Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Silver Linings

As the pandemic winds down – or so we think – leaving many dead, many long-sick, the rich richer and the poor poorer, and me with my social skills fractured; I have to admit to a silver lining. Doesn’t that sound callous? I think so. But some people might call it “looking on the bright side,” which is yet another example of my social confusion.

Anyhow, way back at the beginning, when I was in Philadelphia for my “urban infusion” month interrupted by Covid, my sister Elizabeth rescued me. She drove down from Massachusetts and retrieved me. As the reality of pandemic hit us, Elizabeth was especially nervous because she lives alone. I promised her that I would not let her feel unsupported; I would check in on her every week.

And I have.

And I even went the extra step: I included my brother, Larry.

My brother once said powerful glue held all of us together. And then, ten years ago, I stopped speaking to him. Oh, he was still cc’d on sibling emails, but no visits, no phone calls, no private emails, no contact. The glue was dissolved. The siblings were in disarray.

So disruptive was this wound that we kept it from my mother. My mother died feeling that her legacy – four kids who would stick together no matter what – was intact. It wasn’t. I spoke to my brother for the first time at her funeral. In between, I’d manage the “I can’t get away” excuse when the family gathered.

So what did he do? Never mind. To me, it was very, very big.

But I’d made a promise to Elizabeth and now it was Covid time, and there was Zoom. So the siblings – all four of us – started Zooming every Sunday: noon Alaska time, 1:00 California time, 4:00 Massachusetts time, and 10 p.m. Berlin time.


Every Sunday. Except when that was impossible, so then it was Monday. One friend called it “sacrosanct.” Yup. Every Sunday.

For two or more hours.

I suffer Zoom fatigue. No, I suffer Zoom hate. I can’t stand looking at faces in little boxes, sitting erect in front of my computer, having people talk over each other, etc etc. I have a Zoom limit of an hour (if I’m generous).

But I can Zoom with my siblings for HOURS. This is what we do: we laugh, we tease, we agree or disagree, we try not to give advice, we get tired, we prattle on meaninglessly, we comfort, we talk movies and books, we listen.

At one point, Larry held up a stapler. Immediately, Elizabeth held one up, too. “I got it from Mom; she got it from her office.” Someone else got theirs the same way. I held up mine: “I got it when I was little and it turns out it had a lifetime guarantee, so I got a new one about twenty years ago.” “Who gives a lifetime guarantee on staplers?” And off we went, proving to Larry that we could talk about anything.

Anytime Allison’s eyes start looking down, we know she’s researching something. She’s relentless. So sometimes, when we see that, we all “stop video.” She looks up to see us all gone. “Where is everybody?”

Once one of us pulled out the masks we got on a family vacation in New England. Back then, we had spent an uproarious time in the general store trying on masks, hooting and freaking out. Amazingly, now, each of us then disappeared off-screen and returned with our own masks – even in the same general store bags. We spent an hour, carrying on in masks, disguises, costumes.

After several months, I told my brother I forgave him.

I started with the sibling Zooms as a gift to Allison and Elizabeth, knowing that they needed all of us together, but I was wrong. These sibling Zooms are a gift to me.

Yes, I know all those sayings like, “Anger does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than the object on which it is poured,” but I’d felt wronged.

How wrong I was. I might have called this post Pearl of Wisdom #3 except that I’m too slow a learner. I don’t feel very wise. I feel foolish and stubborn. I needed a 2x4 to the head; I needed a pandemic!

Life is short. Love is long. I love my siblings, all of them. Thank you, Covid. Thank you, Zoom.

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