In the spring, I still had a sense of humor. I could write comic pieces about how my mask frightened the neighbors because I looked like a burglar. Now the weather is cool again, and the same outfit seems sad rather than funny.
Autumn has always been my favorite time of year – back to school, fresh writing projects, activist tasks that refresh my spirits and lead to meeting all kinds of new people. In the fall, even the “familiar strangers” of my daily encounters – sales clerks and grocery baggers, pharmacists and librarians – respond with more than their usual verve in the interactions I have always cherished.
Now it is all deliveries to my porch or the brief, unsatisfactory encounters of curb pickups.
My state of Michigan has managed Covid 19 very well, and I have not caught it, but a gang of white militiamen who are furious about masks, social distancing, and (especially) bar closures laid plans to kidnap our governor. Our terrifyingly dictatorial President caught the virus, but, far from being sidelined, he has lurched back into the last weeks of his campaign with spooky intensity, wearing a superman undershirt.
There is dread in our world. There is dread for our world.
There are sleepless nights. There are tearful mornings. There are long, lonely stretches as the afternoon dark comes early.
A November without Thanksgiving and a winter without Christmas are upon us. We plan to gather around the Zoom hearth and eat our solitary feasts with some (remote) semblance of festivity. I do feel rather clever to have purchased two electric lap robes for the porch, so that I can still have friends over for a chat.
My neighbors have been more neighborly than before the pandemic: they buy me groceries, swap extra supplies, go for walks and sit on the porch. My friendship groups offer heartwarming support on Zoom, and I deeply cherish long phone calls with my dearest old friends.
But we are dying – two of us are gone now (dear Rheba just a few weeks ago) and though I have a good, solid philosophy of mortality along the lines of “What a life! What a lark,” it doesn’t keep timor mortis from my door every time I have a fever or feel a bit flu-ish.
My father was quite a recluse, as is one of my grandsons; I worry that being shut in so long might turn me into an agoraphobic. I am unused to company: last Saturday, with two real people coming over (distanced walk/with masks, distanced porch-sit/with masks) plus a densely populated Zoom meeting, I freaked out and crawled under my bed.
I have always talked to myself, but now I am talking to people who aren’t there. When dear Rheba died (as Mozart played in a Canadian hospice where she was given an injection to the heart – what verve! what courage!) I fell right over keening, like a ululting Arabian widow. Then her last words (filled in on the “motto” line of her Canadian end of life form) got through to me –
“Disturb the universe! Rejoice!”
– So I got to my feet and brought her along on my household chores, chatting all about them with her.
This morning I had a long discussion with the bathroom spider about where he planned to secrete himself while I took my shower.
I bet I am not the only senior citizen arguing with her stuffed animal about who will sleep where in my bed.
I say good morning to the squirrel and to the nuthatch, and goodnight to the moon and the stars and to my picture of the Dalai Lama.
He is just my age and has this enormously engaging grin; he seems to find everything funny.
I plan to work on that.