I meant this first post to be an explication of this site’s aims and intent. That’s an obvious enough start for a new effort. But the past few weeks have taken that energy from me—that intent to explain, to lay out my plans for where I want this place to go and what I want it to be. It has both narrowed and widened my focus. It has placed limits on where my energy feels most needed at the moment.
A week ago I lost a member of my family. Leading up to that, I spent nearly two weeks coming and going from the hospital, a place that, along with so many other people, I do not care for. During this time life paused, tilted, and reorganized itself. When a family member dies, and another suffers it—when you have to watch someone you love struggle through a slow-building grief, the ongoing pile up of impending loss—the world morphs around you. New perspectives settle and for a time it feels as though everything is permanently different, even though you know that in an impossibly short amount of time all will settle back into a new normal.
It is exhausting—and overwhelming in the strangest, smallest moments. I spent my time in the hospital in various places, sometimes sitting at the side of a loved one dying, sometimes comforting the person about to miss her most of all, sometimes talking to a kind nurse or volunteer, sometimes sitting in a sterile waiting room on my laptop, attempting to continue to do my job from afar. One night I worked late into the night in that room, awaiting word from the surgeon to see if she had survived and acquiescing in the early hours of the morning to a short and troubled sleep. A week and a half later, I sat in the same waiting room and marveled at an unexpected late winter snow, flakes falling heavy and the world a momentary wonder.
I held her hand. Told her to do what she needed to do. Wondered at feeling so self-important, as though she needed my permission.
Throughout this, a global pandemic spread and built in the background. When not working, when not visiting with the dying, when not comforting family, when not holding inconsequential conversation while one of the most consequential aspects of being alive on this planet was slowly unfolding beside us—in those free moments, I consumed the coronavirus news. The hospital visibly transformed over those days, but only in small ways: first new signs about wearing masks, then warnings that those experiencing flu-like symptoms were not allowed in the hospital unless seeking treatment, then increased restrictions on the number of visitors allowed except in end-of-life situations, then the large-font Covid-19 precautions on the nurse’s monitors, impossible to miss.
On Friday, a week ago, she went. I was not there, instead stocking up on a few needs at the store, filling out the gaps that had opened in our supplies over the previous two weeks, when we had last filled the gaps from the first stocking up about a month previous. At that point, the country was teetering at the edge of wide scale change in response to the pandemic but our city had not yet closed for business. When the call came—the death arrived—it was a deflation, a relief, a small panic. I knew only that I needed to get to the hospital, to get to my family. To take him from there, away from the death he had been waiting for, that seemed at some point it might never come even though we all had thought at first it would arrive so much more quickly.
He waited at the entrance, intent on escaping that terrible place as quickly as possible now that it was all done—at least, until the next day, until all that would have to come after would begin. We went to a familiar bar. He had not eaten all day. A couple beers and a burger, some kind of comfort before his first night truly alone, and we talked about things important and not, and at different moments struggled to contain ourselves. He was only partly aware of the news while I was tracking every aspect. I understood that something new was about to begin, a wave of an uncertain height ready to break over us. A much broader one than the small but significant individual wave that had broken over our family.
For the past week, I’ve watched that large wave break and in some ways it has swept over and obscured the smaller one. But I can still feel that one lapping, and I know there are more echoes yet to come. Still, there’s something odd in experiencing personal loss within the context of a larger one, of a larger panic and chaos. It does feel like waves breaking on the beach, in the fractal overlap you see as different waves—or different sections of them—crash and overlap, cross at odd angles, create unexpected eddies and sprays. Water everywhere, coming from every which way and creating so many complex and counteractive swirls. Honestly, it sometimes is exhausting keeping track of it all, wondering where the next rush of uncertainty will come from.
And then there are the quiet moments, which are beginning to accumulate as the world slows. There is the reconnection with family and friends, even if at a distance, often over the phone or by email rather than in person. There are the checks ins, the assistance, the found jokes and laughter. Friday night, my wife and I took a blanket and dinner and drinks to a nearby high school. We sat in the grass, in the sun that has given us some solace in this past week, the sun that has arrived in time to welcome spring and provide cheer in a time of uncertainty. Sunday, we took a baguette and a brownie from our favorite bakery—still selling bread and pastries for carry out—to a friend of ours across town. We found her on the porch, in the sun, and we stood awhile and chatted at a comfortable distance, passed off the treats, made sure she was well.
These changes echo and spread. I have been in greater communication with friends and family the last few weeks than I normally am in months. There’s a certain delight in it, even if it is at times tiring, a little overwhelming. It brings a new sense of community. It brings a new sense of responsibility. It’s a reminder of what the world can be like when the world demands our attention and refuses, at least for a time, to let it go. It makes me wonder where we will stand when we come out the other side of this. What of these changes will we hold onto and which will we let slip away in our return to normality? Which ones might we want to hold onto and which ones will we want to jettison as quickly as possible?
I have no real answers. Not yet, anyway, and I have no idea if I will have answers later. I know only that the whole world feels poised at the edge of something new, and I can’t help but wonder if it will take or if it will slip away from us. Has the world caught our attention well enough yet or are we still too distracted to see, still too determined to run hollering with joy and certitude into the abyss?
I’m curious to find out. And in the midst of it, in the weeks and months to come, I plan to be here, chiming in now and again on the crazy of our time and, more importantly, finding my voice in stories. Sometime soon, as I better get my legs in this new world, I’ll tell you more about what I plan to do here. But for now, know that it will be an outlet for my voice, sometimes in fiction, sometimes in essays, sometimes in simple blog posts, but always of this world, crazy as it can be. I’ll be adding much more to this site in the hopefully near future and I would be gratified if you would bookmark it, check back, and most of all subscribe to the email list so I can send you the occasional update on what I’m writing here.
I hope all of you are well in these crazy times and please don’t hesitate to jump into the comments with your own stories. Thanks for being here.
P.S. I have comment moderation on, so all comments will be screened before appearing. Don’t fret if you don’t see yours immediately—I’ll approve it shortly!