Content Note: COVID Grief

The little graduation party we had for the kids on Saturday went reasonably well — I made way too much food, of course, but that’s to be expected. We had about 10 adults and 8 kids; everyone was vaccinated except for Anand and his friend Olivia, both too young.

We waffled about whether to ask the two of them to wear masks, but in the end, decided there was no real need; they were mostly outdoors, and when indoors, it was a big house with people who were vaccinated and generally also very careful. Oak Park’s COVID numbers in general are very low, and vaccination rates are good and getting better by the day. Judgement call, but it would’ve felt cruel to make them wear masks when nobody else was.

It was great feeding people, and it was great hearing the kids playing in the pool (not all of them went in, but most did at some point). It was REALLY great sitting around the living room and talking for a few hours. Lots of jokes, lots of laughter.

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. My life during the pandemic was mostly…fine? I was even often happy, hanging out with the family or on my own. But laughing out loud ’til my stomach hurt? Not so much.

We also did some pandemic processing — how was the last year for you? I learned that one friend had had a major heart attack earlier this year — he’s fine now, thankfully, but it unnerved me that this had happened, and I hadn’t known. Since I’m on social media so much, I think I sort of have an illusion that I’m in touch with people, and that’s always an illusion; you just get a slice of life, and many of my friends aren’t even here.

But the pandemic made that all much worse, because without all the in-person density of conversation and knowing, the thin slice of social media connection often just didn’t hold up, dissolving into nothing. Weird and strange and lonely.

I’d messed up the invite — I’d meant it for 3, but somehow put 6, so most people didn’t show up until 6. (One person I’d talked to in person came at 3, so it was a rather odd party for a few hours.) Around 9, people started heading out, and that felt weird too — in the old days, board game nights sometimes went to 11 or midnight or even later, especially once the little kids had gotten bigger and people didn’t have to race home for early bedtimes.

I wonder if maybe people were a little tired of all the intensity of conversation? We’re not used to this. We’ll have to re-accustom. Or maybe they were just tired. And it was Father’s Day the next day, and I imagine many of them had more socializing plans for that.

Afterwards, I cleaned up a little, then ended up sitting on the sofa in the living room. The kids had gone to bed, and I realized I was kind of upset. I texted Kevin to come down and talk to me, and we started in a bit of a fight, because even though he often doesn’t really attend my parties (our deal is that generally I get to throw as many parties as I want, and he doesn’t have to come to them), he usually stops by for a bit and says hi to people. And he’d told me that he was going to come by when he finished some work, and then he didn’t, and it just felt weird and distressing that he’d stayed upstairs the whole time….

When he came down, it turned out that he’d had a really bad work day, with some math he’d been working on unravelling, and he’d been trying to patch it back together, but it had put him in a terrible mood, so he hadn’t felt like socializing, and he’d forgotten that he’d promised me he’d swing by for a bit. So we sorted that out, with a little bit of frustration and some tears, but I do understand how that goes. If I’d had similar problems with a novel, I might’ve wanted to go hide and bang my head against a wall too. So I wasn’t actually mad at him for long. Good thing I expressed my upset; it let us sort it through pretty quickly and get back to our accustomed good place.

But I was sad. Really sad. And the sad wasn’t about anything that had happened that day, I think. It was a deep well of loneliness and sadness and I ended up sobbing for a good long while, my face buried in Kevin’s increasingly soggy t-shirt. It was all the pandemic loneliness and stress and grief, this ball of misery that I hadn’t even realized I’d been carrying around.

Seeing friends again, having a party, had been so good, but I’d spent more than a year locking away, compartmentalizing my loneliness and extrovert-need for people. I think the party cracked the levee walls, and the waters came rushing in.

It’ll get better. I’m going to see Jed in a few hours, and will isolate with him for five days, and then I’m going to Alex’s where we’ll actually have another party, and I’ll see lots of old friends, and might even make some new ones. People people people. I need them, it turns out.

I know some people reading this are still sheltering in place, are still locked down. I’m so sorry. I wish I could hug you all. I hope it’s better for everyone, soon.

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