Grief In the Time of COVID

Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” – Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City” (1982)

In her 1963 book, “Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter,” author Caitlin Thomas set out to write a manifesto in which every morsel of matriarchal wisdom that her 50-year-old self had accumulated up to that point would be passed on to the next generation. Despite being a product of both its time and situation (i.e. Thomas’s toxic marriage to poet Dylan Thomas), the desire to steer her child in the right direction is something that anyone with daughters can relate to, because she essentially created a survival guide for girls looking to succeed in a world that has yet to universally recognize a woman’s worth outside the home.

I discovered her book as an 18-year-old university student with no expectation of ever getting married or having kids, but, as writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders once said, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” In other words, my days of being single were numbered and everything that I never envisioned for myself ended up filling a void that I never knew existed.

When my wife and I found out that we were going to have a girl earlier this year, my mind began to assemble its own version of Thomas’s book before we even had a chance to process the news with each other. I was as excited as I had been at any other stage of my life and couldn’t wait for her to arrive. There was always the question of why anyone would to choose to have another child given how ugly this country’s political climate has gotten on all sides, but I never bought into that defeatist bullshit.

As parents, we have a duty to introduce our children to the warts-and-all reality of America in hopes that they’ll be inspired enough to learn from the past and continue fighting to make a better future, and I was ready to impart that outlook to my daughter.

Alas, my optimism was fleeting, because my wife experienced what the doctors referred to as a “late-term miscarriage,” and, on August 28, was put in the unenviable position of having to fully deliver a baby that had no heartbeat.

In the immediate aftermath, she had people reach out with their condolences, but the truth is that there was no way to adequately express how we were all feeling at that moment. The truth is that no amount of “It’s not your fault” or “I had a miscarriage, too” was going to make her feel better, because the image of a lifeless yet fully-formed baby girl named Cadence was still so fresh in our minds. People are often unsure of what to say when it comes to consoling someone in a time of crisis, so I don’t blame anyone for trying to make her feel as if she wasn’t alone. They tried their best to make a shitty situation less so and we’re eternally grateful for the support.

As for me, I’m sad a lot and find myself unable to get as excited about things as I once did, but I’m hopeful that the tide will turn sooner rather than later.

Like Tony Soprano whacking Febby Petrulio while on a college tour with Meadow, we all crave certain things that make us feel alive, things that make us feel as if we’re existing beyond just the motions of fulfilling our daily responsibilities. For Tony, the thrill of physical altercation does the trick, but, in my case, writing has always been the one thing that external forces can’t take away. While I haven’t felt much like writing during the past month or so, I forced myself to crank this piece out in an attempt to recapture some semblance of normalcy and finally move on to the next chapter.

To everyone out there fearful of what else 2020 can possibly pile on in the next three months, all I can say is what Tony would have said:

Salut!

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