Monday night was the first of the season wearing shorts on the after-dinner walk in the neighborhood. It was daylight well past 8 p.m.. Folks were out. We stop and chat. There’s a lot of catching up to do with casual notes we like to take on each other, the good stuff of socialization. Spring always does that.
But not last May.
We had the same weather turn last year, right? But mitigating the joy of sunlight and warmth was the heavy cloud of a pandemic. Many in the neighborhood wore masks. People parted from each other as they crossed directions. A wave and a muffled hello had to suffice for the distant acquaintance, a short stop for the more familiar, still many feet separating us and common thoughts of anxiety and disbelief shared. Notes about people who “have it” or “had it” or God forbid “didn’t make it.” The strangeness of the open commute or working from home. How often and what time do you find best to go food shopping? How many visits a day from Amazon? What hand sanitizer are you using and where do you get more than a couple rolls of toilet paper? Is that business still open and, golly, how are they going to make it? Missing the gym. Movie lists and binging. And the schools. Your kids, the grandkids, the next-door kids and distance learning.
A heavy sigh, a “hang in there” or “one day at a time” sentiment and you kept moving. You were emptier inside with each weirdly uncomfortable and same old exchange.
You remember all that from a year ago as you dare to think this spring feels like the worst may be behind us. The vaccines are still adding up. The CDC just relieved us from outdoor and some indoor masking. The local governors are announcing big reductions in restrictions.
You’re planning things again. The weekend getaways and local vacations are really expensive with the tourism business looking to get it all back. Oh well. We need it.
It’s the same beautiful walk for those who carry the worst burdens from the last 15 months. But you know the weight of loss sits on their chest and you can’t blame them should they complain about the pollen rather than marvel at the new warmth. Parents, grandparents and spouses lost. There’s a young man I know in his early 20s with a mid-50’s father, his best friend, now gone. How is his spring walk?
The road back will require patience and compassion for each other. We will all arrive at a common place in time, but at different paces. On that walk this week, I waved to a neighbor working in her yard fully masked. I turned to my wife and asked, “What’s up with that?” She says simply, “Maybe it’s for allergies.” Don’t be so judgmental, I tell myself, reminded once again who is the better half.
A local pastor was profound this weekend at his outdoor service. He told his congregants that he shelved his planned sermon when the CDC sent out the new mask guidelines. He wanted to share his thoughts about things like church protocols going forward, predicted natural disagreement, and asked for prayer and consideration for those still weary or worried. While accepting his role as spiritual leader, he admitted to have no clear answers and he claimed no authority.
Most days I would have thought him a cop-out.
This past weekend, though, I heard him.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on MyRITV/Fox Providence and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC.