My Gran and I were watching the local news Monday. A chirpy young female reporter asked a white middle-aged man waiting in long foodbank line for a Thanksgiving basket, what he was thankful for. There was a long pause. He looked at her smiling face and said, “I lost my job months ago. My wife is still working, but her hours were severely cut down.” She went on smiling, and cut to the studio.
I looked at my Gran and said, “He’s alive.” Gran said, “And he’s not sick.” I said, “He had a job, so he might be getting UI.” Gran said, “He has a wife.” I said, “She’s still working.” Gran said, “He has a happy dog.” (It was in the car with him). I said, “He has a car.” Gran said, “And it has gas.” I said, “He’s got access to food.” Gran said, “He must have a home to cook it in.” I nodded.
After a long pause, while the anchors bantered about covid fatigue, my Gran said, “I’ll bet you really want to go home.” I felt some tears slide down my face. I shook my head and brushed them away. “That’s the worst part. No matter where I am or who I’m with, it doesn’t feel like home anymore.” “That happens to people sometimes,” my Gran replied, “in a war.”
I thought about Frodo, back at the Shire. There, but not there. He eventually sailed into the West. Last time I checked, covid had shut down cruises, not that Viking sails to the Undying Lands. And anyway, the war wasn’t over for me. The ring was still hanging around my neck. Doing damage, not just to me but everyone, the whole world.
I looked at my Gran, 90+ years and many wars won. “So,” I said, “how do people recover?” Gran thought for a moment, “They just decide home is wherever they are, and family is whomever they’re with, till the war ends. Then they find a nice spot and build themselves a new life.”
She was right.
What was essentially was “wrong” with me was all in my mind, in how I looked at my situation. Much like the man and his dog. The man was unhappy. His dog was not. His dog was bouncing around the car, happy to be out, traveling with his favorite person, in a line full of smells of delicious food. People really are way less intelligent than animals.
Humans have problems leaving behind mindsets that are incorrect, irrelevant or outdated. Animals don’t. “What, no food here today?” Okay. Move on or starve. I was resisting the fact “the covid war” was still raging, 11 months later. I long accepted “the war” existed, but the holidays at war was new battle. I had to accept that, and move forward, find new ways to fight the enemy, and always keep in mind that when it’s over, I get the privilege of building myself a new life.
If you think arriving at such acceptance is easy, ask yourself how hard it was for you to accept necessary changes, to accommodate saving your own life, or the lives of those you care for, during the pandemic. I’m guessing it was really, really hard at first. I’m guessing as time wore on, it got easier. Maybe you almost reached some kind of acceptance or balance eventually.
But now, with the holidays, having to face a new set of “firsts” again? I’m guessing today, while some of you are forced to prep a turkey, or side dish, or pie or side dish, for the first time, on your own, maybe without the guiding presence of a special loved, who might have passed too soon this year, today seems incredibly hard or sad. Or both.
Hang in there. There is an end in sight. Remember all the folks on the frontlines, duking it out with covid, risking their lives to save others, while you are home, safe, eating a meal and maybe watching a heart-warming movie or the Ravens pick the bones of the Steelers. What you do these next few days might be the most important thing you ever do. You’re helping the whole nation, by staying safe, and staying home, alone.
I get to be “home-ish” with immediate family this year. They arrive in a few hours. It’s great gift, but it’s only happening because there’s no safer option. My Da has to come down with my mother. Mutti has to take over 24/7 caregiving my Gran, because I need a break. Da has to drive me to the airport so Mutti can stay with Gran and so I don’t have added risk by sitting an in a public transport to the airport for an hour or more. I have to fly home because there isn’t any other option.
My parents (and Hugh, who lives with them still), have been quarantining for 2 weeks and were covid tested before this trip. I have been virtually living in quarantine 24/7 for months, given Gran is 90+ and that’s what it takes to keep her safe. I go out in a mask, once a week, for 1 hr, for mail and groceries. That’s it. We’re being as safe as we can.
When I see other people who are traveling for the holiday just because they can, and they want to? I despair of them. I get so angry. I have to stop and remember they are victims of war too. Victims of bad government, misinformation propaganda, and sometimes just the stupidity of youth.
I recall to mind the Dalai Lama told about the lama that was 18 years in a Chinese prison/re-education camp. His Holiness asked him, “We’re you ever scared you might abandon your faith?” The wizened old lama said, “Oh yes, many times. I feared I might lose my compassion — for the Chinese.”
Don’t let covid win. Don’t give aid and comfort to the enemy. Do the right thing now, for a better future soon. Can’t be with your usual family? Make some time for getting out in nature. Make a new family, like Snow did.
Virtually reach out a hand to an old friend. Take the initiative, make the call/tweet/post/email. Even if they don’t answer, it’ll show on their phone/feed you were there, you thought of them, and cared enough to do something.
Maybe have a look through your brain box and tear down a few mindsets your family left you that are past their sell-by date and kind of stinking things up for you.
Try a little time with a good book, good art, good music, or just looking out your window. Find some tail-wagging joy in the day. Roll in a pile of leaves. Put on a really ugly sweater and dance. Get some paper, tape, and scissors and decorate your window.
Think about all the good in your life, all the good in the world, and what a wonderful world it is. Above all, make a little time tomorrow to be truly from the heart thankful for something.