When I last interviewed today’s guest for this podcast it was the summer of 2020 and we were cautiously emerging from our first lockdown. Indeed, that hot July day my guest had just been to the village shop for the first time in one hundred days. Little did we know then that by autumn we would be getting ready to hunker down again, this time in tiers (remember those?!) and Christmas would be cancelled. Only now, as we approach the summer of 2022, are we able to say, hopefully, that life is finally resuming some sort of normality.
Back then, in July 2020, I said that I admired this young mum from Chepstow for her understated determination, her strength of character and her obvious love for her family. Two difficult years on those words are truer than ever.
Suzy Webster’s Covid experiences have been an intense, distilled version of many of ours. We’ve all had to adapt, to become used to a new norm all the while knowing that it wasn’t forever. For better or worse, families were thrown together in unusually close proximity.
For Suzy, whose parents came to live with her, her husband Andrew and their two young daughters ten years ago, this meant caring, intimately, for her mum Barbara whose dementia is now so advanced that she rarely speaks and cannot walk or look after her personal needs. It brought two terrible days when they thought they were losing Barbara and open, honest conversations with the teenage girls.
While continuing to work three days a week for Age Cymru (the Welsh equivalent of Age UK), Suzy, a trained social worker, cared for her mum for over three months before fully handing back this role to formal carers a few weeks ago. She was also home schooling her girls. She admits it was exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally. Zoom helped them all. And online yoga gave Suzy breathing space. Recently, since the world’s opened up, she’s started playing netball and launched herself into something called sea dipping, about which I want to hear more but have no intention of trying, particularly off the Monmouthshire coast.
So much has changed since 2020, Suzy tells me. “But every day is new and life moves on. There are moments of joy most days; sometimes you have to remind yourself to look for them and dwell in them. I hold mum’s hand more now and stroke her hair. The girls tell her about their day and Andy always gives mum her dinner when he comes home from work”.
It was very apparent the last time she and I spoke that Suzy’s husband Andy, a hospice chaplain, is a huge support to her. “I couldn’t have done any of this without him,” she told me. “He’s a very special human being”.