from where my heart is, from my ailing father, from my resilient mother who’s nonetheless in danger of cracking or breaking herself trying to nurse my dad, because a strong mind will only take you so far and she does not have the physical strength to cope.
Truly, the earliest I could possibly be there is 15 May. I think we all know that’s unlikely to happen though, that this lockdown is going to end slowly, over messy weeks and months to come.
My sister may be closer, yes, but when she can finally make the journey to Johannesburg on 3 May, should she?
After all, she could pick up Covid-19 in transit, and put our pensioner parents at risk … Yet our family is but one. Every family has their need, their crisis, their heartache. Vasbyt, everybody. Vasbyt.
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