My eye got snagged on the chat box in the left corner of my email the other day.
A name. Lois Hennessey. No one has joined your call.
I rested my fingers on the keyboard and sighed.
What would you think of all this, I wonder? COVID-19. The election. The bottom that always seems to be on the verge of dropping out.
I wonder if none of this would feel all that different from the last few years of your life. Conversations in doorways. Sending out for groceries. Someone else delivering everything to your door. The circle of your life growing ever smaller. A stack of unused dishes in your cabinets. Conversations over keyboards and screens.
I am content you would say. I never believed you but nodded anyway.
I am lucky. I am too tired at the end of the day from working from home and making lunches and snacks and wiping small people’s mouths and butts between meetings to wallow too long about the absence of others. But the sadness creeps in while I grind coffee in the morning and stare at the frost on grass. Sometimes it catches up with me when I step outside to scrutinize the blank trees on the hillside. We are entering winter again.
We just celebrated our first year in our new town. I have never shaken anyone’s hand here. In some ways it feels like perpetual winter and we are waiting for spring to come and people to emerge. Sometimes I wonder if it will it ever feel warm.
Gabe met Lois twice before she died. The first visit he was a squirmy baby who didn’t want to be confined to an old lady’s lap for long. The second time was three months later. He was busy then too. It seems there is never a good time to connect.
Her voice was just a whisper. I knew it was the last visit. She was so fragile. All teeth and bones. The moments for big questions had passed. I watched her chest rise and fall under a blanket and struggled to balance my desire to sit with her before I no longer could with my son’s need to pick grass in the sun. A battle between the bookends of life.
I’ve taken to calling 2020 the lost year. Our digital calendars ping with reminders of flights long cancelled and notes about birthdays celebrated in isolation. I have a jar with scraps of paper cataloging what we lost to COVID. Reminders of plans scuttled. But the truth is we accumulated a lot of good days. Family lunches. Mid-day scones just because. Runs on empty country roads.
The last photograph I have of Gabe and Lois is of him sucking his thumb on her lap. He was tired and she held him with a strength I wasn’t sure she had. He saw the picture the other day and asked who Lois was. I told him a little about her. One day I will tell him that sometimes he looks at me and I see her eyes. So I suppose all is not lost.