Perchance to Dream

In the time of CoronaVirus, I am sure I am not the only person having strange dreams.

Funnily, they so far don’t involve having the virus itself, per se.  But they are dreams about safety.

Many of them involve my now 40-something son.  Except he isn’t that age in my dreams. He’s anywhere from toddler to teen.  The dream itself is about struggling to find a job so I can safely get him back home to some unidentified place in California, where he spent his formative years.

I know this is anxiety for his safety now, mostly because he is my son, but also because he is a healthcare worker.  It is being expressed in the economic anxiety I lived with for so many years as a single working mother, trying to provide a more secure “middle class” home for him than the one in which I grew up.

Also, as I have lived in Georgia for more than 20 years in retirement, I am REALLY missing California right now.  Georgia may offer more house for the money, but California isn’t opening up tattoo parlors today when the state hasn’t hit its peak viral rate yet, either.

I am dreaming about my parents who raised me and my Uncle Dick and Aunt Norma.  They somehow figure into my dreams about  getting my son to safety by finding a job.  I am not sure why, since they lived in Indiana and Michigan, respectively, during my California years.

Perhaps an underlying gnawing about not returning to my own family when I divorced after six years of marriage?  But had I done that, my son would have grown up not knowing his father.  As I am unsure who my birth father was, it was, again, something I didn’t want for him.

People I loved early in my life have also shown up.  My summer neighbor, Tom, for example.

I grew up in a community that was small, rural farming in the fall through spring months, and a summer lake-side resort Memorial Day to Labor Day.  We lived in our modest cottage home year round.  Our neighbors in summer were the more well-to-do from larger cities in the northeast triangle of Indiana-Ohio-Michigan.  Bankers.  Telephone company executives.  Insurance agency owners.  Construction company owners.

I adored Tom, though considering he spent one July 4th throwing cherry bombs in my general direction, you might wonder why.

I think it was because of the night he pounded on our screen door when my parents were having a drunken argument heard throughout the neighborhood.  He grabbed me, took me a distance away from the house, and made sure I was safe among other adults until my parents calmed down.

For that and many other reasons, he was my hero.

I have also had dreams of my junior high school crush, Jimmy.  They are dreams of what kind of relationship might have formed had my parents not moved to Ohio just as I started freshman year.

When I see my friends sitting at Church holding hands with the sweethearts they married right out of high school 40, 50, 60 years later, I always think of Jimmy and what mighta, coulda, shoulda? been.

So far, there have been no dreams of my earliest college days at Indiana University studying Comparative Literature before I joined the Navy and ended up in California for 20 years.  No dreams about being the professor one of my therapists always said I should have been, the books I should have written.

But we can only go back in time in our dreams, whatever they may be.

Whether to search for safety for those we most love or for ourselves from those we once loved, the nightmarish reality of COVID-19 in our lives has turned our sweet dreams into something we reach out for but can no longer grasp.

selective focus photo of dreamcatcher
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The Saddest I Have Ever Been

Yesterday I wrote of someone else’s deepest sadness.

Today I write of my own.

The rain that fell with its staccato sound on my rooftop has given way to blue sky I can see through the thickness of the pines that dot my backyard here in Georgia.  The yellow pine flowers that drop their dust everywhere this time of year are turning a deep gold. I can hear the birds chirping in the yard but the squirrels today are so far quiet, not scampering about the deck railing as they are wont to do.

I have never seen as many cardinals as I have this spring. The favorite bird of an elderly friend now ten years passed, I have wondered in a year filled with so much other death if she has been signaling to me somehow, channeling her spirit in heaven upon the landscape of my life.

I wrote yesterday of two other losses I suffered in this past year: my sister and my closest friend of 46 years. But those deaths aren’t what sadden me now.

Nor are the death totals I see daily from COVID_19; for them the sadnesses rushes over me in that moment, as does the grief I have felt for all those on Twitter who have announced the deaths of their loved ones. The ones to whom they couldn’t say a proper good-bye.  Couldn’t be there with to hold their hand as they slipped from this world to the next.

No, my deepest sadness is that I no longer recognize my country.  These past three years and three months it was becoming slowly more incomprehensible to me.  But now I see it not at all.

I don’t see it in photos and video of people walking down the Michigan streets carrying AR-15s and Nazi or Confederate flags, demanding their “freedom;” or those sitting in their cars, honking their horns and bemoaning to reporters they can’t get to the beauty shop to get their roots done.

As if that were the greatest threat to liberty we have ever known.  As if that were the end of the world.

I don’t see it in Constitutional scholars who spoke so movingly about our rights during Mueller but who now tweet that “herd immunity” is the only way out of this pandemic, and we must accept that some people will just have to die for it.

None of this is who I thought we were as a country.  None of it.

I was raised by my maternal grandfather and his second wife; to me, however, they were my Dad and Mom.

Both born in the second decade of the 1900s, they lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War. They knew what it was like to have food rationing, to do without sugar and flour and meat.  To have gas rationed.  To not be able to wear nylon stockings. To afford only the most basic things needed for survival.  To raise children in a time of want.

They knew what it was like to work during real war time production demands; Dad as a plating supervisor at a Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana, while Mom worked as an Indiana Bell operator.  I still have her employee pin she was given then; it was meaningful to her for so many different reasons.

They didn’t do these things for a few months and then say “Phooey, I am done with this.  Germany isn’t ours to fight; yeah, so some more people will die.  But we want our pantries to be fuller, to wear nylons again. As long as I am not the one who dies.”

But that is basically what some of us are saying.  “Give me back my stadium seats at the [insert your sports team arena here]. I will never know whose Grandma died so I could get my seat back, so what do I care.”

“Herd immunity.” Such an antiseptic sounding term. So data driven, so mathematical and precise.  An exercise in risk versus reward for a country that has been on staggered shutdowns for a grand total of four to six weeks and some change.

The Dow plunged. We’ve lost all our gains, however shall we go on? Yet when it happened in 2008, we found a way. When it crashed in 1929 we found a way.

Am I poorer than I would have been had 2008 never happened? Most assuredly.  My home value dropped by $50,000 and has never made it back. Plus the money down.

But I still have it.  It’s a great deal more house than my parents had when I was growing up. I have a son I love fiercely and a daughter-in-law I adore.  I have good friends, a Church community and a cat who super-glues herself to my body wherever I sit or lay down.

I am blessed.  We are blessed.

Because there is other science called testing.  We can test for who has had this virus already, for who is an asymptotic carrier, for who is still vulnerable.  And in a year to 18 months from now, we can have a vaccine to protect us all.

Meanwhile we can use that testing data and the contact tracing that goes with it to crunch new data that will allow us to re-open the country in a way that protects the most vulnerable and hopefully costs as little life as possible.

We don’t have to slaughter a vast portion of the herd to make our way back to better than it was.

But we do have to have the patience of Job to do it.  Or even of those who lived through the Great Depression and turned around to then defeat fascism and save Europe and the U.S.

But that will take time.  And in a country of greed and instant gratification – which is what we seem to have become – we aren’t willing to save a life if we can have a nano-second of more time to pursue our individual “liberty,” whatever that means.

Realizing this attitude is starting to take hold in the very best of people makes this the saddest day of my life.  I had hoped for so much more.

I had hoped for an attitude of “when all of us are safe, we each of us are safe.”

A play on the thought that unless all of us are free, none of us are.

For those who think thoughts of “culling the herd,” it might save you and a few dollars for now.

But what will you do when this, or something worse, happens again? Who will you be in that time if you don’t have the moral courage and the willingness to be patient in this one?

Because you see, when one dies, we all die, sooner or later.  And when we start saying it is acceptable to choose who lives and who dies, we all die piece by piece each day.

Are you willing to pick and choose who dies sooner so you can live a little later?

I’m just not.

red cardinal bird on tree branch
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Sad in the Time of Coronavirus

Read a very interesting “Washington Post” article today by Caroline Kitchener about women sheltering alone during the COVID_19 pandemic here in the U.S.

While I am sure we each feel like we are in it pretty much alone, the article stated there are about 23 million women sheltering alone, or about 7% of the roughly 328 million people that make up this country.

Oh sure, we have choices to stay socially connected: FaceTime, Google Duo, Zoom, not to mention the old standbys of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. We can talk, we can text or, if you have an I-phone and an I-pad, talk and compose a text at the same time.  So many ways to juggle connection in such a solitary time.

Usually being alone is my preferred state of being, but it was always with the idea that whenever I chose, I could pick up my car keys and just go, wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I have always been like that.

After leaving home to join the Navy, whenever I had leave, the first thing Daddy always did was hand me his car keys.  The car was mine to command for the duration of my stay, and use it to full advantage I did.

When I divorced and we were selling our home, I could choose between our furnishings or a car.  I took the car.

When I visit the larger, more boisterous Texas side of my family, I always have a rental.  Part of it is because neither Houston nor Dallas-Fort Worth is especially convenient to where they live, and Delta doesn’t fly into Abilene.

But really I couldn’t stay without a car of my own.  It is a control issue; it is how I know I am free, independent, and liberated.

It’s a lot like being a cowboy without his horse, this shelter in place thing.

Again, I don’t usually mind being alone in my solitary “saloon;” I have always been the girl on the sidelines of every dance I ever attended.  I am very adept at watching the world while not being part of it.

Maybe that made me a good journalist.  I can’t say for sure.

But I do get anxious as the day draws on, sometimes to the point of having to down a fast acting anxiety med before my blood pressure rises too high.

Early on in the pandemic, I watched news morning to night.  I tweeted about many things, but mostly the incompetence of Donald Trump’s handling of this national emergency.

”I take no responsibility,” he claims, while blaming anyone and everyone he can possibly think of.  Anyone but him.

Thank God for the governors. Like many people, I find Andrew Cuomo quite soothing.  And it’s not like he is saying joyful things.  But he has facts, and figures, and creates a game plan as he goes.  Is it necessarily right? I don’t know. But he is trying. He is willing to say “the buck stops with me.”

What an enormous task he and Mayor DeBlasio have taken on, as New York has seen the highest rates of infection and mortality.

I don’t even want to think about all the things our Southern governors haven’t done with all the time they have had to prepare.  And we haven’t hit our peak yet.

Someone famous I follow said in a tweet today she has never felt so sad.  I get that.  Sometimes I am sad too and just curl up on the couch in a ball. 

There have been days that have drained me of emotion as I sent tweet after tweet of condolence to those who have lost loved ones.  These have been a continuation of my “year of death” that started with my sister’s untimely death in March last year, and my friend’s of 46-years in August.

I am tired of death.

Sometimes I am angry, frustrated and fed-up that the richest nation on earth can be this incompetent in using our tax dollars unwisely to benefit the 1% so it cannot protect the rest of us in a pandemic scientists have told us was coming for years.

But sometimes I am hopeful. Wisconsin voters who took their lives in their hands to go out in a pandemic and exercise their right to vote made me hopeful our democratic ideals remain and our country will go on.

I am hopeful when I see doctors and nurses cheering on the patients who have recovered and are being sent home.  It is like their mutual victory is also ours.

I am hopeful when I hear a story about a little girl who has made over 700 masks for donation to her local hospital.

And I want to be as resourceful and resolute as that child, each and every day. Even when I am gripped by sadness that paralyzes me.

I know we will come through this – pained, changed, scarred.  But we will come through this.

I only hope it will be to make a more just and equal society where basic needs of shelter, food, healthcare and education are more prized than loopholes in the tax code that allow carry thru so people like Trump don’t contribute to the tax base, don’t get to use their real estate wealth for bailouts they aren’t supposed to get.

I hope for a world where the Steve Mnuchins have to live their lifestyles on just $1,200 for ten weeks and see how far they get.  Where the Ivanka Trumps don’t get to pretend to be noble by encouraging us to “stay home” while she gets Secret Service protection to travel to New Jersey to have Passover with her family while the rest of us missed Easter with ours.

I hope for an end of the hypocrisy, the ineptitude, the grafting and double dealing of the Trump Administration.

I hope Team Biden and his Avengers beat Trump at the polls so resoundingly in November that the win shakes the world.

I hope I live that long to see it, and my need to control my car keys and go where I please doesn’t overcome me and inadvertently expose me to a deathly virus I don’t know whether or not my body can handle.

Even if it means I have to sit here awhile longer and sometimes be sad.

woman standing on volkswagen beetle
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adult alone black and white blur
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