With the approach of summer and a substantial number of folks now being fully vaccinated, my sense is that at long last life might be “normalizing,” even if the continued use of masks in some quarters serves as a stark reminder that normal life tomorrow could look different. Imagine awakening one fine Spring morning to find that overnight the buds on the trees and bushes had sprouted leaves and flowers, except this time we will be awakening to the sounds of live music, the heat generated by the energy of a summer street fest, the shared excitement of a cheering crowd gathered to watch a ballgame (while enjoying a cold beer, or two). Soon once again you will be drawn by the familiar and sweet smell of freshly baked bread coming from inside one of the tented booths or on tabletops set up early today while you were still asleep. Now, there are booths and displays spread over a couple of city blocks lining both sides of the well-trodden dirt walking path. Children whose parents came to buy a few plants or flowers play together off to one side in the parkway. Not far away, a young-looking couple spreads a blanket to have a picnic while four itinerant musicians have claimed a spot near the path where they can play jazz for tip money. Today, for the first time in more than one year you at least will have the opportunity to inspect firsthand, if not to sample, cheeses, baked goods, bottled sauces with homemade labels, cornucopias of truck farm fresh vegetables, colorful seasonal fruits, jewelry, pottery, bottled lotions, oils, home remedies “guaranteed to cure what ails ya’ (or to grow hair on a cue ball), organic health products, natural beauty aids, and sundries, for sale again at long last here at the farmers’ market.
If I sound like I am emerging out of this pandemic with a renewed sense of optimism, well, why not? I recently have cut back on my professional work but easily fill my hard won “free time” writing, studying music, working a few hours here and there at a local food pantry, renewing acquaintance with friends who have been missing or at large for the past year, or even more, and enjoying the splendid company of Lola the pup, who, being nearly 10 months’ old, is now quite ready occasionally to go off-leash, to run with the pack and to swim in the lake at the dog park.
I also have recently applied for full Social Security benefits in advance of my 70th birthday at the end of June. I might be in decent financial shape but that is no reason to leave money on the table that I spent a lifetime working to earn. I must sound like an old man!
Last, but not least, my recent winter foray into the world of online dating has produced a new friendship with a good woman whom I shall call “Robyn.” She knows who she is!
No doubt, we quickly will be reminded how miserable congested Sunday traffic can be on roads made even slower by long delayed construction projects. Maybe you will find yourself part of a throng of holiday travelers, all of whom are as anxious as you are to get moving again, about to experience being jostled for the first time in a long time while crammed together in a TSA security line that winds throughout the terminal nearly back to the ticket counters; or, in heated competition for a piece of precious overhead space to house the oversized bags. Next, you step carefully, hoping not to trip, as you finesse going around, past, on or over half a dozen of your fellow travelers. Finally, you will squeeze into a cramped economy class seat in the back of the plane it has been your privilege to reserve today for a hefty post-pandemic premium, grateful that your traveling companion gets to sit next to you.
No matter how good or bad “normal” turns out to be for me in the future, I cannot help but to turn and look back on a past year that simultaneously gave us a terrifying, deadly, and unprecedented pandemic, and unprecedented and tumultuous elections that leave us still divided and diminished as a nation (and I greatly fear whether all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can put these broken pieces back together again). For a moment I think, “que sera, sera,” but a corny Doris Day lyric from 65 years ago seems too sanguine to capture adequately a 21st Century sensibility informed by such great events.
Simply, my world view now is that the future is a place that must never be taken for granted again. Like you, I have been affected by these same events, albeit in different ways, perhaps, but the truth is that it has been the awful death of my wife to an aggressive, fast spreading, relentless form of cancer, that led me to step back professionally, to engage with others more readily, to pursue my interests and think more about me.
Despite a general sense of optimism, I step into this future with some trepidation. June 12th will be our wedding anniversary. June 27th will be my 70th birthday. Then, just a few days later, it will be July 2nd, the date of Lee’s death. She will be gone exactly one year.
The upcoming month could be fraught, but it should also be an emotional gauge of sorts for me. A good and fair measure. However, it is still only May, and here I am ruminating already, devoting serious time to thinking about my keystone life events.
As I write this post today, I am not certain whether I can share, or, even if I can, whether I will feel comfortable, or be willing, to share in this space. I plan to keep an open mind. Only time will tell.
Regardless, my plan is to enter the future with a good spirit. After all, it was Doris Day, who sang a long time ago, “que sera, sera.”
Meanwhile, however, I am betwixt.