The Upside…?

I had intended to write this month a blog post laced with wit and levity in regards to the pandemic we currently find ourselves in. It was going to be in the form of a Top Ten List, a countdown citing the positive side to this tense and cautious time. I came up with crap like:

#10 – The trend of fashionable face-masks.

#9 – How adept I’ve become at the grocery-cart slalom, weaving artfully between others while maintaining an appropriate distance.

You get the idea.

Then, while playing with my soon-to-be-six-year-old in the safety and comfort of our home, he suddenly stopped and sat on the couch with a morose, fearful look. I asked him what was wrong.

He replied, “I don’t want to die.”

My wife and I sat ourselves next to him, held him, comforted him, and assured him that the steps we – neighbors, family, community – are all taking right now are meant to prevent us getting sick and, especially, dying. After this had calmed him a little, he clarified:

“I don’t want to get old and die.”

Okay, well, that’s a different topic altogether. No doubt spurred-on by our current state of affairs and fear-mongering rhetoric from the media. Then again, my wife and I are no strangers to the “Circle-of-Life” talk. It came up two-and-a-half years ago with the passing of my father. Prior to that, when I used to sing (and I use that verb loosely) to him at bedtime with Cat Stevens songs, I had to explain to him that the Moonshadow symbolized death. He also wanted to know what Heaven was when he heard it mentioned in Morning Has Broken. Heavy stuff for a two-year-old.

Now that heavy stuff has reared its head once more, looming and following us like…um…well, a moonshadow.

If there was one thing I think my wife and I have done right with our son, it’s how we have never talked down to him. From the very beginning we used the same vocabulary we would in conversation with an adult. (This isn’t to say that we also pepper our conversation with colorful expletives or graphic imagery. He’s just a child, fer Chrissakes!) In turn, he’s exhibited a level of retention and conceptual articulation that surprises us at times; early on in his language-development he’d throw out words like “camouflage” and “similar” in proper context.

So, we’ve had a few deep conversations already. Of birth and life; growing old and dying. Thankfully, for-the-most-part, he’s got a pretty good handle on what’s going on right now. (We found him the other day wiping the floor with a damp rag. “What are you doing?” we asked. “Cleaning up the virus,” he replied. So we gave him a Swiffer-mop and told him him to go to town. He’s also taken to regularly wiping down surfaces and doorknobs with disinfecting cloths.)

Which brings me back to the initial topic:  What’s been the upside for us here in our Covid-World?

The nurturing of personal resiliency, first comes to mind.

My wife has done an amazing job of home-schooling our son while she works from home. (I’m still going to my manufacturing job; I’ve been deemed “essential.” I help with any lessons I can when I get home and step in for P.E. as needed.) We’ve noticed a significant growth in his reading and math skills due to the one-on-one he’s getting from her.

Most of all, though, I’ve noticed how we’ve all grown closer through our distancing. We’re in this together has become more than just smarmy propaganda. As we take our evening walks, keeping safe distances, neighbors are friendlier than ever, some we’d never met. Mutual support is palpable. Community is real.

In my first novel, I wrote: The good news for the damned is the bond of hope it creates. 

True now more than ever.

Gordon Gravley


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