Two years ago I went from seeing my daughter every day to every second weekend, the result of the ending of my relationship with her mother. Even after two years her absence from my life for twelves days out of every fourteen still sits heavily on my heart, and while I imagine it will always feel unnatural to see her so little, to be so distant from her and her life, I have come to accept that this situation is, and will remain, the new normal. At the very least, I once comforted myself, it could hardly get any worse.
And then Covid-19 shut down the country.
My daughter lives with her mother in the family home while I live elsewhere. The distance between the houses is approximately 60 km, a distance which far exceeds the current restrictions on travel. As I write this I have not seen my daughter in ten weeks, the longest amount of time in her eight years I have gone without seeing her. If the current re-opening plan for the country stays to its timetable I will not see her for another ten weeks, making it a total of twenty weeks. To add insult to injury she was seven when the virus hit, her eight birthday falling x weeks ago, meaning I could not be there to hug her, wish her a happy birthday, give her her birthday presents. Across all the days that have passed since I last saw her, that day was the hardest to endure, the hours passing with a syrupy thickness that seemed to stretch every second into minutes and every minute into hours, while my ability to concentrate on even the most mundane tasks was severely hampered. The only bright moment of that day was when I got to speak to her via Skype, and at least wish her a happy birthday and tell her I loved her.
I take much needed comfort in the fact that a date has been given when ‘travel outside your region’ will be allowed: 20th July. When the lockdown was first imposed – mere days before I was due to see her for my usual weekend – I imagined, like many others, that it would be only for a short time. But then the lockdown was extended, and extended again, and a state of limbo settled upon me, a vast almost-nothingness which seemed to expand with every day, with no definitive date for me to mentally mark and know that that day would be the day I would be able to see my daughter, her extended absence beginning to feel as freshly savage as it had been when the relationship with her mother had first ended, almost as though I would have to experience it all over again, would once more need to recalibrate myself to this ‘new normal’ which felt like anything but normal.
20th July. 20th July. It has become a mantra in my head. I imagine there are many people in my situation, or variations of my situation, with that date, or one of the other projected dates when certain restrictions will be lifted, firm in their minds. For their sake as well as my own, I can only hope that the date does not change, that a second wave of the virus does not hit the country, that some semblance of normality can be reintroduced into the world as a whole, and the world that is, to me, my daughter (I try not to dwell on the stories of people disregarding the restrictions for the sake of a few hours at the beach, or having a house party, or whatever non-essential need they deem essential). Come the day I can see my daughter again – a day I can make come no faster, no matter what I want – I will squeeze her in my arms until she tells me to stop, and then hold onto her for a few seconds more.
Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection “Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge” was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His blog/website can be found at https:/ /edwardmlee.wordpress.com