Life in the Rearview
Life in the Rearview
By E.M. Fredric
March 23, 2020 – Headline: News Propaganda Is Rarely Questioned Amid Global Pandemic of Covid-19, the Coronavirus… As I walked this morning, fully prepped with my raincoat, mittens - that I spray with disinfectant before leaving my place and wash and disinfect upon arrival – I wore my hat I bought a few years ago, dubbed the “terrorist cap” by my girlfriend who refused to walk with me at the time. She was afraid we’d get shot walking the streets in Los Angeles. We laughed about it at the time but it wasn’t blatantly implausible in our over-reactive world today.
I bought the hat to help prevent sun damage and keep mosquitoes at bay during summer hikes and then along comes the pandemic Coronavirus - instantaneously making my headgear - a fashion statement. From terrorist to pandemically prepared! What a difference a minute, hour and day makes during these horrific but survivable times. At first embarrassed to wear it - within weeks I’m greeted – at a safe distance on the streets – with friendly hellos or… stared at. That lessens by the day.
I need to walk, work-out and stretch my limbs for both pain control and to sedate the voices that tell me things are completely doomed – whether it’s my own thoughts or ones planted by the news or through well-meaning friends sending videos or sound bytes. You know the ones, it usually starts with “my friend” in the Pentagon, or military or CDC (insert British accent on that one) giving us insider information (my favorite is the CIA) – new info that NO ONE has to help keep you and yours safer and alive if you’ll only forward it. The PANDEMIALS are going to have stories to tell! Yesiree… Pandemials are the next generation of babies born to parents during Covid-19 and they’ll be ingrained with family tales as we all were – depending on your generation and what photos they’ll have to look back on.
Where they were born, how they were delivered, how they were conceived. Wild stories they should be and I’m sitting here reading a quick message the LA District Attorney Requests Temporary Custody of Harvey Weinstein a day after he reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus (none of his reps will confirm or deny) but somehow it’s important NYC release him so he can be tried in LA? He’s already gotten 23 years but this during a pandemic it is now deemed critical that he be transferred to face trial. Last I heard all the courthouses were shut down. My attorney friend left the state to be in a less dense population until things get better. But I’m veering off… just wants to make me want to scream and so should you. Just to release stress – go ahead, scream, no one’s coming for you… yet. I’m kidding or save it for another Podcast right?
This virus, like many addictive diseases knows no boundaries of gender, ethnicity, race or class and makes me wonder if there will be a slew of OCD meetings on over-cleaners in the future like I’ve speculated (tongue-in-cheek) that thumb doctors will become a new specialty in medical schools from all the rapid/vapid texting learned by kids straight outta-the-womb. Going around the room one can almost hear the stories beginning with, “My parents had sex in a food bank.”
“I was conceived in a park, in the dark during stay-at-home city warnings.”
“Really? I was too but it was a closed one and my mom said they had NO oral contact. Doesn’t really matter at least we were born with immunity!”
“My obsessive cleaning is ruining my relationship with my older boyfriend, he doesn’t understand why I have to wash my hands 20 times a day?! WTH?!”
“I was born in a tent in a parking lot while my dad watched on his cellphone… remember those? I know… so 2020, right?”
“Oh wow, my parents conferenced my birth, their wedding and divorce on an iPad! The doctor wasn’t even in the room!”
“Yeah, well my aunt sneezed on a metro platform and was shot dead-in-the-head by a social distancer!”
Oh, those Pandemials…
I noticed the lines are less frantic today – less than nine days ago the local Trader Joe’s was so packed I walked in, saw lines to the back of the store and exited. Science Fiction becoming reality. Everywhere news showed stories of blatantly obesive fights over toilet paper and other cleaning goods at local markets. I even saw a man filling up a 5-gallon plastic container of gas with a haunted look in his eyes as ours met at the station’s pumps.
What I have taken real note of is how this earth seems to be healing visually. The air is cleaner, the plants in the wild seem brighter and happier… maybe we all could take a cue from that. Yeah life right now as it stands is beyond difficult and the isolation is sometimes intolerable but if you pick up a phone - not text - pick up a phone and call someone so they can HEAR your voice – you might find it helps you more than it helps them. I just know that yesterday I heard from friends I haven’t heard from in some time and they’re all going through variations of hard times whether it’s the finances, health or a parent is at end-of-life.
If you don’t remember the ’92 Riots that set Los Angeles ablaze, Waco, the ’94 Earthquake, OJ Simpson - other than you couldn’t watch Barney the dipshit purple dinosaur that made parents go insane or the Kansas City Bombing – maybe you recall 911 or the bombing of the Boston Marathon as one of so many tragic atrocities this country has faced in the past three decades and the many decades before, dependent on your birth in the generational pecking order. What am I saying you would have to own an attention span to read this or anything I write so you’re not a Millenial – pass it anyway.
I bet they would like the idea of having a Pandemial as a term for their kids. I would!
Remember this. We will survive this virus as we continue to survive the spreading of hate and false information and hopefully, just maybe we might become less divided by it all. A divided nation we need not be to the extent that we’ve become. We’re better than that… one can at least hope and dream… I do. A famous and wonderful leader once talked about that and I think right now it goes for every single one of us. Be nicer and love more and give invisible hugs throughout this virtual world we reside in wherever and whenever you can! It does and will make a difference.
"In the Garden of Memory, in the Palace of Dreams... that is where you and I shall meet." Lewis Carroll
This has been published many times by various outlets. I raised my child while watching him in my rearview mirror as we drove daily learning new lessons. He wasn't raised in a car, but you get my drift. I could see/sense what was going on with him without his knowing. This worked to great effect over the years until he moved to the front! But nothing prepared me for the day he showed me how angry and hurt he was that he never knew his dad.
Death visits gutting our senses – in this case, with little direction on how to discuss it with my child. Often, we’re the students and they’re the teachers.
Michael has a dad, and I don’t!” screamed my then 6-year-old son as he slammed our front door, then stomped past me and held his bedroom door open; looking at me with disbelief, he screamed louder, “My Daddy’s dead!”
The bedroom door slammed shut and I heard his muffled cries of anguish.
I sat on the sofa and listened, tears streaming down my face as I fought the impulse to race to Dylan’s side and make the hurt go away. It wouldn’t go away, it would change but it would never go away. I couldn’t bring back the father he never knew, that death that happened when Dylan was only 4 months old. He died in his sleep next to me.
I thought back to when I saw a therapist when my boy was 9 months old. He was confused by my need to understand how to deal with death when Dylan couldn’t speak yet. To me it was important to know how to tell him, what to tell him, when, where, how much?
David, my short-term therapist, gifted me with wise words. He gently offered, “You answer what he asks and never add to it. Your son will not ask you things he isn’t prepared to handle so be sure you never overly explain a question. There will come a time when he’s fully ready to discuss it but only he will know and he will tell you.”
Was that time now, at age 6?
I entered Dylan’s room when the crying ceased and slowly opened his door. He was facing me hugging his teddy bear and fast asleep in his bed. That innocent, beautiful face lined with dried and dirtied tears streaked across his cheeks lay against a pillow. I sat next to him and brushed his damp hair back softly with one hand and watched him go deeper into an exhausted slumber.
Later, I found out that it was a special day for fathers and sons but the announcement paperwork—as happens often—didn’t make it into his backpack the day before. I had sent a young boy unprepared to discover in front of all of his friends that he didn’t have a male figure, a guy or a buddy there to help him out. I hadn’t remarried, and we had just lost my father, his only grandfather, a few months prior.
Dylan knew his father was dead, he would tell anyone who asked but it was this one particular day that he felt a deeper loss. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry over his father. Dylan has had a wall dedicated to his father since he was able to crawl, has watched him on the one video we have of him over and over, and yet has only known his father through stories from me or those who knew him.
We had mother-and-son talks about his dad, and he always wanted to know what he laughed like; was he funny? Did he love me or him? Would he ever come back? Did he think you were pretty, Mommy? Do you miss him? Why? Daddy’s star is brighter than Poppa’s! What would Daddy do?
Always, I answered him. We laughed, or sometimes it was serious, but usually it was informational. Even on that day, the only talk we had was how Dylan was angry with Michael because he had something Dylan didn’t. For some reason it didn’t matter that the other boys had fathers, perhaps Michael and his father’s relationship stuck out as something Dylan wanted and was missing.
Teachers, counselors at school, all were on alert to deal with Dylan if he had questions and we spoke about what was told to me: to never add more information and just to answer his questions. I instructed them to not treat him differently because he already was different. The kids would alternately tease and make fun or be very protective of him.
When Dylan was in second grade, my uncle was dying of cancer, and Dylan came along to meet him. He was my godfather and only uncle. I was devastated but kept myself together. On the road trip, Dylan sketched in a book he aptly titled, “Dylan Bond.” In it were drawings of a boy getting a man out of jail and scribblings of “Pow-Pow!”… Gunfire. I read the pages and on the last page it said in a child’s handwriting, “I am going to save my friend.”
The irony a few months later my uncle ended his suffering with a small pistol to his head.
In watching my child and really hearing him, Dylan taught me when we would discuss his father and it has happened many times. As Dylan got into middle school, he already had had one Big Brother from the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, which lasted for a year. With a new added stress of leaving elementary in 6th grade, I made sure he got another Big Brother. Fate connected the two, who would remain buddies throughout Dylan’s high school years.
With all of the medical advice I’ve read or gotten and counselors’ or experts’ opinions, it was David’s advice that rang true for me because it had proven itself year-after-year to slowly reveal what Dylan was ready to accept when it came to his father’s death and how well he bounced back from other losses that we all have in life.
I never told Dylan any deeply religious ideas about death but everyone has a different idea of what happens when a person dies. I let him know his dad was in him always and if we were lucky, maybe his dad could see us. One morning on the way to school, Dylan giggled and asked, (age 7) “Mommy? If we died tonight could we hold hands in the sky and look down on everybody and wave?” I smiled acknowledging his visualization of what he felt about where his dad was and where we go. I also noted the joy in his voice.
The story titled, Sunshine’s Great Death – shows a child’s first realization of deep loss. Sunshine was his dog until age 8, and Dylan demanded to be with Sunshine when she had to be put to sleep. Against a teacher’s advice, I listened and did what was right for him – I let him be with her.
I believe we all have the right to form our own beliefs, religious or not, our own ideas of what we believe that might work for our situations best. I found, for us, that being honest and listening and watching my boy’s face for clues, was what worked best for us. The day came in high school that we discussed his father and it was really much ado about nothing by then. I believe that my son has had many wonderful mentors and friends but no one can replace a parent that is gone. That mysterious person one never knew or the one that was known and loved – (or not) – is gone with varying values and weight imprinted in us – until it is our own time to leave.
I have learned through being raised with my child that as I watched life grow through the level with which he perceived the world, that I could and would grow again, painfully so at times, but never, ever without beauty and laughter. I believe my son has taught me more about death than I ever could’ve taught him.
Death through a 10-year-old’s eyes, errors included:
Sunshine’s Great Death
Sunshine, my dog, came into my life when I was seven years old. Sunshine and I were best friends for a very long time. Once when my godmother and I went to MacDonalds we gave some of our food to the dogs. Those are some of the special things we did, but there’s more.
Sometimes we went to shops and Sunshine and I ate pork chops together. We also used to have dinner together and breakfast. Sometimes we would go for walks and have lunch or go to the beach. When I was eight, we took Sunshine in for a grooming and I got to help.
Later on we also played games and also went to the pier. Sometimes we would go to the market and Sunshine and I would look at boys (for her) and girls (for me). We’d also go to special events on holidays. My friend came over and we played with Sunshine for hours. Later we would sometimes bathe Sunshine with soap and water and when she got finished she smelled wonderfully clean and soft. I also like the way she shook around and the water went flying everywhere and I would then dry her off.
When I got older Sunshine got older and was starting to die. On the last day she lived, the pet doctors put her to sleep and I watched her fadedly go away and cried. Later when my godmother got a new dog I was happy, but I’ll never forget Sunshine. My first best friend in the world.
Dedicated to my best friend, Sunshine – 6/01/01