• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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We Know That There’s Always Tomorrow

I think the usual feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair that are the writer’s toolkit are exacerbated by Covid-19. My writers are developing new symptoms including rashes, impulsiveness, excessive weight gain, loss, nail and cuticle biting, skin peeling, zit squeezing, and a marked loss of table manners. Writers are sending me pictures of cookies they’ve baked, pasta with a flourish of parsley, empty ice cream containers, a phalanx of dust bunnies with ten LOL’s attached. Some people are drinking a whole lot. I hate the way some men say the word “bourbon” as if they are about to mount a Palomino or castrate a bull. Some clients have taken to calling, emailing and texting JUST IN CASE. People are not getting dressed. Not grooming. Not sleeping without sleeping aids. Define sleeping aid. And fucking around with their meds. I, too, am tired. The silken white parachute goes up and we all run underneath and laugh like god had his arms around us.

Are you going to be okay?

21 Responses

  1. Covid has put my identity to the test. So you’re a loner/homebody, huh? Turns out I need people like we need salt. You don’t need much, but without it—death. Or at least I’m a crabby asshole.

    But I should not complain. I have oddly landed on my feet through all this.

    Hope you are all well, Betsy and co. May the words and bourbon flow.

  2. These past days have been hard. Sending stories out feels like the only way to connect – and when a big pile of rejections comes back it is such a lonely feeling. I really do wonder if I just started too late in life trying to write and get things published. And … we are getting buried in snow here in Colorado.

  3. I don’t know about okay. I am working on a delicate balance of emptying ice cream containers and trying to make up for all the sleep I didn’t get in my 30s and 40s. A doctor would probably have something to say about that.

  4. The fact I am supposed to be asleep in this part of the world is telling. This is hard. But watching George Saunders in a live interview the other night made me well up in response to something that felt like joy. He said writing was taking “big terrifying concepts” and making a scale model (model scale? see first sentence) of them on the page. The challenge right now is there are too many to choose from. As for bourbon, it’s right up there with whiskey and cocaine as the thing tough men supposedly to turn to when it gets real bad. I never touched the stuff, but don’t tick many of those boxes anyway.

  5. Yes, but not today. (Got bad news about a friend that I hope next week will not be bad.)

  6. Thank you for your words. I needed to hear this today. I work in a high school library and we’ve been in school since August. A weird mix of elation and fear because you never know if this is the day you will be exposed to the big “Charlie-one-niner” as we refer it it around our house. The staff has been gutted at times so library staff covers classrooms even though we are not licensed teachers which can be a little nerve-wracking to have 15 sets of teenage eyeballs starring blankly at you for 90 minutes while you fumble through Botany, Algebra, Spanish and English without any formal training. Today the lesson in freshman English was about courage in Harper Lee’s, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” As I blindly yammered on, a few of those blank stares actually showed interest in the conversation and asked a few questions about being courageous. Especially at the end of class when I had to courageously pick up some student’s abandoned retainer off the floor. So yes, I think I’ll be just fine as long as I remember to bring a set of tongs into the next class.

  7. Here in Maskless, Florida, getting out and about is risky business, so we mostly hunker behind the wire, grateful that we can. Day begins with coffee and the dog park, which seem low risk. No more going out to listen to live music, just must-do trips for groceries and gas. Few visitors, no strangers invited, no going to visit. Weather permitting, a short sailing trip now and then.

    Horrible symptoms and a negative test. The first vaccine.

    I’ve written two short pieces on long ago events, the first since Hurricane Michael, over two years ago. It felt good to do that, and more may come.

    We’ll be okay, I think, if the rum holds out.

  8. Covid is trying to kill my writing, lately in the form of a killer pinched nerve from hunching over the page. It’s hard to write when numb, both physically and emotionally.
    I don’t think anyone is going to be okay. We’ve all been altered. Everyone suffers. But the vaccine brings hope and we have a new administration. Summer is coming and things will be better. Different, but better.

  9. “Are you going to be okay?”

    I don’t know how to answer that. I feel so desolate. I have to look up “desolate” to make sure I mean that, and I don’t mean “desolated.” Be right back.

    I think I mean “desolated.”

    I feel stupid and selfish and lost and alone. I feel like it doesn’t matter. That nothing matters, not really. But I have everything I need — food and water, a home, a job that I can do from home. What’s wrong with me? Do I want my mommy? Do I want my daddy? What do I want?

    I want what I can’t have. I want what I can’t have? What is having?

    To have and to hold? Till death do us part? Thirty years ago today — this very day — my previous marriage cracked up for the second and final time. Yesterday, I raged at my current wife because she didn’t replace the toilet paper on the roll after she used it up.

    Am I going to be okay? I want to. To be okay. I think I do, want that.

    God, I hate Chicago. Why didn’t I stay in New York? I was going to be the low-paid, struggling assistant to a famous editor. Why didn’t I do that? That was so long ago.

    Am I going to be okay? You tell me. I can’t tell. I want to be. I think I will be. I always am. I always bounce when I hit the bottom. Some kind of bottom.

    I want to be okay. I want to be more than okay. Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I should settle on okay. Okay?

    I have to go now. Take care of yourselves. Love who you love. Put yourself last, and you will be first.

  10. Am I going to be okay? The concept seems more fraught and tenuous than it used to be. I work full-time in a pediatric therapy clinic, trying to schedule around the ever-changing school hours and calm the harried parents of autistic kids and silent kids and kids who can’t tell you what’s wrong so resort to screaming and throwing their little bodies at the walls. I’m more okay than those kids, and the parents of those kids—at this point, anyway. I made a travelers journal out of back panel of my dad’s old leather jacket, and write poetry in my car at lunchtime like Paterson the bus driver. I listen repeatedly to books by Carlo Rovelli and Brian Greene; the physics are beyond me (it doesn’t take much to get beyond me) but I find a lot of comfort in the scale of the universe and fact that we are not at its center. On the weekends I paint awful watercolors and crochet afghans for anyone who’ll have one. I walk the dogs and make vats of soup. I sit by the rain-flecked window with my book of poetry, because this is what people on Instagram do, and they seem happy—though I do draw the line at affirmations.

    One of my coworkers wondered the other day whether we will ever get back to normal. But it seems to me that the cliche about the “new normal” is apt, because I can’t really picture myself at a party or a restaurant, or sitting in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn. Which is kind of scary, actually. The fact that I can’t picture it, I mean, not the popcorn.

    Will we be okay? Some of us will be, I guess, if we account for the difference in okayness between then and now. I’m glad you’re here, Betsy. Things feel more okay when you’re here.

  11. Drawing the line at affirmations. Yes. Writing poems in cars. Yes. As the Mary Tyler Moore theme song goes, “You’re gonna make it after all.”
    Keep writing, keep resisting. I think we’re all going to be okay. The new okay. xo

  12. Hanging in there. On the same day I tested positive, my father slipped, fell and broke a bone in his lower foot. He was scheduled for surgery a few days after Christmas, but the pain was so bad that he managed to get in on Christmas eve and spent Christmas in a hospital 300 miles from where I live.

    The post office I was recently reassigned to had a pretty big outbreak — nearly half the employees testing positive and a bunch more quarantined due to contact tracing. I don’t have to tell you how busy the Post Office is at Christmas time, this year even more so because of the high volume of online shopping and some poor decisions and lack of foresight on management’s part. Add a big section of a quarantined work force to the mix and it’s obvious why packages that should have arrived on time for the holidays are still trickling in a month and a half later.

    Overall, my symptoms weren’t too bad — mostly headache, dizziness and very, very tired. I felt like I was running at 3/4 speed. I’d start to feel better and think all was well, but then the next day I wouldn’t think of picking up a power tool because I was so woozy. My wife and daughter both tested negative, although my daughter did have some alarming symptoms, so we’re not sure if she was a false negative. I wore a mask inside at all times and there’s a lot to be said for keeping your face covered. Friends and neighbors volunteered to do shopping for us or just dropped by and left goodies outside our door. My wife and I took the dog for long walks in the isolated woods outside our door. I was fortunate to not have had the respiratory symptoms. I had stopped smoking pot when the numbers began surging in this area after Thanksgiving and I had been practicing deep breathing on a daily basis for months.

    My father came through the surgery well and the doctor was surprised his bones were in such good condition for a 90 year old man (they had to screw in a plate to keep the bone halves together), but when I spoke to my father he was in an ill tempered frame of mind because he was in a wheel chair and had a catheter in him. I tried to keep him thinking positive. For awhile he had a private room in a rehab center, but then due to patient numbers, he had a roommate. One night when I was talking with him, he complained of being tired and he had a noticeable cough. In a few days he tested positive for Covid and was moved back to the hospital. Some signs were encouraging; his oxygen levels were good, but his spirits were down and soon he wasn’t answering his phone or returning his kids’ calls. I spoke to him in early January and his voice was that of a dying man, more moans and weakness to his voice. At times it was hard to understand him, but I knew he was saying he was tired. I couldn’t really understand much else he said to me, but it was the last time we spoke. He died a few days later, his organs shutting down one by one. He was petrified of catching Covid 19 and until going into the hospital, he had taken every precaution he could, virtually remaining in his house for 10 months. It all happened very fast. Rest in peace, dad.

    Some of us will lose loved ones like this and many of us will get sick before this is over. Stay as safe as you possibly can. I’ll be okay, but at times I’m overwhelmed by the sadness of it all.

  13. So sorry for your loss. Please take good care of yourself. It’s so hard when everything is depleted. Sending you some Jewish penicillin in spirit.

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