I’m Susanna Paterson. I’m a widow, mother and illustrator. Prior to being widowed, my completely brilliant husband had long been disabled by a massive stroke. 14 months before he died, he was caught in a fire he couldn’t escape from forcing him to fight through the most painful series of surgeries before passing. In my grief, I found myself touched by a project put together by another widow about widowhood, so booked an exhibition space and went to work to get ready for my exhibition. Then lockdown hit…no, it wasn’t possible to continue with my exhibition. My daughter Eleanor Morgan Paterson, 22 years old, is my youngest child who has CP, epilepsy and learning difficulties. When lockdown hit, all of the support services, including Day Centre where she would spend most of her time, were closed down. In fact, all support for her has disappeared. I’ve not been able to explain to her why all the services she used to attend were no longer there; why people are wearing masks and why the city was empty. I also had to explain to her why we couldn’t scatter her Dad’s ashes in France as we’d planned.
The first portrait is of myself from a few years back. The second of Eleanor with all sorts of things which have been made for her, including the ‘fish bag’ which she made herself. Her face is so uncertain because I, as her only surviving parent, couldn’t explain anything nor plan anything. To me, the most inhumane and criminal thing which has been inflicted on people by this ‘lockdown’ is to separate people from their loved ones who are sick or dying. This is beyond any cruelty I could have imagined and it’s happening right now, in our country! I’m sure so many parents feel the same. You are there to be their bedrock but you suddenly just don’t know what’s coming next.
Final note: The government have justified the closure and removal of all or most support services for those with special needs or disabilities, often leaving them and their families to flounder. Many other individuals – mainly vulnerable teens and adults with special needs have been isolated from their main support network (aka, their families) under the guise of them “being vulnerable to the virus”. Yet, the removal of support services and connection with their families is causing much greater harm for all involved.