My Covid Loss

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It’s July 20th, 2020 and I’m trying to think of a word that encompasses what the last 4 months have been like for me, what it’s been like for everyone in their own way. I haven’t met a person yet that hasn’t had to ride the pandemic wave (or is it a burn?) without some other personal deprivation taking passenger seat in this wreck.  Whether it’s not being able to gather for worship or participate in the sacrament of Eucharist, having to postpone your scheduled wedding, having the unmediated care removed from your prenatal care and birth, not being able to have the support of family after suffering a heart attack.

 

Demon. Maybe that’s the word.

 

On March 16th I had been back to work for 9 months since giving birth to my son Wyatt and taking maternity leave. 2019 saw a financial setback since I don’t get paid leave but we planned for it so we would be ok with one lagging year. By the beginning of March the US had been growing worried about the coronavirus Covid-19.  It had swept China, Italy, more of Europe and was starting to become a tenable fear.  March 11th WHO declared Covid a pandemic. March 16th Governor Walz (and Governors of all the other states) announced the closure of 11% of the labor force in Minnesota. In two weeks a record one-third of a million workers filed for unemployment insurance. When I went to work that Monday the language was unclear and I still didn’t know whether my industry was supposed to be furloughed. At 8 pm that night I received word that I am not allowed to go to work anymore.  The furlough was in effect until March 27th.  I had to scramble to get my personal belongings from my workplace.  How was I going to pay for daycare? How could I take my kids out and maintain their spot?  It was a two week increment that left things unsteady and unknown, not enough time to make any big decisions because potentially I was back to work March 30th.  Little did I know these small increments would expand to just less than 3 months.  I immediately applied for UI.  I had worked since I was 15 and had never been on UI before.  I was a novice.  Turns out I ticked a wrong box and was sent into an administrative Bermuda triangle.  I was told my employers HR could not help me.  I called the UI phone number relentlessly.  At this point I have my kids home with me, I took them out of daycare as we all got our bearings.  I’ll never forget those phone calls to UI.  I would be on hold for 3 hours everyday only to have my call disconnected.  My 3 and 1 year olds would be tearing into something or getting hurt or screaming or crying while I’m waiting to have word about the money that will pay our bills which is less than half of ones income if you didn’t know.  For 17 days my UI was stalled.  I didn’t know if it would ever come.  I was hurtling, sanity first, into despair.  I could not believe what was yanked out from under me and was still learning what the potency of this virus is.  I was a puddle of mixed emotions. Disbelief, despair, fear, anger and I was forced to depend on an institution that was unreachable, that doesn’t know me, for whom I am an abstraction, a number, a case.  I’m not even the worst of it though.  In Washington State my sister was denied UI for 8 weeks.  You see, out there they paid out $650 million in fraud to hackers armed with people’s data from previous breaches.  In order to rein in the deficit they halted all eligible claims, income that people desperately needed NOW.  It was starting to feel like we’re a cat’s plaything. To their credit, I can’t imagine being the “one in charge” of all of this. Obviously no choices were easy and that’s simply what they were, choices.  Choices based on the expert’s best predictions and guesses.  I studied the experts findings too.  After all, these guys were informing the policy makers.  I subscribed to podcasts, I would spend 6 hours a day watching the news, I logged into CIDRAP to study the studies.  This is what led to the country boiling over, the experts didn’t agree.  Dr. Osterholm disagreed with his colleagues at WHO and the CDC had a different opinion than Osterholm and…Fauci…well, the opinion was evolving and the evolution was impacting peoples lives in substantive ways.  Osterholm admits that there is still so much they don’t know about Covid-19.  He also admits that the policy makers have to consider the culture with which they’re imposing restrictions.  What type of mores and expectations do Americans have? He also admits he saw his grandkids for Fathers Day.

 

DJQWE1423This last point makes me feel really slighted.  The last time I saw my dad was Christmas and I regret never getting a picture of him with 9 month old Wyatt.  In fact I never got a picture of him with Wyatt at all.  I thought I had time.

 

 

 

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I didn’t get to see my dad in March for Wyatt’s first birthday because of Covid.  I didn’t get to see my dad for Fathers Day because of Covid.  I didn’t get to see my dad at the hospital in May after a heart attack because of Covid.  I didn’t get to see my dad at home while he was, as I was told, recovering because of Covid.  Then in June my mom is hospitalized and I don’t get to support her at the hospital because of Covid.  Both my parents NEED advocates.  The telephone game is not enough.

 

I thought my dad was recovering and he was actually dying.

 

I desperately wanted to see him but was told it is too risky because of Covid.  I wish I would have trusted my gut and saw him anyway.  My sister from Washington State had come in town to help care for our mom and she made a date to see my dad on Saturday July 11th.  I have to admit I was jealous.  I had wanted so badly to visit him during this Covid-demon.  During their lunch he was in a real bad way.  He struggled to catch his breath, he was literally freezing to death.  On the drive home he died in the car.  The day I was told the news of his passing, I had been running through the sprinkler with my kids and we were just putting kabobs on the grill.  At least during the pandemic-demon there was summer and outside.  While I was running through a sprinkler my dad was in the throes of losing his life.  I got the phone call and was in disbelief again.  Four months ago it was the loss of my livelihood. Now it’s the loss of my dad. I picked up my sister and drove an hour up to Cambridge, MN to view him one last time, to view him for the first time since Christmas.  He was lying on a hospital bed with his feet relaxed to the side, shoes still on. I scooted a chair across the floor to his bedside and told myself “shh”, he’s only sleeping right? Overwhelming disbelief.  I took my mask off and looked down on his face.  The Covid-demon didn’t matter anymore.  It had infected my life without infecting me and now he’s gone. Not from Covid but from regular sicknesses that have been taking people’s lives since the beginning of time.  Death is a sure thing that no amount of safety will prevent.  Safety may flatten the curve but what it did for me was keep me from the things I call life.  It kept me from doing what I know in my heart is best.  We’re all trying to do what is best for each of us and that is an individual thing.  Someone else’s Covid story involves losing their dad to the devastating effects of Covid itself.  Ironically my dad didn’t die of Covid but he died gasping for breath nonetheless.

 

Covid didn’t take time off even after my dads death.  We were told by the funeral director that we could not publish the date and time of his memorial service for fear of attracting a large number of loved ones which would make impossible social distancing.  We had seen a very large, public, indoor funeral for a person that wrongly lost his life, hundreds, thousands in attendance, and I wondered doesn’t my dad who is also a valuable child of God deserve a memorial with ALL his loved ones who wish to be there?  In our grief we pressed our foot down and the funeral home relented.  His memorial took place in the Rice St. neighborhood he had carved a life in and at the church he went to school.  During the Lords Prayer, with the doors open in the back on a hot sunny day, his biker buddy cranked the throttle on his Harley Davidson and I literally imagined my dad’s soul joining his Maker on the highway to heaven.  The day moved me.  You always imagine how losing someone will affect you, at least I do, but it’s out of your control.  My body just wept and I couldn’t stop it.  I think it was the mounting pressures and mixed emotions these last four months had burdened me with.  This force, like a herd of bison, trampled over me.  It had tarnished friendships, it had deflated my spirit, it had made me question how courageous would I be if everything was taken from me?  Would my gaze be toward the Lord?  This Covid-demon had shone me for who I really am.

 

Weak.

 

By weak I mean I have the same nature affliction that John Piper describes going to battle with here.  Selfishness, self-pity, blame, anger and sullenness. The Covid deprivation made me realize how dependent I am on the things of this world.  Niceties, comforts, property, ownership, self-sovereignty, freedom, the company of other people.  And how much I failed to lean into the cross.  For too long, deprivation ruined me, reduced me, and laid bare my faults.  And this was just the deprivation of American freedoms.  What if it wasn’t just a deprivation but a brutality?  What if I was a number in a concentration camp?  Oh how weak I’d be!  My mind knows that the things of this world are temporal but my desires cling to them as if life itself is only the things of this world.  But life is full of the glories of God.  Glory that is attainable even in earthly deprivation.  With the loss of my dad under the banner of Covid I am going to battle with my faults again, may my soul prevail over my flesh.

 

Memorial Weekend 1979- cabin
Memorial Weekend 1979 (my age, 38 yrs old)- cabin

When I think of everything my dad had lived through in his life from 1939-2020 I imagine all the major challenges and frights and losses he had and yet he never despaired.  He seized the day as the old trope says.  He really did.

 

May God equip me with courage, resilience and hope when everything is taken from us except our life and even when that last vestige of property is taken from us as well may we find peace in knowing we have our eternal Father who breathed into us the breath of life, found value in our existence and welcomes us back home.

 

 

 

One last immortal post script for my father:

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1984

 

My dad, Dale, was 42 when I was born, the last chance for a boy out of a handful of girls.  God gave him one more girl- Teresa Dale. For the formative part of my life he was an excellent provider.  Oil changes, boot-strap perseverance, livelihood for the family, a strong blue collar work ethic.  I love him for that.  But for the last decade he let us glimpse his vulnerability, hugs and “I love you’s” became important, timely.  He’s always been so strong but this was a new strength- tenderness, graciousness, calm.  The kind of resolve a man gets when he’s focusing his life on what matters. What it made clear to me is that I was just getting to know him.  All his life his animated stories had outsized him and now I was meeting the man the legends are about.  A man of nine lives.  A man who should have written a book.  A person, a soul.  A father who always loved his daughters, even that one four decades younger than him.  A man who dedicated himself to the honor of those he loved.  A man who loved life.

 

He was proud of us four strong women, all girls, which is just what he needed.  And even though I was just getting to know him I am assured that he lived a full life and that he loved us.

 

We love you dad.

My Covid Loss

A Reflection On The Life Of Our Baby Girl

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Nine months ago I wrote a prayer for our unborn baby when I was 27 weeks pregnant. Now our baby girl is 25 weeks old and I was not wrong about my own struggles. There is a huge amount of helplessness a parent feels for their child. When she bursts into sobs after previous contentment you try the few desperate consolation tricks you know and then you dissolve into an exasperated defeated shoulder shrug. You have no idea what’s wrong. Then she’s sick with pinkeye and a cold and has a 101 fever and you don’t know what to do. You ask your husband what to do and he, likewise, doesn’t know. Meanwhile someone’s life is in your hands. You are her creator and her sustainer.  You are her anchor; an anchor that is ill weighted sliding across the bedrock while the boat is kicked up by storm.

You find that it’s a relief when your sister, mother or mother in law (anybody!) wants to hold her because all the baby does at this point when she’s not eating, sleeping and filling diapers (and those things have easy remedies, phew) is a lot of looking around. Looking around while in the bouncer, looking around while on her playmat, looking around in your arms, looking around in the stroller. The looking around and smiling is nice. She’s content. She’ll even let you snuggle her for 5 seconds straight. But then it wears into fussing and there’s nothing more to offer of locations and positions of looking around so what now? You want to hold her? Be my guest. I tell myself I’ll understand her better when she can walk and talk and that happens soon, right? Well no, not soon. Come to find out, full articulated sentences don’t happen until they’re 25 years old so I think I’m in for it.

Still, and this is our purpose as parents, right?  My one goal for Isla is goodness. Not chiefly goodness for her (though I wish her that joy too) but goodness from her and I constantly wonder how soon the instilling of that starts. I find that, often, I’m waiting for some demarcated time when this or that starts. I’ve come to realize that life just happens, it’s happening while you’re waiting and then you’ve missed what you should have been doing the whole while. It’s easy to view your child as a baby still, even when they’re 15 or 24 months old. To view them too young to grasp lessons but I read somewhere that as early as 9 months your child learns the tool of manipulation. I believe behavioral expectations are best instilled early on so when do I start? At 5 months old she obviously doesn’t intend to scratch or hit, that’s just her primitive reflexes and motor skills still being refined. But soon it won’t be an accident and how do I reason with her then? And what about the lesson your child wants to engage you in? Children have a way of revealing their souls to you when you’re running 15 minutes late for work or when it’s well past bedtime. Will I miss moments because life is passing, I’m exhausted and I didn’t hear the movie soundtrack cue: crucial life defining moment happening in 3, 2, 1?

What will her genetically given personality be? This really frightens me. I will try my best to groom her to fight her nature. This is what civilization is; fighting one’s nature for the well-being of the collective and the well-being of one’s own life as the natural state of humanity is barbarism. But a parents guidance only goes so far and then it’s just eccentricities of her personality at work. Will she be naturally strong-willed, will she be stubborn, will she be easily angered? Will she be laid back, will she be understanding, will she be empathetic? How hard will she have to fight her nature to be civilized and how hard will it be for me to wrap my mind around her eccentricities and imagination.

Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.  -C.S. Lewis

How big of a deal will the arguments of ‘keeping your bottom on the seat and your feet on the ground’ be for her future? Will my laziness in this area lead to a laissez-faire adult that doesn’t respect or have reverence for personal property and etiquette? How do I groom her with my values when my values are more and more archaic by modern standards?

Not only will I be fighting my child’s will but I will be fighting popular culture to raise my child as well. Popular culture will be telling her that her desires are paramount to any old crusty institutionalized idea of truth. In fact she’ll hear that there is no objective truth only one’s own made up conclusions on the matter. She’ll hear that the only area that the concept of ‘universal’ is applied to is love. Love is all you need, right? When I tell her “wrong” I will be chiseling through layers and layers of cultural-consciousness sediment that will feel violating to her. Man, do we have our work cut out for us.

I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.      -C.S. Lewis

Yet…

Isla is on the verge of a belly laugh. She hasn’t gotten there yet. So far her giggle is more of an ‘aheh’ sound but I eagerly look forward to the day of the full belly laugh. And I still look forward to dandelion seeds blown off a stem for the first time through her eyes. She has already seen the sky and I the reflection in her eyes. Not too long until she understands what ‘the sky’ means in all it’s vast and glorious beauty. There is a whole universe out there created for only one small and precious Isla and when her eyes light up with the knowledge of that I can’t wait to see the reflection of God casting back at me.

God lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.  -C.S. Lewis

A Reflection On The Life Of Our Baby Girl

Can You Raise Your Child Free From Dogma?

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Many modern families make it their aim to raise their child as a blank slate, upon which the sovereign child makes his own choices, forms his own opinions, finds his own identity, and writes his own story. The archipelago child: free to be uninfluenced and untouched by a point of view. There are two approaches: I will not introduce any dogma into my child’s mind, therefore they’ll be unladen of bias or I will offer a glimpse into all dogmas so that my child can infer what they may and piecemeal a unified whole. The result will be a cultured, unbiased, sensitive and understanding person.

Is it possible to fulfill either of these approaches? With the first approach the parent is ultimately relinquishing their parenting and resting their child in wait for some outside influence  to impress their mind. It takes the culpability out of the job of parenting. The parent with the first approach, down the line, could say “I didn’t impress any beliefs on my child, in his freedom he decided his beliefs on his own, I am blameless.” Or, from a different perspective, the parent with the first approach is explicitly culpable for not introducing the best, the correct, worldview. But this implies transcendent, objective truth, that there is a right and a wrong. There is. I’ll get to that later. With regard to the second approach, is it humanly possible to expose your child to all dogmas and theories that exist let alone the meaningful parts of them in their entire applicable context? If you’re leaving out certain ideologies then are you not unwittingly shaping your child’s ideas and submitting them to dogma?

The first principle a child learns as they grow up is no and yes.  It is a valuable principle!

They desire something that they shouldn’t have because it’s not in their best interest. Why has it been decided they shouldn’t have it? Many would say cultural conditioning. That some force; paternalism, sexism, Puritanism, laid a foundation for behavioral expectations and now it’s time to shatter that ceiling by washing our kids of expectations. A sort of contrary rebirth. Not a rebirth to orthodoxy but a rebirth to abandon.

Yet there remains some universal manipulations we beholden our kids with. They desire to avoid a nap but the parent knows a nap reduces fatigue, resets their mood, lends itself to growth, etc. The very first dogma a parent will introduce their child to establishes the parent’s outside authority on the child. Parents represent God to small children. Second, it establishes truths and the right and wrong way to behave in accordance with the truth.

I know what’s best for you at 1 year old, what is best for you is a nap because it will reduce fatigue and help you grow. Child, it is right that you fight your natural desire to resist a nap and wrong that you give in to your nature. This is the first, elementary dogma you introduce your child to: fight your natural desires for the sake of your life. Does this sound extreme? If a child doesn’t learn obedience to truths that restrain their desires then they may fall subject to a burnt hand on the stove or hit by a car for not looking both ways or even more complicated and tragic events.

Right off the bat you’ve established right and wrong. But some parents, being exposed to and educated by enlightened progressive theories, will negate the most primitive, basic common sense and appointed authority that they have to undermine such oppressive bulwarks like right and wrong. Opinion, desires and tastes are the weathervane. Madcap opinions that are evolving, unauthoritative, lawless and meaningless. After all how do you write law on one man’s opinion? Law is written using precedent, wisdom of the elders, and inalienable truths. Law has survived the ages and been useful because it’s true. Yet we guffaw truth and encourage the child to navigate life with some intrinsic knowledge she has that is superior to an adult’s long-forged, accumulated wisdom. So open-minded that her brain falls out.

What is it that motivates people to find dogma repugnant? One thing. When it is established that this way is the right way, it means another way is wrong. If there’s a good then there is a bad. It creates grouping, ranking, a pecking order. It creates limitations, failures, hurt feelings. How can we, humans, decide a way is right over another? Especially if it hurts someone else’s feelings. That’s the second truth your child will learn after no and yes: life is not fair. From birth we are born with disadvantages, some of which will be impossible to overcome. The fact that we are born into a material body that is hurtling toward entropy makes our life unfair. This machine of a body will fail us and someone else’s machine will be better. So, too, about the principles of life and how they match/mismatch our desires. Is a principle untrue if it’s at odds with my nature? A common cultural sentiment is “be who you are”. Or is it that my nature is a beast that needs the principle to groom it? “Become who you are.”

How do you know what’s true?

What’s right for a moody, exhausted child?

That’s how simple truth really is. One just needs eyes to see.

To paraphrase GK Chesterton, when a person chooses not to believe in what’s right, it’s not that they believe in nothing, it’s that they believe in anything. The mind is not a vacuum. Some thing will fill it: religious dogma, the culture’s dogma or the State’s dogma. There is no such thing as dogma free. Start teaching your child the truth or another force, benevolent or malevolent, will start indoctrinating your child for you.

Can You Raise Your Child Free From Dogma?