I’m getting tired of here. By here, I don’t mean any actual physical space. I mean the internal here I occupy most of the time. My internal here is noisy, virtually never quiet. Even my dreams make a racket, at least the ones I remember. They are vivid and seem based on problem-solving efforts, although sometimes, I can’t figure out if I’m working on one problem or many. I view my internal here as practical and realistic. That’s how it seems from my point of view. My family sometimes says it’s negative and depressing. I understand why. I don’t leave a lot of room for flights of fancy or long-range plans these days. For the present moment, which I’ve fought hard to learn to stay in, I can’t see much out there to inspire optimism. For the time being, I believe in the power of Covid19. Based on everything I read, it still seems to be working its way at will through a complicit populace which has clearly not bought into the concept of delayed gratification. The desire to assert individual autonomy against an organism which is currently unpreventable makes no sense to me. But as a person who lives in a community, those people’s desires impact my life. Those who love me want me to stick around for awhile. That being the case, I have to decide how risk-averse I need to be as I don’t trust the behavior of folks out there, most of whom I don’t know, who have the power to alter the course of my life or even my death. I expect to be social distancing for a long time. It may become even more pronounced than it is now.
I live in a university community. A looming influx of over 40,000 students is expected for August. Although there are measures being taken to mitigate the potential spread of the virus, I know that many of these young people won’t be following all the rules. Seeing how many older people have opted out of the simplest action of wearing a mask doesn’t bode well for limiting community disease transmission. That being the case, how do you convince young people to employ best practices? It’s college. Ostensibly the best years of their lives. Social distancing and masks? Good luck with that. My son-in-law teaches at the university. Exposure will be an issue. My daughter is an attorney whose job will ultimately require her to see prisoners in the petri dishes called prisons, where Covid is spreading like wildfire. I’m fearful for them and their children. If the kids return to school this fall, they’ll have exposure to their classmates, their classmates’ families and all the personnel who work in their building.
My eldest grandson told me today that he didn’t want to be exposed to anyone with the virus. He has lots of thoughts about how to safely attend school. Oh my. He sweetly said that the time he gets to spend with me every week is one of the highlights of his life. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the advent of school would likely change the time we spend together. We can address tgat when the time comes. For the time being, we’re living in the now, as I said.
But I do have an eye toward the future because of this time, unprecedented in our lives. Right now that future holds no travel plans. My son and I have spoken several times about the possibility of visiting Greece. For many years, Michael and I had hoped to make it there, but his unexpected illness and death foiled that dream. My son was eager to help me scratch that trip off my bucket list, and was also interested in exploring that country himself. Recently, he mentioned to me that he was anxious about making our plans for the trip. Greece? I can’t imagine leaving town for even a day, much less a lengthy, complex journey like that one.
So yes, I’m significantly tired of here. The positive news is that I’m getting pretty good at distracting myself from the daily me. I’m going elsewhere. Elsewhere is an undercurrent humming along inside of me. A frequency that I tune into, most often unexpectedly, but lately, with intent. Not surprisingly, it feels mostly like I’m tapping into the strength and power of what Michael and I built between us for 45 years. It’s kind of like a 24 hour all music radio station. I’m quite astonished by what it feels like as its presence is so unlike my usual solid, grounded self. I float there like a balloon attached by the most slender filament to here. I wish there was a more corporeal element to this place. But I’ll take what I can get. This space is really safe. I get to be exactly who I am and there’s never anything but acceptance all around me. I’m worry-free. I breathe the relaxing, liberating feelings in, deep gulps of air that seem so visceral they appear to be infiltrating my blood vessels, enriching them. I’ve been hunting for the endorphin rushes that I’ve been missing without swimming and without the physical intimacy I lost when Michael died. Somehow, in this ephemeral way, I’m able to immerse myself in this almost inexplicable, buoying stream coursing through me.The other day, I found a handful of ripe black raspberries in a patch that Michael planted behind our garage years ago. They’ve been pretty sparse in recent summers. The birds or other yard visitors would get to them before I did. Or maybe I was too diverted by bigger issues to notice them. In any case, this year I’ve paid attention. I harvested a few at the end of a gardening day, rinsed them off and indulged myself. Eating food fresh from your yard is one of life’s sweetest moments. Just putting them in my mouth took me out of this time into other hot days when Michael and I filled our colanders with them, drizzling the berries with a bit of sugar while our lips and tongues turned a dark purple-y red from the juice which ran down our chins. That was elsewhere. I hung out in that space for awhile, appreciating how Michael was managing to nourish me despite his absence.
Father’s Day came. Late in the night, I sat in our bed, poring over years of photos, ones of me and my dad, my dad with my children for those oh-too-brief years. And then there were all the ones of Michael and me and our babies. I don’t really need the photos to remember. I vividly recall the births of both of them, with Michael at my side, talking me through those moments, especially those scary ones before you get to know if everything is alright.
You don’t really get to know how things will work when you decide to go from two to three and whatever lies beyond three. I remember thinking long and hard about if I’d be able to parent in a way that I’d find acceptable when I looked back over time. I have a significant problem with regret. I wanted to be sure, as sure as anyone can ever be, that I’d be a mother that my kids would be glad they’d gotten. I think Michael felt the same way, even more so, since his family of origin was far from an ideal experience. The one crystal clear baseline was that both of us really wanted to be parents together. There were bumps in the road, as we were far from perfect. But I can say without reservation that making a family with Michael still feels as thrilling to me now as it did when that part of our lives began, ten years into our friendship and passion, now inching up to almost forty years ago.
This is elsewhere. I am drifting with this current through these places in my interior. My body is still here. So is my internal engine, which I can still hear and feel, although it’s distant. I’m indulging myself and eliciting all the feelings rolled up in this other time. I’m enjoying the respite. Perhaps when I sleep tonight, I’ll have more Covid dreams which will yank me out of this magic space. But I intend to take more of these journeys. Apparently I can straddle more than one place in time. I’m so glad. Survival skills in the era of pandemic are not to be taken lightly. Maybe they’ll float me to the other side, whenever, wherever that may be.