Christmas in the time of COVID
My daughter told me recently that I suffer from the "old man syndrome" of getting weepy at the drop of a hat. She's not wrong.
(It may not be immediately clear how this column relates to both COVID-19 and Christmas, given my opening lines, but stick with me for a minute or two.)
She has, for instance, witnessed me pretending I have something in my eyes while watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth Christmas. That prayer ol' George offers up before he heads for the bridge gets me. Every. Single. Time.
Puts the lie to any facade of being a crusty journalist, let me tell you.
My great-grandfather called it the "weeping spirit," though he was speaking in terms of his deep emotional responses to his faith.
And my cardiologist warned me that, after my bypass, my emotions would be "on the surface" and I might cry for no reason, or at very little provocation — but it would pass, he said. Not yet, though it's only been about 14 years or so.
I'm not sure I can blame it on my age or an old surgical scar, all things considered.
What I've discovered since then is that emotional cues hit me deeper than they ever did before.
A silly TV commercial with a sappy moment might do it. A scene of personal sacrifice or deliverance in a film. A well-written passage in a good book. A memory conjured by a song on the radio.
And, God forbid if I should try to tell someone a moving story that I've read or heard. It doesn't even have to be objectively "moving." There may be nothing at all sad or sappy in the tale, but relating it aloud still results in low-key wailing and gnashing of teeth.
This week it happened when I was on the phone with my daughter, who I haven't seen for more than a year and a half other than via FaceTime. She and her husband live in Texas, and home circumstances have been such that traveling didn't happen when it otherwise could have, and COVID-19 put the kibosh on any trips earlier this year.
We text often, and talk every couple of days, but that just isn't the same as being in the same room at the same time. You parents out there know what I'm talking about.
So she told me how much she was looking forward to an after-Christmas visit, and I tried to tell her how much I missed her, and ... even writing about it, my vision is blurry from all the water.
And then the fear set in.
My daughter and son-in-law have jobs that have allowed them to work from their home this year, which has also allowed them to stick pretty strictly to self-quarantine. My job takes me into the public sometimes, but my wife's job keeps her on the front lines of healthcare daily; we both have had the 'Rona, and we're both still battling the lingering after-effects.
For many families, the holidays just aren't going to be what they should be because of this pandemic. Not only because one or more of them might be sick, or because they might be hesitant to gather in case they expose each other to the coronavirus.
More than a quarter-million people have died this year from complications related to the disease — and that's a lot of families with empty place settings at the table or experiencing all those "first time" milestones after a loved one's death.
Because of self-isolation and quarantining, many families didn't make summer trips, hold family reunions, share in weddings (or even funerals). And the recent "second wave" of climbing infections caused many to forego Thanksgiving gatherings.
With no vaccine available to the general public and so many knuckleheads refusing to follow simple safety guidelines, it could continue to worsen. And if that happens, we may be looking at another widespread lockdown — one that could even quash hopes of small family Christmases like ours, which rely upon air travel being available.
I don't know how others are going to cope, but we're taking all the precautions we can and we're holding onto hope.
Hope that we all stay well, and the nation somehow avoids shutting down again. That the planes keep flying, and the hospitals don't keep filling.
Hoping for a Christmas miracle and a shiny, healthy new year.
Meanwhile, I'm not crying. You're crying.