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As Politicians Play With Our Lives, It’s Hard to Imagine a Future Beyond COVID

There is nothing to look forward to but the end of this thing and not dying before that end comes.

There is nothing to look forward to but the end of this thing and not dying before that end comes.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Robert Redfield gave an interview to WebMD this week. If people don’t take COVID-19 precautions seriously, if they refuse to wear masks and practice social distancing, Redfield flatly stated the nation could be on the verge of confronting “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”

Must be Thursday.

I haven’t told my little girl she won’t be going back to school-at-school this year. It’s going to crush her, so I intend to wring whatever meager droplets of happy out of this wretched summer there are left before I give her the news. “Daddy School” in reality isn’t the hot ticket it sounded like to her in March, but there were 55,910 new COVID infections and 1,499 COVID deaths reported just yesterday.

Must have been Wednesday.

See, sweetie, there’s a state called Georgia whose governor believes this ridiculous president hung the moon and stars. Trump wants all you kids back in school despite the astonishing danger because he fears being indicted next February if he loses the election in November. The Georgia governor got on board and shoved children into ill-prepared schools, other governors did the same, and now, just days later, thousands of students across the South are infected with COVID.

That’s probably going to be the story for the whole country soon, sweetie, especially in states with governors who listened to Trump about reopening schools. I’m not going to let that happen to you.

You’re so proud of being a second-grader now, and I’m so very proud of you for the way you have held your head up throughout this bleak passage, the way you have been my strength and your mother’s strength… but you’re going to have to be a second-grader here at home until this nightmare finds its end. I’m so sorry. Please don’t cry, my dearest, oh please don’t cry.

Must be every day, now.

I feel broken. There isn’t a better word for the nigh-overwhelming weight of sorrow, fear, fury and utter futility swarming within. I look at the photographs from the bike rally at Sturgis and tremble in rage. I watch this president brazenly refuse to fund the U.S. Postal Service because he fears losing if people are able to vote safely in November, and I want to eat my teeth, or his.

Every day, every hour, there is a new outrage that would have stopped the world four years ago. Sometimes it leaves me gasping. “It didn’t have to be this way” is too huge a thought to hold in mind for very long; if I think on that simple sentence for any length of time, my hands start to shake and the veins start to show in my forehead. That wrath will have to wait, I tell myself in soothing tones. That wrath will have its day.

I’m one of the damned lucky ones, too. Healthy as your average middle-aged horse, so far. My friends have gotten infected here and there, but they have all recovered to one degree or another. I have been to no Zoom funerals yet, which, in this moment, makes me blessed.

That’s a hell of a shabby hook to hang your emotional hat on, though. It could be worse is almost always the truth, but these days, that “worse” is a yawning chasm. Down there is where you or someone(s) you love dies choking and alone in a room with machines beeping the dwindling metronome of dissolution, entropy, barren infinity.

Down there is one misplaced sneeze away, in the grocery aisle maybe, or in line for prescriptions at the pharmacy, or in the doctor’s waiting room. The places you have to go are the places that can get you killed now.

When I go food shopping, I think of blackjack; every time I walk through the door, I am saying “Hit me” to the COVID dealer. I’ve been standing pat at 16 for months, but on a long enough timeline the dealer will turn a big card.

The future is a storm cloud that has devoured the horizon, all gray and bruised purple. For the first time in my life, there often seems to be no future, not really. The sense that there is little to hope for or look forward to but the end of this thing, and not dying before that end comes, can be staggering.

The future is keeping my little girl and my family as safe as I can within reach of my arm. The future is today, and what I can do to hold it together, remembering that I am one of the lucky ones. This is luck, now.

When the future returns — and it will — I intend to turn my daughter loose like a hard-charging colt upon a hopefully wiser world. She will appreciate it more than I ever did because of this experience, and so will I.

When the future returns, wrath will have its say and its day.

Until then, it must be Thursday, because all I see is darkness.

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