Living and Writing and Faith: Dispatch from Self-Isolation, Day 30

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From Women Writers, Women’s Books

All I want to do is have coffee with my parents under a shade tree.

It’s day 30 of self-isolating in the era of Covid-19. I’m sixty-five and immunosuppressed (a double-organ transplant patient) so I started drawing back during my spring break from N.C. State. The first week, I went out for groceries and once to the garden shop, where I found, of all things, hand sanitizer—along with the pansies I felt I must have to power through these weeks. 

Today, for the first time, I’m depressed. Maybe it’s the one month mark. Maybe it’s the Sunday blues. Maybe my husband and I are getting on each other’s last nerve. Maybe I’m depressed because the number of deaths in the U.S. doubled in the last forty-eight. 

At first I imagined a bullet discharged from a gun on the other side of the world was barreling to the bullseye of my heart. Now I worry about everyone else.

My parents are dead so I can’t have coffee with them. My father died in 2000, my mother in 2014. Even if they were living, they would be, presumably, self-isolating as I am and in a facility on lockdown. 

I want to talk with my parents because they knew things. They lived through a depression as children and survived a world war as young adults. My father served in World War II, flying missions over Germany. My mother went to New Orleans during that war and enrolled in nursing school. She had patients expiring every night and only she and another nursing student to attend to them. Of necessity, my parents learned how to stay calm in catastrophe.

I credit their faith for this ability. They faced what might come with belief: in God, in divine mercies, in the meaning of life. I don’t mean that they were the sort of people who saw God’s hand in a hurricane. Perhaps, having witnessed the arc of the Depression and emerged, they could imagine a beginning, middle, and end of a war. But that in itself isn’t faith. Faith is believing that even death is sustainable because a larger divine Being broods over the world. When the war was over, they thought they should do something to make a better world. They became medical missionaries.

In Nigeria, my parents wanted more children but my mother had two miscarriages (related to malaria) and however sad they were, they carried on and built rich lives. Two miscarriages seems a small loss only to a person who never had one.

. . . .

Ritual is part of surviving. Walk the dog. Make a meal. Sit down to eat it and not in front of the television or looking at a phone and certainly not watching Covid-19 news. Have afternoon coffee in the shade and listen to the birds. Any of these rituals can ease depression, though not, I suspect, cure it. They can get us from one day to the next. 

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3 thoughts on “Living and Writing and Faith: Dispatch from Self-Isolation, Day 30”

  1. Thanks for this. I find myself wishing that my parents or my mother-in-law were here. All long gone. All lovely positive and wise people who had triumphed over various adversities without ever becoming bitter. Well – I do talk to them but it’s not the same as sitting down with a cup of tea!

    • Catherine, I understand how you feel, though if my parents-in-law were still alive (and I wish they were) we would be worried sick about their health risks and that we were stuck in a house 200 miles away from them.

      The last survivor of the previous generation of our families has just died – old age not Covid-19, and not unexpected – and we could not go to her funeral, which her daughter described as “just horrible”, even though the vicar did her best: quick, few attendees, brief chat afterwards standing well apart and then into the cars to return to their self isolating homes. She was a wise and lovely old lady whom I miss and who deserved all her friends and family gathering to celebrate her life rather than a pandemic funeral.

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