We’re living in a surreal time. I had to watch my sister’s burial and memorial service through a computer – Zoom, the all-purpose connection. Not to be able to stand by her grave with others who loved her, to throw the traditional handful of earth on the coffin, to hug one another in our mutual pain, but instead to sit at home alone and see all this as if it were a TV show. .. It all feels inhuman.
It’s as if we’re dwelling (locked down) in a science fiction story and, at the same time, thrown back into a medieval plague. No wonder we’re all edgy, especially when we must maintain “social distance” from one another. I go for brief walks to escape from my solitary existence, but if I have a chance to talk to anyone there must be at least six feet between us. (I’ve learned to measure by guessing.) If someone’s face is blatantly without a mask, I detour around that familiar person who now appears dangerous.
Yet in this inhuman time something human is emerging. There’s belated caring about each other – not only friends and family, but neighbors we hardly noticed, lonely clerks in the few stores that are open, brave delivery people to whom we apologize, “Just leave it by the door.” I find there’s a growing concern even for a stranger. Perhaps a more accurate word is awareness that this other person is struggling with the same things we are. Conflicts that used to seem monumental shrink to trivial.
I am one of the many who is not only “sheltering,” but doing so alone. There are days when I long for the comfort of having someone with me. The silence can be deafening, the solitary dinners a hurdle, TV anchors with their depressing news my only companions. Yet there are other times when I realize the unexpected rewards of being alone. I can write without interruptions, and without anyone asking, “When is dinner?” My desk, my room, my time are mine.
I’m also giving myself a gift that may not seem like a gift: getting to everything I’ve been promising myself to take care of for years. I’ve been organizing drawers and shelves and closets, and discovering forgotten letters, photos, documents. It feels as if in the midst of chaos, I’m putting myself in order.
Some day there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel. Meanwhile, the fact that so many are reaching out– even to those they scarcely know – with phone calls and E-mails, is in itself a sign of hope. (How many people I scarcely know have called to ask if I have enough food! And, if not, to offer to shop for me.) I hope we can maintain this caring about each other afterward. A caring manifested in what has become our shared signature: “Stay well, stay safe.”
BOOKS: “WIDOW’S WALK”- available through iUniverse.com; “TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW”– xLibris.com; “TEN WOMEN OF VALOR” and “ROLE PLAY”– both through CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.