Pandemic Retrospective

posted in: Memoir, Poetry | 0

Two years of COVID, with excerpts from Juliet Wilson, Orman Day, Patrick Hansel, Elaine Lambert and Liz Abrams-Morley.
7 minutes


Two years ago, in March, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national emergency. That same month, Passager began publishing Pandemic Diaries, people’s observations and reflections about their own experiences with the times.

Early in the pandemic, Juliet Wilson of Edinburgh, Scotland said . . .

“Lots of people across the country opened their windows at 8 pm to applaud NHS staff. Surely it would be better for us as a country to pay them better and ensure they get the protective equipment they need?

“I can entirely see the need for social distancing to defeat the virus, but it does feel ever more like some practice run for fascism.”

In April, 2020, Orman Day of Laurel, Maryland sent this snapshot . . .

“My partner Debbie hasn’t allowed me to go any farther than the dumpster and the mailbox. I decided I needed the vitamin D of sunlight and the endorphins of exercise, so I stepped onto the patio and flung handfuls of deer corn toward the forest. At 74, my passing arm isn’t what it used to be.

“My 100-year-old mom – a flaming extrovert – is still locked down in her room at an assisted living facility in California. She misses bus trips to the Indian casino and playing cards with her poker buddies. Her gambling urge was temporarily satisfied when residents sat apart outside their doors to play hallway bingo.”

And Patrick Hansel of Minneapolis said this:

“I’ve come in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. I’ve gone from putting on a mask to go outside to putting on a mask when I get up. I’ve gone from wearing gloves to the supermarket to wearing gloves to the bathroom.

“Lots of “C’s” Come. Close. Contact. Confirmed. Case. COVID.

“I can’t kiss my wife. I can’t hug our daughter when she comes home from a night of restocking groceries. My beard itches from wearing a mask all the time. My hands are dry as toast. When I go to our only bathroom, I disinfect the hard surfaces, but I wonder: can coronavirus live on toilet paper?”

By contrast, less than a month ago, Elaine Lambert from Montoursville, Pennsylvania said . . .

“Yesterday, I went into a store without a mask for the first time in two years. It was a rare sunny day. I wanted to breathe the warm air, wear lipstick, see facial expressions. I wanted to feel connected. Going mask-less felt like a risk I needed to take.

“Could the end of the Covid dance be the blessed revelation of 2-22-22? I remove my mask and bow.”

Excerpts from Passager’s Pandemic Diaries.

2020 Passager Poet Liz Abrams-Morley said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how current events and traumas literally shift the DNA of children who live through those events and how those shifts impact generations. “My Father, Gone 13 Years” began with that thought, and about how my grandchildren are coping, and I realized my dad was the age of one of them during the height of the Spanish Flu pandemic. My grandchildren will be marked by this pandemic and this time of confronting the pandemic of racism, but we don’t know how yet.

My Father, 13 Years Gone

Speaks to me from the stoop I’ve not left in weeks,
magnolia blossoms raining down on my drive, week five
or six – we’ve all lost track of the days – and he’s pulled
by scent and he says as he draws in a loud inhale, almost
Mother’s Day again and all those magnolias, the sunlight, how
I lined you up under magnolias, enough shade to gray-scale
the black and white prints I made for your mother every year.
I only wanted to picture you in sunlight and you were the
one, always, squinting into the future, a little stood back,
some shadow bisecting your cheek forcing me to reposition the
camera over and over, May after May. You sought out shadows
like some soul crawled out from the clouds that hovered over
my childhood – pestilence, war, famine – every plague but the
frogs and I wanted my daughters bathed in sunshine, for them
to grow sturdy as the trunks of old magnolias.
Silence, then as
one by one the petals fall on me. Another loud breath and
before I was five when the Spanish flu took a sibling or two
from me, when the world hid behind masks and stayed out
of sunlight. There is life after so much death, I tell you, but
it ain’t easy kiddo
, he’s saying in that way he’s always said
it, gruff, kind, then you can do it. I’m squinting hard and
my arms reach for him but I’m just swimming in air, just
batting dust motes lit and golden now, motes of nothing,
bright and slanting upward, upward.

Liz Abrams-Morley from Passager Issue 69.

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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.