Sunday, May 24, 2020

May 24: Barbecue, Normal, Poem from "Kyrie"

This afternoon, I had a socially distanced Memorial Day weekend barbecue at my parents' house.  My wife, kids, and I sat on the back porch, six feet away from my sisters and mother, and ate hot dogs and bratwurst and watermelon. 

We hadn't been together like that since mid-March.  Yes, we were careful, even though my sister, Rose, who has Down syndrome, really didn't comprehend the six-foot distance rule and tried several times to approach and hug us.  It wasn't "normal" by any means.  But it was as close as we could get to the Sunday dinners we used to have pre-pandemic.

I've heard people bridling against the term "new normal" recently.  Sometimes that bridling borders on anger.  I understand the emotions behind this reaction.  It's a symptom of mourning.  People are grieving all that has been lost because of Covid-19:  making a quick trip to the grocery store to satisfy your craving for Cheetos; stopping to check on your elderly parents on your way home from work; sitting in a church pew beside your neighbors on a Sunday morning and catching up; going for a walk and not having to wear a face mask; attending community parades and events.  All these things have become part of history for now.  The world has shifted, and not gradually.  The change was seismic.  A rift in the fabric of society that appeared almost overnight.  And it has left all of humankind reeling from the loss.

Yet I don't think it's healthy to maintain a death-hold on the "normal" we used to know.  Doing that will simply prolong the pandemic.  By refusing to put on that face mask, insisting on gathering in bars or restaurants or churches, people are not re-establishing normal.  They are just refusing to deal with their grief (and also spreading the virus more, pushing us toward another complete shutdown).  It's like setting a place at the dinner table for a person who has died.  It may feel comforting to cling to the habit, but the deceased person's chair will still remain empty.

So let's not think of "old" normal or "new" normal.  Let's not think of normal at all.  If you know my family, normal is not a word that comes to mind anyway.  Instead, let's think about how to respect each other, support each other, love each other.  That's what will get us all through this.

Tonight, I celebrate time spent with family.  Safely.  Filled with laughter and teasing.  The miracle of togetherness.

And for that, Saint Marty gives thanks.

poem from Kyrie

by:  Ellen Bryant Voigt

What were they thinking--everyone we knew,
in school, in church, took me aside
to praise--to me--my sister, as if
I were another of her parents,
or else they were, that proud and fond:
aren't you lucky, isn't she gifted,
doesn't she look grand in her new blue suit?
I had a new suit cut from the same bolt,
quick mind, good heart--vivid blossoms
in other light--yes yes, she did, she was,
what were they thinking?  Terrible,
to be the one who should have died.

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