My boy is helping me recover from Covid

It’s really nasty, the breathlessness, the pain, being unfit and putting on weight. But my young son will see me through it

‘My boy has taken to waiting until I’m mid-stretch so he can slap my stomach with tiny, purposeful hands’: a dad is put through his paces by his young son.
‘My boy has taken to waiting until I’m mid-stretch so he can slap my stomach with tiny, purposeful hands’: a dad is put through his paces by his young son. Photograph: Oksana Kuzmina/Alamy Stock Photo
‘My boy has taken to waiting until I’m mid-stretch so he can slap my stomach with tiny, purposeful hands’: a dad is put through his paces by his young son. Photograph: Oksana Kuzmina/Alamy Stock Photo
Sun 14 Feb 2021 04.30 EST

‘Oh I heard about that,’ they always say, before adding, ‘Are you well?’ We bump into friends infrequently these days, but when we do they all seem happy to talk about our Covid horror, since we have literally nothing else to talk about.

No one does. Nothing of any consequence has happened to any of us in the past months, rendering small talk even more of a chore than usual. It’s almost exhilarating to watch people stretch and strain as they polish whatever small turd of news they might have, before settling into the conversational graveyard of children’s growth spurts and very high house prices.

So, ‘Are you well now?’ has taken up the slack, allowing us to astound and delight people with our near-death experience, but make sure to reassure them that we’re fine now, and make sure we don’t complain, wouldn’t complain and, actually, can’t complain.

The fact is though, I’m not sure if I am well. Since I’ve been ill, I’ve had shortness of breath and muscle pains that have persisted for weeks. It got bad enough that I started running again to loosen things up and discovered I could barely run without feeling short of breath.

I don’t actually like running, but it was the only thing that kept my back in good nick, and stopped me from ballooning in weight. As a result, the month I’ve spent completely stationary has left me much rounder about the edges and in a fair degree of pain.

GP sightings are at near mythical levels, so I resolved to try stretches on YouTube to sort my back out until my breathing recovered. Not for the first time I note that there must be a market for a shlubby, overweight YouTube fitness instructor aimed at people like me, who don’t want to have to copy the actions of a man who hasn’t eaten a carb since wifi was invented; a guy for whom lateral back pulls are obviously easy because he doesn’t have quite so much Séamas in his way. Nothing removes your appetite for bending sore bones like glancing from the rippling, taut striations of a Californian adonis and back at your own torso, newly revealed to have the form and consistency of a surgical stocking filled with dog food.

The indignities do not end there, since my son finds nothing so hilarious as the sight of his dad contorting his wobbly flesh around a mat on the living room floor. As such, he has taken to waiting until I’m mid-stretch so he can slap my stomach with tiny, purposeful hands, leaving me upside down, red faced, and producing a resounding, echoic clap from my exposed belly, that’s not great for the old self-esteem. I catch my breath and wonder why Chris Whitty never mentioned any of this in his briefings.

‘We’re fine,’ I say on the street, aware that mentioning any of this would take up valuable conversational space better suited to house prices and cousin’s weddings. ‘Can’t complain at all’.

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