Editor’s note: The artwork via Antioch Church in Bend, Oregon. The artwork is their Easter ministry. It is an outdoor drive-thru display depicting the message of the Gospel. As grandson Sawyer said, “God died for our sins. God is big.” Yes, God is very, very big.
I’m sitting in my office listening to John Prine’s Tree of Forgiveness album. I am still in shock that we lost Prine to this murderous virus. By the time I finish writing this post, we will likely reach 20,000 dead.
Young and old and those in the middle.
Covid-19 is not a respecter of people. Yesterday, I heard a story about a 30-year old being removed from the respirator after a horrendous bout of the virus. Experts say about 80 percent of those who are put on the respirator die. I wonder if Boris Johnson will come out of the hospital a man redeemed. These life and death situations will often transform people to be their best self. Sometimes it makes them all the more rotten to the core.
We are never going back to who we were before this. Author Stephen King was interviewed by Terry Gross at Fresh Air this week. King says that this experience will change our grandchildren the way the Depression changed our grandparents.
“I will never be able to hug people the way I did before,” I said to Tim.
Tim isn’t a hugger, so that change won’t affect him much. My mother was more like Tim. She wasn’t much of a hugger until she had grandchildren. Even on the worst day of her life – the day we buried my father – my mother did not pull us children in close to her. When she took us to see him all waxen and blue in that silver box, she didn’t offer any physical comfort. She didn’t pull me into her lap or hug me when the tears flowed. Mama was East Tennessee stoic. Emotions were something her people were taught to ignore or deny. They were just too messy. I think that was one reason our relationship was so complicated.
There is never any reason to guess how I feel about something because if you wait around 5 minutes, I will tell you. Or show you. Effusive. That’s my MO. I hang out my emotions like a blinking bar light. If I love you, I love you big. And if I don’t, that’ll be obvious, too.
I raised my own kids up with a heavy dose of affection. Even to this day, when the kids come to spend the night or we are at their home, my grown children will crawl in bed with me for early morning or late night talks. When I go to visit my grandsons at their home, their favorite thing to do is crawl in bed with Granny in the morning to watch a Gumby episode on her laptop. My sons-in-laws haven’t always been comfortable with being greeted with big hugs and kisses, but they’ve good-naturedly endured my ways.
Right before the virus hit, the grandsons had been insisting that I quit kissing them so much and just hug them instead. I tried to be respectful but it’s just not my nature to be physically reserved. I’m not as bad as my sister, though. She plants full on slobber kisses on most anybody she loves, including me. We tease her about it but she has never cared. She took that bible verse – Greet one another with a kiss – to heart.
We are like the big Greek family without any Greeks.
“I miss hugging you,” I said to Sawyer Bean as we headed out for a physical distance hike.
“Me too,” he said.
“I miss giving you kisses,” I said.
“When is this virus going to be over?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“I wish it would end.”
“You know what I miss?” he asked.
“No, what?” I replied.
“I miss sitting in your lap and reading books together.”
I nodded and told him we could still read books, just six feet apart.
He nodded but not in a happy way. In that way that said to us both: That’s not the same thing.
This time last year we were in the throes of a wedding weekend. We gathered nearly 100 people in a tiny church fit for 80. People stood side by side, sat shoulder to shoulder, children crawled from lap to lap, to witness the marriage of our daughter Shelby to Cristhian Galvez.
Will we ever be able to return to a time when we can do that again? What will the weddings of tomorrow look like? Or will we all become like Melania Trump slapping away any hand that reaches for us?
Will I ever be able to hold grandchildren in my lap and read a book to them again? Will I ever be able to snuggle my granddaughter close and teach her how to give butterfly kisses?
I have two sons-in-laws working in the health profession right now. One is a nurse. One is a physical therapist. One is assigned to a floor of Covid-19 patients. I worry about them, about their young families, about my daughters.
“We just have to act as though we have the virus,” one daughter said. Because both daughters and sons-in-laws fear the possibility of being an asymptomatic carrier. And none of them want to be the person who might infect another person, especially not the grandparents.
I know these are questions we all are facing right now, except for that small minority of irresponsible people who think of no one but themselves and who refuse to abide by the warnings to physically isolate. Those are the people for whom a deadly virus is a political tool. Those are the people who wear gas masks on the floor of Congress. Yes Matt Gaetz, I’m speaking of you. Those are the people who believe that H1N1 was more dangerous, despite the report from the CDC that between 2009-2010, the death total for the US was about 12,500. While we have lost nearly double that in the US in six weeks from Covid-19. No, dipshit, this isn’t a plot to get rid of Trump. The Democrats don’t need to think up some virus hoax to get rid of Trump. He’s given the voters plenty of real life ammo to take him out with, which we will do in November.
Like you all, I am praying for a cure to this virus. To all those working toward that end, thank you. We know you are doing your level best to save lives. You, not the athletes, certainly not Kanye, deserve the multi-million contracts.
I know things are never going back to how they were before. That makes the hugging part of me sad. But I am hopeful that we all come away with this with a renewed sense of how much we need one another. If anything, all this time in quarantine should make us all aware of our deep need to love and be loved.
Be well, friends. Sending you air hugs and kisses from afar.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer University Press).