Hello, my friend. I’m here. You there? Good. I think that’s the way they want us right now.
As I walked my dog recently, I heard someone call my name. It took me a bit to locate the voice but when I did, it was coming from my neighbor’s window. Dan and Sandy, both 80-somethings, had their sweet faces crammed into a tiny four-inch gap between their window and sill so they could talk to me.
Many mornings, Bailey and I will stop by Dan and Sandy’s house. Bailey is adamant about that. As I’ve written before, she is a neighborhood ambassador to the oldest and youngest on my block. And Dan and Sandy are among her favorite friends. They bring us homemade peanut brittle every Christmas (which I promptly throw out because it’s of the tooth-breaking variety), and I bake cookies for them. Dan will roll my recycling cart back up my driveway if he sees it’s empty at the curb, knowing I work long hours. Just after my divorce, when he was in better health, he would snowblow my sidewalk for me. I never asked him to do any of these things—he just is the very definition of what I’d call “good people.” He thinks of others.
Dan taught music in the local schools for decades. Sandy was also a career elementary school teacher. Many of their former students still stay in touch, despite being middle-aged. They’re the kind of people who make a quiet difference.
As Bailey bounded over and tried to fit her 90-pound body through a four-inch gap, I remained a respectful and healthy six feet away. “Oh, it is so good to see your faces!” I said. “Are you both ok? Do you need anything dropped off at the door? Food? Prescriptions?”
Dan assured me they were ok. Their son was checking on them. And they were ordering from a foodservice they have used for years. He told me they were reading books, playing the piano, keeping busy inside.
But then he said something I want to share with all of you: “Kristine, we have lived through wars and hard times. Times where real sacrifice was required on everybody’s part. I think what we’re seeing now is a couple of generations who have never had to do that. And I hope they learn that lesson—fast. Sandy and I are probably nearing the end of our lives. We’re old anyway. But we should be able to pass in peace, with the people we love around us.”
I swallowed hard and blew them a kiss. Told them I loved them and that before we knew it, we’d be sitting on their patio again and chatting about the garden, the weather, their grandkids. Then I gave them my cell number in case they needed anything. But as I went back to my walk and turned the corner, the tears welled up.
I am trying so hard not to judge or blame. But the former colleague who jetted off for a spa weekend just a week ago came to mind. The mother in a Facebook group who complained about not being able to find an open venue for her daughter’s birthday party. I won’t go on. You know your own versions of these people. I have to remind myself these are not awful people. But neither are they wise, caring people—at least in this moment. And when I see my elderly neighbors have to speak to me through a four-inch gap in their window, I get a little steamed with the idiots who continue to think in me-me-me terms. Oh hell, you all know me—I may as well be honest. I’m more than a little steamed—I’m furious.
We’re all navigating new waters. It feels like I woke up in a Stephen King novel. And while I’ve found our global situation extremely hard to deal with this week, I keep trying to emphasize the positive—and my ability to get through this.
I have two friends dealing with far worse. Each has a loved one with cancer and they’re having to make regular visits to hospitals for chemotherapy during a global pandemic in which even people with normal immune systems can become seriously ill.
One has a son who was best buddies with my eldest when they were quite small. Sammer was like a third son to me—another little-boy face at my table, smiling happily while he gobbled up the green beans my sons complained about having to eat. As I write this, Sammer and his family are awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test because he has spiked a fever, replete with sore throat and other symptoms, midway through chemotherapy treatment. Only one parent could be with him in the hospital—and when they do the changing of the parental guard, the other has to go home and self-quarantine for two weeks. Can you imagine? Yet, Jules, his mother, was strong and uncomplaining when I talked to her yesterday.
The other friend has a husband about to start cancer treatment. I often tease that she eats and drinks like a monk. No sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no alcohol. When I talked to her the other night, I reminded her I had dry-farmed wine that she could probably tolerate far better than traditional wine. I expected her to say her usual “No thank you.” Instead, she said, “I’m going to take you up on that offer. Do you have a white?” I promptly dropped it at her door with a note of support.
All most of us have to do right now is stay home, love each other, take walks, do our thing. We can do this.
I believe in the power of technologies like Artificial Intelligence to help us beat this mutating virus.
I believe in the dedication and ingenuity of our human scientists and medical personnel.
I am encouraged by business and local leaders who are stepping up to help solve this problem and fill the vacuum of national leadership we have in my country.
I’ll end with a few things that make me smile and give me hope. If you have some to share in the comments below, please do.
Whether it’s turning your little tiny library into a food pantry:
Or making your neighbors smile as they walk by your house:
Or deciding that you can still sing with angel voices, despite a canceled local concert. This high school group each recorded in their own home so their voices could be blended together as if they were singing as a group. Now, instead of just local families and friends hearing them, people thousands of miles away can enjoy them. They made my cry like a baby. Young, sweet faces and hopeful voices. Need I say more?
It is ironic that in a time when we must individually distance ourselves from each other, it is only collectively that we can beat this bug.
I love it when humanity shines, even if it must be through a four-inch window gap. Love to you all. Be safe and well.