Lives under lockdown: Change is the only constant

The next week went by uneventfully. Grandpa Harvey watered the plants in the morning, looking longingly at the quiet road outside.

A few of the neighbours sometimes went out, some waved at him.

Mostly, the road was quiet except for mothers scolding children, and occasionally couples arguing about chores and children’s homework.

Benjy spent a lot of time on the computer. For some reason, teachers gave more homework, but he liked that he didn’t have to wake up early and he could wear shorts and have a snack during class. He missed his friends and basketball, but at least there wasn’t the stress of sitting in traffic jams.

After two weeks of being locked up at home, Grandpa Harvey was feeling restless.

While Benjy was having online classes in his bedroom one day, Grandpa Harvey told Grandma Alondra he wanted to go to the supermarket to get more fruits and bread.

Grandma looked worried, but Grandpa was adamant about going. He said his friends were going to the supermarket, and some even went to the coffee shop to pack coffee.

She couldn’t argue with him. After all, he was still the head of the household, and a stubborn one at that. So, she reminded him to wear his mask and take the hand sanitiser.

When Benjy came downstairs, he found that Grandpa Harvey was not at home. He became very upset and started scolding Grandma.

“Why can’t Grandpa just stay home? Why is it so hard … don’t you want to be alive? You can die out there! You know government said old people are vulnerable and are in the high-risk category. Can get the virus easily,” he screamed, as he paced back and forth.

Grandma pursed her lips, fighting the urge to say something sarcastic. “Aiyoh, this boy … always scold people.

“I’m so tired of him already. But what he said makes sense also.

“That stupid old man shouldn’t have gone out,” she thought as she walked away.

She picked up her phone, then put it back down, deciding not to call her husband, knowing he would have his hands full with groceries, hand sanitiser, and the car key.

Both Benjy and his grandma sat in awkward silence worrying.

Grandpa Harvey finally came home two hours later and said, “Nothing wrong lah, boy. See, I am okay. I covered up, I used a mask, I shopped, I came home. Nothing lah, don’t worry so much.”

“Listen to your grandson. He has more sense than you. You read the news and saw on TV how the government put buildings on enhanced lockdown. If everybody is stubborn like you, go out jalan-jalan, one day when we get up in the morning, we will see barbed wire outside the house. Then how? All the neighbours will look at us,” said Grandma Alondra.

Grandpa Harvey left the bags of groceries on the table outside, then walked in, heading for his favourite seat in front of the television.

Benjy stopped him, “Grandpa, you better shower. Don’t know what germs you bring home. Better put your clothes in the washing machine immediately. I will pour some diluted Dettol.”

Aiya, boy ah, why so kiasu, always want to boss people around,” Grandpa replied, irritated.

“Grandpa, you are so naughty, you never listen. You wait, later, you get the virus, scold me some more lah. You know I love you both. Daddy and Mummy said I am in charge and must take good care of you both. If you get sick, let’s see who will take care of you,” said Benjy, ushering his grandfather to the bathroom.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Changes for the better by Aidan Kwong. It is part of a series of pandemic stories in Lives Under Lockdown: A Young Writer’s Anthology. Priced at RM32.90, the book is available at MPH Bookstores. Royalties from the sale of the book will be channeled to SOLS Health Community Centres.