Finally my sons answer my calls … and all it took was a pandemic!
1st April 2020
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Finally my sons answer my calls … and all it took was a pandemic!, says LIZ HODGKINSON, 76, who is in lockdown alone

  • Liz Hodgkinson, 76, who lives in Oxford, revealed her children rarely call her
  • She said her sons Tom and Will, are concerned that she’s alone during pandemic
  • It was her turn to worry when Tom contracted coronavirus, a week after he called
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

While I was miserably wandering past the empty shelves in my local supermarket, my phone rang.

It was Tom, my older son. Now, Tom never calls, or at least hardly ever. ‘How are you?’ he asked.

‘Absolutely fine,’ I answered. ‘Never better, in fact.’

He was just ringing to see how I was, with no hidden agenda. Amazing. Unprecedented. Usually when he gets in touch, it’s to ask my advice or tell me about his latest adventure. In other words, it’s usually about him.

But this time, thanks to the hovering threat of coronavirus, he was calling purely out of concern for me. We talked for about half an hour, discussing you-know-what and planned, as best we could, for the weeks ahead.

Liz Hodgkinson, 76, (pictured) who lives in Oxford, has received a flurry of phone calls from her sons Tom and Will, since the coronavirus pandemic began 

Later, back at home, I had another call. This time it was Will, my younger son, asking the same question. Like Tom, he leads a busy and exciting life and rarely has much time for his old mum, but we enjoyed a long, cosy chat. Staggeringly, he was worried about me being in isolation with nobody to talk to — something that would never usually occur to him.

You see, it’s very rare these days that I see the boys, both of whom have children of their own. Sometimes months go by without a visit. Calls go unreturned, birthdays forgotten.

I haven’t seen Will since Christmas, although Tom did come to see me a few weeks ago, to discuss his new book project. But this time on the phone, he offered to stay and keep me company, voicing genuine concern that I might be lonely with my social life cancelled.

The following day, Tom and Will each called again. I checked the date. No, it wasn’t my birthday. They were just thinking about me, stuck at home alone with not even a cat for company. Pets are not allowed in my building — a top-floor flat in Oxford.

Of course, my first thought was that they shouldn’t have worried. Although 76, I am perfectly fit, have no adverse health conditions at all, am not on any medication and am probably as fit and healthy as many people half my age.

It does niggle me, I admit, that it’s taken a global pandemic for me to be on my sons’ To Do list. There have been weeks when they have not been in touch or failed to return my calls, when I’ve felt like a stuck record constantly going on at them about not staying in touch.

Liz claims the coronavirus is bringing her closer to the people that she loves. Pictured left to right: Tom, Liz and Will 

But the fact that they are worried now has touched me all the same and made me realise that far from isolating me, coronavirus is bringing me closer to the people I love. I have rarely felt less alone in my whole life. It isn’t just my sons. The following morning a friend from Australia called to see how I was coping, and once again, I could reassure him that I was perfectly fine.

Then later, to my delight and surprise, an old school chum, Kate, called. We have been close friends since we were 14, but in recent years, too busy with jobs, children and grandchildren, we had begun to lose contact. But bonding over our government-imposed solitary confinement meant we had the best of chats and are now exchanging regular emails. We aim to meet up as soon as quarantine ends.

Such a rekindling of closeness means the world to me. I live alone and work from home, so I often spend whole days on my own without speaking to a single person. I tell myself — and everyone else — that I’m happy with my solitary life, but this surge of connection is forcing me to rethink.

Now, all of a sudden, my family are calling, texting or emailing all the time, and it is great to be able to chat to them, if not see them. I find that I too am, spontaneously, making an extra effort to get in touch with people I may not have contacted for years, and checking to see how elderly friends are doing.

My ex-husband — who I have gone months without speaking to in the past — now emails or calls and we commiserate at the current situation.

Even my 40-something neighbour downstairs, whom I have hardly seen as he moved in only recently, asked if there was any shopping he could do for me.

I assured him that I was fine for toilet paper, but he could bring up a crate of wine if he liked. Even my builder called to say he was on hand if there was anything I wanted, as he was working nearby.

I prefer to live alone, but it’s quite a different thing when you are forced to be in isolation. Loneliness can lead to depression and I worry how this quarantine will affect the health of some of my friends.

Liz (pictured) said since Will contracted coronavirus, they’ve been speaking more often and sometimes even twice a day

But my goodness, there is at least some good news. One friend posted on Facebook that she and her two brothers had been arguing over their mother’s estate ever since she died four years ago, ‘until I felt at my wits’ end’.

But, she wrote: ‘Since this pandemic, we have been messaging every day. We are sharing little jokes, hugs, love, and are enjoying a greatly renewed bond, which makes me very happy indeed.’

She ended her post by wondering whether things like this are happening worldwide.

I believe they are. Families are drawing nearer, at least in spirit, than our rushed modern lives usually allow. I have no family quarrels to mend, but I am loving the daily communication with my boys.

I detect a new warmth in our exchanges. There is a feeling that we are all in this together — and, for the first time, I know that if I had to ask them for help, I could do it without feeling like I was a trouble and a nuisance.

A week after that first flurry of concerned calls, Will contracted coronavirus and it was my turn to worry. He is fine, but has had some horrid symptoms, which have meant we now speak not just every day, but sometimes twice a day.

That unbroken thread of connection is something I truly cherish. Will I go back to being ignored once this is all over? I truly hope that, unlike this beastly disease, the attention of my children is here to stay.

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