Masking Grief

In late January, I made the long drive out to Tucson from Marin County, with a black lab and whatever I could shoehorn into a Toyota Rav 4. For company, I listened to the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump — knowing it was highly unlikely that the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate would remove their boy from office.

Still, I listened intently, hoping our democracy would prevail.

Trump stayed put. Adam Schiff, Maria Jovanovich, and Alexander Vinman fell out of the news cycle.

The week after I moved into a 500 square foot bungalow near the University of Arizona, the grief over the failure of the Senate to man-up, was still with me.

But life went on. I visited the modern art museum on campus and walked around. There were students and faculty everywhere. The pandemic was still a world away.

In early March, my daughter visited me for a couple days. We ate out in restaurants, and got tattoos — not her first, but mine. She drew a bird on a branch and the tattoo artist put her design on my low back, above my hip.

She slept a lot like I used to do when I’d go see my mom, and we said our goodbyes, promising not to let more than two months pass before we saw each other in person, again.

Then the world shut down. You know the story. You saw Dr. Fauci take center stage for a time, speaking truth and science. Maybe you were hoping, like me, that Trump could set aside his maniacal self-interest.

But now, the President and those putting their faith in him, are ripping apart a nation that was already hanging by a thread. We are now the masked vs. the non-masked.

It’s an “us vs. them,” with deadly implications.

I feel a deep but also an amorphous, grief, watching a CNN report of the Memorial Day weekend, showing beaches and swimming pools and bars and restaurants, packed with mask-less people.

I feel it when I wear a mask in the grocery store and I see it in the eyes of the other shoppers, over their masks. And I wonder if the defiance among the non-masked is denial of not only the realities of the virus, but also the denial of a kind of grief caused by a radically changed world.

This week, the President mocked his rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask. Anderson Cooper called Trump a “little man,” to describe his total lack of empathy and leadership.

“We’re in deep trouble,” Cooper said.

He’s right.

Trump at the podium these days is a defiant, broken adolescent bent on destroying our nation, in the interest of serving his extremely fractured ego.

And that is heartbreaking. We can only hope that sanity will step in, in November, wearing a mask that says “Vote Biden.”

Some evenings, I take a run up my street and into the University. The campus is empty, classrooms are locked, and parking lots are deserted. Six flights of stairs up one lot, I can watch the sun wash orange and pink over the houses below, as it drops slowly behind the Rincon Mountains.

I felt the grief lift a little this morning while unpinning the laundry from the clothesline.  I buried my nose in a Tucson-dried cotton sheet like I love to do, now. It’s an uncomplicated smell — fresh and full of hope.

One thought on “Masking Grief

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s