The days bleed into one another. Everything feels uncertain, I don’t know how to react. People make jokes, stay home, stay safe, but don’t. I miss my friends. I miss the normalcy of life. I miss knowing that everything would be okay, life would continue. Stay strong, they say on TV. Stay home. Do it for others. Do it for yourself. If I don’t get abs quick, learn a new language, will I have lost this hidden opportunity? Does my productivity become the measure of who I am?
My mom’s friend Colette died last week. She was an asthmatic Black woman. I know that she will soon become a statistic, evidence of the overwhelming inequality which I unwittingly benefit from. How do I remember a woman I have few memories of? How do I mourn the thousands lost each day, while I know that I am one of the lucky ones? I feel a loss, but I cannot feel it rightly. Or do I just feel lost? Does my boredom become constant, will it last years?
My great-grandmother, my father’s grandmother, turned 101 yesterday. She wore jewelry and makeup, and we talked to her over the phone. She couldn’t understand what we were saying and did not remember who we were. How do you make someone feel your love? How do you celebrate someone who will soon be dead without making everything seem futile?
My mother’s father is more at risk than she is, though he is many years younger. I feel worried all the time about him. I see how his words pierce the thick skin of my mother, and I see how his pain becomes hers. I am so uncertain about his true intentions. He has been in pain for sixteen years, as long as I have been alive. Pain in the body leads to pain in the mind, which he forces onto others. He has lost everyone in his life except for my mother. I wrote an article that got published, and he shared it with everyone he knew. When I was thirteen, I found a letter saved from my mother to him along with a restraining order. She doesn’t know what I know, that he told her she should die. That I would be better off without her. I am his greatest pride, but what is he to me?
My mother has let go of her pain and anger toward my grandfather. He still came to my bat mitzvah. We visit him often. We still have the kind of conversations that make me think, that take me out of the bubble of false liberal activism in which I live. Do I have that kind of forgiveness inside? Is my heart big enough to love those who cause me pain?
My maternal grandmother died when I was seven. How is it that I still feel her loss more tangibly than I feel this loss, of life as I know it? Is it because I was allowed to mourn? If someone’s death isn’t properly mourned, can we ever really let them go?
My mother does not have any siblings. My grandfather refuses to talk to one of his brothers. I love my younger sisters with everything in me, and I see how my mom struggles to care for her father alone. Do my sisters have the courage to love the family they haven’t known? Can I teach that love to them?
My two halves are split. My mothers have known only suffering, all the way back to Europe. They have known death, pain, and joy. This country, which holds the hopes and dreams of my ancestors, holds so much suffering. I live a good life. I have not known the pain that plagues those with different skin, hair, customs, history. Though the American streets may not have been paved with gold, my great-great-grandfather made enough money to send for his entire family in Czechoslovakia. They refused to come. He bought a plot in the cemetery for each one of his children and their partners. When they die, they leave a place for their partner’s name on the grave. How does one live their life knowing that their existence will be brought to a close on a three-by-five plaque?
Beloved daughter, sister, and friend. If I die today, will my life have meant something? Am I too young to change the world, or am I too old to start? How does my voice mean something when there are others whose voices need to be heard? Will the books about my generation be the last? We are Generation Z. But are we going to do what needs to be done?
Humanity is a collage of pain and joy. What if this uncertainty is the new normal?
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