A Political Pandemic

The other day I asked my parents if the government was like this when I was younger, and they were my age.  They both said no.  Dad elaborated that things changed after Clinton.  Sure, people didn’t like GHWB or Reagan, but congress was mostly fair and had our best interests at heart, it would seem.

I saw a question on twitter asking Republicans how they went from Terry Schiavo to “you can have a ventilator when you kiss my ass.”  This is just a random thought that is slightly related.

I’m a hardcore Democrat who is married to a middle-of-the-road Independent and occasionally we butt heads, particularly on GOP-brand stuff.  For the most part though, his beliefs are fairly liberal: equal respect and opportunities for all individuals being chief among them.  Hubs considers himself a Humanist, and does not like the way we separate people into groups.  I think in his head, any separation at all really only takes place between “assholes” and “non-assholes.”  That’s how he judges people.

I remember being young, maybe fourth grade, and we did a play for some patriotic holiday.  We learned the 50 states song, which I can still perform to this day.  We had a parade in the gym and sang and did skits about the presidents.  We were raised, through school, to believe America was the best country in the world, and was on the list of important things right behind God (Catholic school problems.)  We said the pledge every morning, we made flags in art class, we learned about the founding fathers.  Everything was tinged with “America is #1.”

High school.  They give us 2 years of Global studies first, in what I assume was an attempt to show us how worse off some other countries have it, so that by the time we got to American History and started learning about all the atrocities of our home country-all the way from slavery to segregation-we were still thinking “well, other places have it worse.”  I wrote a paper once, I don’t recall if it was for high school or college, but it was comparing the Salem Witch Trials to McCarthyism.  Two great examples of Americans acting like fools.

In Senior year, we took Government and Economics, and my stupid senior-itis self slept though it all.  Of course, I have taught myself how the government works-in college I considered changing my major from History Education to just History or Political Science.  So, I figured things out on my own, which if I’m honest is one of the best ways I learn.  (Side note, besides 1:1.  What I would not have given for an aide like they have at M’s school!  But I digress…)  Economics still alludes me-it’s the numbers.  I am bad at numbers.  Words are my forte.

Anyway, the point is that around the time I wrote that paper (which I think was first semester of college) I started to realize that something was fishy.  GWB got elected, and I was just a few months shy of being able to vote.  I started paying attention to things he was doing, particularly on the social front, and I started to get angry.

Even with Obama, a president I adored, who came and improved a lot of the mess his predecessor made, I still felt like we were being gridlocked.  Congress had lots of trouble agreeing on things.  There was massive outrage from the right, all over the place.  And now we are a few years later, with 45, and that outrage has slipped over to the left, while the right sit there like “well, I don’t remember saying that…”  Why wouldn’t they take that tack?  The president does.

Anyway, in the same fashion that I slowly discovered the Catholic church was full of shit, I also discovered America was.  Not the country, the government.  Again, like the CC, the people in charge were ruining the message. 

So, when I saw the bipartisan work that brought our (decidedly crappy, but helpful nonetheless) stimulus package to life, I was encouraged.  I saw 45 sign it.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Then Hubs comes home from work all enraged because the Trumpoids he works with are all giving dear leader the credit when it was the work of both parties.  So, he goes on an anti-Trump Facebook rant, as he is wont to do on occasion, asking for someone to please tell him what 45 is doing to make America great again.  He got a lot of anti-dem memes (which piss him off, he’s not a dem but people assume that since he’s also not republican) and his bro arguing with him in what for them is a playful manner.  What he did not get was an answer to his question.  A lot of “Trump is great” but no actual “and here’s why…”  Meanwhile, I’m watching this with like 100 news articles in my head detailing why he is in fact NOT great, even for these people who defend him, but I keep quiet because I leave my Facebook arguing for that handful of Republican’s who haven’t unfriended me yet. 

See, there’s two kinds of those, though.  Take my friend C.  Politically, we could probably not be farther apart.  She’s a staunch woman for Trump, and I’m over here like “But…’grab ‘em by the pussy.”  Sometimes she will post some things I disagree with, and I will post things she disagrees with, and we just keep scrolling.  It’s that simple.  It might stick with us for a minute…we might think “well, what the hell would make her think that’s ok?”  But we keep scrolling, and we don’t comment.  I WILL comment on something that I agree on-because as different as we are, those things do exist.  Here’s an example: she is a correctional officer near New York City and they were being denied the ability to wear masks because it violated the dress code.  That is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard and I don’t care whose side it originated on.  THAT, I was up in arms about.  (Fortunately, it was announced yesterday that they can now bring in their own masks.)

But then there’s the other faction.  There’s the relative who shall remain unnamed who posted several anti-abortion memes to my Facebook timeline because I posted something about how the government DOES NOT fund Planned Parenthood’s abortions.  Instead of reading the thing, he just went nuts on the whole “you must not think life is precious” tack, like I’m not a childcare worker with four kids.  Get outta here, bub.  Eventually his trolling of my posts (anything even slightly liberal) got me mad enough to go hard.  See, I figured a couple of things out.  This man was related to me by blood, yes, but he wasn’t present in my life.  He has no idea about me at all, proven by his many off-base Facebook messages regarding my employment, relationship, income, family reputation, etc.  And while his wife had always been sweet to me, I could no longer abide his ignorance and unfounded hatred.  So, I wrote a couple paragraphs that told him to go play a round of golf or see his grandkids instead of harassing a 30-year-old relative online and stop worrying because he was going to be dead soon, and I won’t be.

When I was a kid, the “grownups,” who were in their 30s and 40s, ran the country.  And those same people still are in charge in some cases.  Well, guess what?  WE are the grownups now, WE know what WE need, and WE are growing as the largest population while y’all die off denying climate change.  So, please go home and feed your cats, and stay out of the way.  I’m not saying your contributions haven’t been valuable, but just retire at 65 and move to Florida like everyone else.

I have tried to stay away from writing political based blogs, because I don’t care for your opinion if it is rooted in ignorance or hate, and those are the messages I get when I’m political.  But politics are playing a huge part in the pandemic here in the US, and I live in New York state.  Yes, I am blessedly 400 miles from the epicenter, but we also have over 600 confirmed cases in my county, the most cases in Western New York.  I don’t have times for your politics.  I’m not trying catch this thing, and I need my government on my side.  So far, I’ve seen encouragement.  Gov. Cuomo, who I never really liked even though I’m Dem (I feel like everything with him is a money grab and he focuses too much on the City,) has been a comfort to me in this time, providing insight and information that I frankly was not expecting.  Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also graces my television screen on a daily basis, talking to me about my community.  I have found strength in these leaders.  Then there’s 45…I will say there have been glimmers.  Little glimmers that he might do the right thing.  Some have already gone out, but others remain.  I pray that he finds it somewhere in his Grinch-sized heart to help his people in the way he was elected to do, and not play politics in the process.   I hope…but I don’t expect much.

Tigers never change their stripes.

That said…Tiger King, man.  Wild.

Poetry Readings and Global Pandemics

A phone conversation from last week, between me and my therapist:

Her: How are you doing with all this coronavirus stuff?

Me: Well, my grandfather just died.  So, it hasn’t been priority one.

Her: I’m so sorry to hear that.

Me: It’s fine. 

Her: How are you dealing with this and all the life changes with the virus at the same time?

Me: I’m fine.  (Inner Monologue: To me, the world has always been on fire.  It’s almost comforting that others have taken notice.)

There’s a meme I’ve seen a couple of times about how people with depression and anxiety are handling this pandemic a little better than expected because we’re used to feeling like the world is ending.  Sometimes I feel like I am watching as my “healthy” people’s brains spiral out of control with worst case scenarios.  There’s a sort of sick amusement in it, a dark laughter-maybe something you can only understand if you’ve been looking though the goggles of depression for a long time.  They’re worried, but for once, I am not.  What happens will happen.  I will take precautions and all that, of course, but if I get sick or someone I love gets sick, I will deal with that.  Because the world has always been on fire.

And yet….

And yet here I sit on a Friday morning, consumed with anxiety.

Yes, Friday, not Monday when I usually write, but today, because today I am doing something kind of scary.  This is generating anxiety, and it is interesting to me how something small can create such emotions but a worldwide pandemic is leaving me cool-headed.

I have written before about the monthly poetry reading I go to; at least I think I have.  A brief synopsis: it is at a bookstore near my house once a month, and I started going in October.  I was nervous to read, I am always nervous to read, but have been forcing myself to do so for a variety of reasons.  Anyway, due to social distancing, this month’s meeting will be taking place on Facebook live.  To which I initially thought: COOL! I can do this from the comfort of my own office??  No anxiety for me this month!

So, I decided to enter the poetry contest they were holding.  You had to take a line from poet Sophie Robinson’s “Art in America,” and use it as the first line of your new poem.  I chose “honestly, I am sick of helping Jesus count the days…”  I wrote about 30 lines.  I sent it off to the moderator.

Then she posts on the Facebook page saying that if we want, we can record our video for if we win the contest, and also for the open mic portion.  So, I do that.  I send it off.  Then, I go to the event page.

There were 400 people invited, and at least 40 going.  A quick scan of those attending found the editor of the poetry page of the Buffalo News.  I choked on my iced coffee.

There have never been more than maybe 15 people at these readings.  I was expecting 15 people, like 7 of which go monthly and whom I am comfortable sharing my stuff with.  But no.  When I panicked and told Sahar, she said she would watch, too.  So, I’m sure I will be texting her as we go tonight…it’s a distant moral support, but its still support. 

So here I am bugging out over something little.  And tomorrow, when I write the second half of this post in which I tell you how it went, I am sure I will not be anxious about it anymore.

Monday.  I didn’t write on Saturday as intended because I was in the ER, which was a whole story unto itself.  They are setting up tents outside, there is a fever checkpoint, and no one would get near me.  It was bizarre.  I also didn’t write on Sunday because I was recuperating and hanging with the kiddos.  So, here we are on Monday.

Halfway though the reading, Mark came into the room and asked to watch with me.  This is very much not his style, and as we sat listening to the featured reader, Meghann Boltz, I could tell he was simply trying to be interested for my sake.  However, when she finished and the moderator went on to announce the poetry contest winner, he held my hand and his breath as they announced that I won.  We both let out unexpected cheers, and he hugged me.  Then he made me play my video for him, and told me it was wonderful.

Since I won, my video was posted on the page and has received around 350 views.  This is mind-blowing to me, of course, as I was so worried about sharing with the same small group I usually do, but ended up sharing my poetry with a much larger audience.  I no longer feel the anxiety that plagued me on Friday.  Not because I won, and feel validated, but because I did the scary thing and lived to tell the tale.

I guess it is easier, somehow, for me to look at the big scary thing right now.  I have been looking for silver linings in all of this and have found so many.  I am able to wrap my head around such a huge and terrifying thing, because I am used to wrapping my head around huge and terrifying things on a daily basis (of course, I make them huge in my head.)  I am looking to reports out of China for hope, and I am finding little rays of it.  I am looking forward to the day when I run out of my house and embrace every person I see. 

In the meantime, I will do things like write poems and stories and blogs and lose myself in my words, because this is how I process life.  Each of us need to find a way to deal with what is happening, and the anxiety it is creating in our worlds.  Still, you must remember there is hope.  There are bright spots.  This will end.  We just have to take it one day at a time.  Or one poetry reading at a time, as the case may be.

Essential

I was at my grandfathers’ funeral luncheon when Gov. Cuomo announced that 100% of the workforce in New York state needed to stay home.  This would be disastrous for me and Hubs, who live solely on his paycheck right now due to my health issues.  For a couple of tense hours, we waited for his boss to call a meeting.  Finally, he texted me: “I’m essential.”  I had a shot of Jameson to celebrate.

Here are some people who are not essential:  my parents, though they are lucky enough to be working from home.  My sister, whose fairly recent promotion means nothing because no one is trying to rent a tuxedo during a pandemic-she’s out of work until further notice. 

Hubs works in shipping and distribution of safety equipment, so he is considered essential.  He was immensely relieved by this information.  But the shine of essentiality did not last for long.

First, there was the order he sent out the other day to DC with the tag name “Pence.”  Hubs is an Independent, and hates both extremes of the political spectrum.  He considers Pence to be the right side of that spectrum, and was furious he had to ship something that may end up assisting the man in some way.  He is trying to focus on the fact that Pence is head of the COVID task force, or whatever the hell they’re calling it, and hopefully the products he ships help someone in the end.

One time, he did an order for NASA, for the space station.  His fingerprints are in space.  They gave him a NASA t-shirt.  That was a better day.

Then, there’s the neglect.

Everyone is sharing memes and stories and such about nurses and doctors and police and fire and grocery workers.  I’m not saying these people aren’t important, they definitely are-but no one is mentioning distribution, past truck drivers.  Who do you think is loading those trucks? 

My husband.

He has a thankless job on a regular basis, and now he sees all these other people getting praise for being essential, but no one notices his contribution, or the contribution of the million other people in his position.  He knows he works behind the scenes-he finds little joys, like the NASA thing, or the fact that the work he does keeps people safe, but those are far-reaching concepts when confronted with your day to day trials.

Mostly, he is worried.  He is worried the work will run out, and they will lay people off.  He is worried when he unloads something from another country or NYC.  He is worried on the three buses he takes to work, and on the three buses he takes home.  He is worried for his job.  He is worried for the health of his high-risk wife.  He is worried for the health of his children.

Still, every day, he wakes up.  He smokes his morning cigarette and drinks a glass of juice and gets dressed.  He trods to the bus stop.  He rides those three buses.  He walks to work.  He unloads trucks, he drives a forklift, he checks orders, he cuts pipe, he cleans, he organizes, he helps his team.  Then he walks back to the bus stop, takes three more buses, and walks home.  He complains about little things; he complains about big things.  I listen, because he is on the front lines in his own way, and everything is changing.

The tenacity that Mark is showing in this trying time is remarkable.  I think that were I in his position, I would hide under a blanket and cry.  He just keeps going, despite all the worry he wears on his back.  If you ask him why, he give you some outdated hullabaloo about a man supporting his family, but really, I think that deep down he does it for him, to keep as close to normal as possible.  Mark’s work has always defined him, and he is usually proud of what he does, but the lack of recognition had him feeling down.

Until this morning, as we watched the morning news and saw a story highlighting workers who aren’t in healthcare or customer service.  A man drove by on a forklift, and Mark gleefully exclaimed “Thank you!”

He knows his job is overlooked by the average person.  I, myself, hardly ever thought of distribution before having a husband who worked in it.  Think of a jar of jam on a shelf at the grocery store.  How did it get there?  A stock boy-a truck driver-a loader.  It takes at least three people to bring you that jar of jam, and we never really consider them.  It is, by definition, a thankless job.

And yet, Hubs finds the joys.  He gets up and goes in day after day because he believes he is helping someone.  It’s kind of a beautiful way to look at a job most would turn their noses up at-and sadly, most do.  But he perseveres. and it inspires me to do the same.  I am trying very hard to find all the silver linings of this pandemic, and his persistence during this situation is certainly one of them.  I’m so proud of him for what he does for his family, and the risk he takes everyday to provide for us and keep others safe. 

He will always be essential to me.

Edit:

Mom: “You’re father and I are technically essential. I even have a letter from the governor.”

Just One Week

March 15th

I am sitting on the sofa watching the news when my cousin G comes in, the first of the girls to wake up after their sleepover.  She crawls under my blanket with me and puts her head on my shoulder.  I love my kiddos, but I have known G since she first arrived here on planet Earth and we have an inexplicable bond.  She watches the television as I sip my coffee.  A breaking news alert comes on, and it is Erie Executive Mark Poloncarz telling us there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our county.  G turns to me, tells me she is scared.  I reassure her that kids are mostly unaffected and she shouldn’t worry, but she clutches my arm and tells me no, she’s scared for me.  I tell her I am strong.  I will be fine.  In my head I am screaming, because I have diabetes, and that alone makes me high-risk.  Still, I am not that worried.

March 16th

I awake to a text from my sister.  “Are you up?”  It is barely 7am, and I already know in that moment what’s happened.  “Did mom call you?”  No, she did not.  I call her, and her phone is off.  I call dad, no answer.  At this point I am certain.  I text my father “What is going on???” and he calls me, finally.  “I didn’t want to tell you over the phone.”  Oh dad…I already knew.

When we got to my grandmother’s house, I did not think of Coronavirus for a single second. I ran right to my Gram and hugged her, and we sobbed together.  I hugged each of my grieving aunts and uncles.  I sat with my cousins and tried not to cry.

March 17th

Usually my favorite day of the year, when Mark said “Happy St. Paddy’s” to me, I shrugged.  I’d forgotten.

March 18th

I sat on the sofa watching the press conference about the virus and thought to myself, how on earth are we supposed to have a funeral?  Any idea of a lunch afterwards was ruined with the closing of all restaurants.  The funeral parlor said they would monitor the number of people at the wake.  However, there’s something like 38 people in my immediate family.  The church told us they could only service immediate family, though theoretically anyone could come in while it was open to “pray.”  I couldn’t help thinking that this was not what my grandfather deserved.

March 19th

My family was there. Several older people who knew Poppa showed up for quick visits.  There was hand sanitizer and wipes everywhere.  There were warning signs posted on the doors.  I, who hates wakes on principle, actually thought that it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  It was just a long, sad, worrisome day.

March 20th

At the funeral home, no one really spoke.  Everyone was sad.  It was very difficult for me, who does not deal well with such emotions and has a tendency to crack a lot of jokes to try to cheer people up.  Obviously, this was not the place.  We paraded across Seneca St. to St. Teresa’s church, and after we took our seats we were immediately told to move, to spread out amongst the church keeping 6 feet between us.  I took this opportunity to move towards the back where I was more comfortable.  I thought I would be sitting alone, but suddenly there was my sister, throwing herself into my arms and sobbing.  Listen, if one of us is going to get it, both of us are going to get it.  I will not begrudge my sister a hug after she was just a pallbearer for our grandfather.

I made a couple jokes to her in church to cheer her up, like pointing out the members of the fam who have clearly not been to Mass in a while.  She seemed to do a lot better carrying him out.

Instead of a luncheon, we threw a party at Gram’s house, despite the fact that we weren’t really supposed to.  The way my cousin Mick put it, we’ve all been around each other for the past two weeks while Poppa was sick, so if we’ve got it, we’ve got it.  It was relatively small given the big family, and was just my Gram, her kids, and their kids.  It was actually a lot of fun, as people had pretty much packed up their tears for the day and were reveling in the company of family.  I was stressed for a few hours when Gov. Cuomo announced that all non-essentials had to stay home, but then Mark texted me with “I’m essential” and I had a celebratory drink.

That night I went over to my dad’s to hang out with him and his brother Tim, and we drank and laughed and ate pizza.  I fell asleep thinking that maybe, in the end, it was the perfect sendoff for Poppa.

March 21st

Mark and I took a drive, to clear our heads and think of something other than illness and death.  Still, it lurked. It lurked in little moments when Poppa crossed my mind.  It lurked in 30 second news updates on the radio.  It lurked in my husband’s mind, who handles materials from China on a daily basis and has to take three buses to and from work.

March 22nd

Press conference tells me there are now 57 cases in my county.  That’s 54 in a week.  I think back to the previous Sunday, snuggling on the sofa with G, and I feel my heart grow heavy.  Last Sunday, we had our Poppa, still.  Last Sunday, we had our bravery, still. 

Just one week.

My grandmother, taking a swig of her husband of 70 year’s favorite drink.

Irish Wake


Next week, I’ll probably write about my grandpa. I’ll probably write about the Coronavirus and how it affected his funeral, but the wake starts in a couple of hours and everything else has yet to happen.
Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom in my clothing for the wake, waiting to take the boys home so that I can go to my mother’s house. I am hoping the sun comes out because it will be difficult to regulate how many people are in the room at one time, and I would rather be outside. I hate wakes.
That’s all for right now.

Left Speechless


I was all set to write about the effects of the Coronavirus on my community, but then my grandfather passed away this morning. So right now, all I care about in that department is whether or not it will effect funeral services.

Obviously I won’t be updating today past this little message. Thursday is a possibility.

Me and Poppa on Easter about ten years ago.

Cancelled

I’m maybe six years old.  I am sitting on the curb on Delaware Ave. and Allen St. in downtown Buffalo, with my cousins, and I am drinking a Shamrock Shake for the first time.  It tastes like magic.  We are waiting for the St. Patrick’s Day parade to start.  Our grandfather is walking in it, and we are excited to see him.  Afterwards, we go to Early Times, where Grandma works, for corned beef and cabbage.

I am 13 years old and my friend Sabine and I decide to ride on our school’s centennial float.  Poor Sabine had to wear her cheerleading uniform, and it was a particularly freezing day.  Snow and everything.  We had to walk several blocks to find my father after, and he bought us hot chocolate to warm us up.  After that we go to the Blackthorn, formerly Early Times, where Gram no longer works, but they still serve great corned beef.

I am 20…something.  The night before, I closed a show and got a little drunk at the cast party, which resulted in me literally stumbling out of a bar and popping my knee.  And yet, the next day I trek the ten or so blocks from the theater to the spot in front of New Era hat store where my family has gathered.  Instead of going to dinner, I, like an idiot, walk about twenty blocks to hear my favorite local band play.  My grandmother’s parting words: “Don’t flirt with any men in skirts!!” (She was referring to kilts.)  Oh, Gram.  That was kind of the whole point.

I am 33, and I have just gotten married.  I have stopped going to Delaware Ave. because none of the family makes it down there anymore.  It’s too big.  It’s too cold.  I have started going to Buffalo’s other, smaller parade in the valley.  I have started taking Hubs and the kids with me, and we are met by my parents.  The family has also given up on dinner at the Blackthorn, which is for the best because there’s about 50 of us now.  Instead, we have a corned beef cookoff at my grandparent’s house.  It’s better than the Blackthorn, in my opinion.

I am 36.

There will be no corned beef cookoff, because my grandfather had a stroke last month and is in the hospital.  That band I loved so much way back when was also supposed to be in town, but the gig was cancelled.  And then today, they cancelled both of the parades.  Adult brain and kid brain are arguing pretty intensely right now.  On one hand, I am annoyed.  It’s an outdoor event, and we have no confirmed cases in the county.  On the other hand, I can’t get sick.  If I get sick, any kind of sick, then I get SICK, and that’s unacceptable.  And my parents aren’t exactly spring chickens.  They can’t be out there getting coughed on.  And the kids!  What would I do, make them wear latex gloves and masks?

So yes, I’m mad the thing is cancelled, but I understand why.

And truth be told, I think I’m just mad that I won’t see my family altogether.  They’re all taking shifts at the hospital, and I can’t go for a myriad of health reasons.  If they move Poppa to a nursing home, that might be a possibility.

But this brings me back around to the parade getting cancelled.  I shouldn’t be around anyone who could make me sick.  And also, I do remember learning about Spanish flu parade in 1918.  So adult brain figures this was a good call on behalf of the city.

Kid brain wishes I was sitting on the curb sipping a Shamrock Shake, and waiting for Poppa to walk by.