Five years ago we lost David. Grief is such a fluid and moving thing, so oddly living for being tied to loss separated by the River Styx. I try and pin down the feelings, and the lyrics bubble to the surface “there are moments that the words can’t reach…moments when you’re in so deep, it’s easier to just swim down–and you push away the unimaginable. (Thank you LMM)
There just isn’t a way to describe the loss, the canyon that David’s death blasted in the center of our lives. We cannot fill it, we cannot cover it. It’s a scar that will define the contours of the rest of our lives. I am aware that over time, canyons age, and scarred topography weathers and softens into something beautiful. But there is nothing that will ever fill that space.
He was an imperfect man who loved and married an imperfect woman. He told me once that our lives weren’t about us, but that our children were the arrows who would change the world. As always, he had a way… We tried so hard, and we hurt each other so deeply. But after everything, we found the steel rails of genuine love that ran from before, through, and reappeared in the after. To say that David was my best friend reveals nothing so much as the pale and paltry flimsiness of the fences we build with inadequate words. It never goes away. I miss him every damn day.
If you are a family member or loved one of an addict, please consider your own support. Al-Anon is 12-step AA affiliated support and provides tools and support for families and friends. I have personally used this program and can testify to the tremendous good it can do in healing and helping.
I want to say this emphatically and unconditionally:
I support the protests happening across my country. I support the Black Lives Matter movement and the social change inherent and necessary in addressing our collective history of racism—both personal and structural. I support funding communities and public safety and de-militarizing the police. I support abolishing the doctrine of qualified immunity.
I support the constitution and the rights inherent therein, and I support amending it where called for and bringing our civil values in line with the just goals of equality and justice for all. I support the ERA and a woman’s right to control her own body (I cannot believe that shit even needs saying). I support the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Justice Projects, the NAACP, and the myriad of other civil rights organizations that are guarding the rights of all people.
I support Raices and other immigration centers fighting to abolish the cruel practices of CBP and ICE that are fundamentally opposed to true American ideals, which are to collect and welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I support a truly independent judiciary with emoluments and accountability for not only elected officials but for judges and justices alike.
I support fully funding and investing in public education and paying teachers and staff living wages. I support disability rights as civil rights and the creation of an accessibility society as a further reflection of our civil values. I support the Voting Rights Act, and I support naming the restoration of that Act after John Lewis, who devoted his entire life to this cause. I support the restoration of voting rights to the previously incarcerated. I support prosecutorial and carceral reform. I support the abolishment of School Resource Officers and closing the direct pipeline between SROs and the juvenile criminal justice system.
Oh. And in case it wasn’t obvious…take down every cursed confederate statue in the country and place them in museums or dustbins. Taking them down isn’t erasing history—their placement during Jim Crow and the civil rights era was actual whitewashing history. And while we’re correcting monuments to white supremacy, return the Black Hills back to the Lakota people, which they rightfully hold under the Laramie treaty.
Make no mistake…there is literally nothing in me that seeks to conserve the racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, homo/trans-phobic, nationalistic, past. Let it be reckoned with, let us remake ourselves into the nation we always believed we were, and let us do it with bright sunlight and strong disinfectant, and the courage to look ourselves in the eye.
No Justice, No Peace.
Did I get everything? No. But it’s a start.
Now. Moving on to the more mundanely personal—because all of that above was personal too.
There is some poetic beauty in the fact this writing, once expansive, has contracted back to be just me and–maybe someday–my posterity. I started writing fifteen years ago because I wondered about my grandmother’s life when she was home with three little ones. I would love to know what she thought, what was hard for her, what tiny little things brought her joy. But here I am–own children nearly grown, a life I never anticipated before me.
In May I finished my first year of law school. To say it was hard is like saying childbirth is uncomfortable. But I did it. I did it from home, during a pandemic. I did well enough that I made Law Review, which is a thing that matters for ambitious young folks who want clerkships and academic laurels—I am not yet sure what it means for me, except probably a lot more work and some honing of my (legal) writing toolkit.
It’s deeply ironic as I work my ass off to understand and apply established and well-rooted canons of law, think through nuanced common law that was built elegantly, slowly over centuries, while my own government fails so completely and miserably to give even the slightest deference to those ideas. Definite disconnect, and some days dissonance feels existentially impossible to bridge.
We have been home since March 13. I haven’t stopped to bother how long that is until now. It’s 128 days. We’ve gone for drives in an attempt to keep the cars fluid and working, and we even were brave and went through the car wash (taking extreme precaution with credit card swiping, masks, and sanitizer), but we haven’t entered a public establishment of any kind. We have done curbside pick-up for groceries, or used the assorted services now available for delivery.
On our porch, there is a five-gallon bucket of water, soap and bleach for wiping down anything that comes into the house. There is also a cardboard box Jon made with a little sign on it, thanking our delivery drivers and inviting them to take a beer. (I think we should add bottles of water and maybe diet coke to the box.) This started because he wanted to buy the garbage collectors a six-pack of beer for showing up so reliably in the middle of difficult conditions. And it’s just been carried on.
Because Jon is a T1 diabetic, because I have autoimmune issues, because I have lung scaring from past bouts with pneumonia (stupid asthma), we are exercising more care than most. I recognize the privilege inherent in our ability to make that choice when many people do not have that option. And then I feel crushed again at the problems besetting my country and how much work we have to do. It should not be a privilege to be able to keep your family safe, to earn a living wage, and to have access to medical care.
I spent the summer working for a disability rights public policy organization in Washington DC. It’s been like drinking from a firehose, and even now, 10 weeks in, I still don’t have all the acronyms down–but I do have a much deeper understanding of the policy and advocacy side of governing, and that will serve me well when I move into the litigation side of legal work. Because of the virus, all work was done remotely, which made making connections more difficult, but was absolutely necessary. I spent 200 hours working on legislation, protections, IDEA, ADA (it’s 30 this year, did you know?) and the shortfalls therein.
This work also left me with what was a simmering fury for the current administration’s push for privatization of public education. That’s a dissertation’s worth of rage, so I’ll narrow it to: allowing people to buy cabinet seats and bilk the American public with cute names like “freedom scholarships” which are nothing more than diverting 10% (or more) of funding for public schools (which serve 98.5% of all US kids) to serve the 1.5% of private school kids…is straight up evil. Its even more evil when your family has a personal financial stake in the private for-profit education sector.
Where was I?
My family is mostly good. Like everyone, we’ve had to cancel plans and adjust hopes. Jeff was supposed to start college in Utah, but since everything is so haywire and unclear on safety or even in-person classes, he’s opted to punt and stay home. I have to admit, I’d rather have him a year behind and safe. Kelsey is starting her senior year, and at this point, she’s just hoping for maybe a prom or other spring senior benchmarks. We took her portraits from home. She’s a truly lovely human inside and out, and I am so grateful for this daughter I never expected. What may end up happening is Jeff and Kels will both leave next summer for their freshman year.
We were supposed to be in Utah not only to deliver Jeff to USU, but to celebrate my in-laws’ 50th anniversary. We’d rented a cabin at Bear Lake for all 25 of us, plus extra family dropping in. We were also working on getting David interred in Logan cemetery in the family plot. All of that is punted to next year, god willing. We celebrated the in-laws with them sitting in their driveway with yellow caution-tape strung up so the local grandkids wouldn’t get too close, and the rest of us via Zoom. A modern family.
Bean and Abby are preparing for high school from home. Our district called the fall already and all learning will be from home. Again, it’s less than ideal, but they will be safer and so will staff and teachers. I’m a little concerned with the SpEd supports Bean has lost, but schools are trying to comply. I get it. We’re reinventing the wheel in real-time. We’ve moved furniture around, repurposed things, and set up a dedicated school area in the dining room. I bought a white board, and it was up for all of five minutes before someone wrote “penis” on it, so things are about as expected in a house with four teenagers.
Jon is working from home through at least the end of the year. We’ve repurposed the front room into his office. He’s got a bank of computers and screens and we are so grateful that our high-speed internet allows him to do his job and stay safe. Likewise, my law school is moving the majority of classes for upper division (that’s me now!) online. While remote learning is definitely harder and lacks the human connection inherent in legal discussions, it’s the wiser choice given the status of *waves hands* everything. My heart goes out the 2020 bar takers. It’s a hot mess, and hopefully history will show this was the beginning of reform there, too.
One of my coping mechanisms (besides late-night insomnia-driven carb-ingestion) has been to cook. A lot. There are skills I have been trying to master for years–and while I am not yet a master, I have definitely upped my game in the arena of tacos, tortillas, salsa, crusty bread, english muffin baking, bagels, and Persian cooking. I still have much to learn, but what a delicious meandering journey.
Tiberius is beside himself with joy because no one leaves anymore. The cats are bemused and annoyed and knock things over to get attention. I have to say, a purring cat in your lap while a giant dog snores at your feet really helps in sitting through particularly challenging law lectures. I couldn’t do this in class. So at least there’s that. Oh, and we have started the process to adopt a new dog. Here’s hoping.
If you have to go out, wear your masks. Care for other people. Be kinder than necessary in your interactions if you can. If you have the ability, stay home. Tip the hell out of the people who are delivering the things you need.