Happy New Year! What have you been reading? As always, I have a huge stash of must-reads, but am currently wrapped up in a book reading which I am doing on Facebook Live. The book of the moment is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night.”
It’s actually my fourth pandemic book reading. In 2020, I read out “Pamela” by Samuel Richardson; “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley; and “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy. Do I have to do it? No. But I love love love getting lost in fiction, and writing commentaries about each day’s excerpt–a combination of my thoughts, critical writings, and authorial background. I wish I could read books by South Asian authors, but there seem to be so many copyright issues that I stick to books which are clearly in the public domain. It doesn’t hurt that those books have a lot of critical resources for me to draw on!
R is wrapped up in college applications this time, but with the other readings, he made so many relevant, hilarious memes, and we had amazing family discussions about each of the books. The spring and summer passed in an intellectual haze, and thinking about books formed a protective shield around us, in the face of the grim national and global news about unimaginable death tolls from Covid, an election that threatened to devolve to chaos and corruption, and the total disappearance of tangible social and academic supports from our lives.
It truly was a terrifying year, and the worst is not behind us. Death tolls in the US are almost ludicrously terrifying. Healthcare workers and hospitals are strained beyond capacity. It’s not clear that the receding administration is interested in conceding, and their ardent fans are gathering in the streets. Too many people are some combo of sick, starving, and being evicted. This much social unrest and struggle is going to reverberate for decades.
I wrote this such a while ago, and since then, there has been an insurrection, with people dead, and a president being subject to impeachment proceedings for the second time in one term. We didn’t even get through a week of 2021.
If there is a thought in you about why I am being political on a blog about autism, well, try to imagine what we must be feeling as these events unfold. A’s annual IEP meeting is around the corner and he has spent nearly a year trapped at home while, in the outside world, sedition and contagion rage unabated. His academic goals have evaporated. Every time school talks about trying to reopen, I shake my head in disbelief. A is too young to be on the vaccine waiting list, and there is no way I am sending him to the petri dish of classroom life until the larger society has done something other than die for their seafood dinners and their right to get on airplanes to storm their own nation’s halls of government in search of elected officials to harm.
I don’t know. How does one get back to the status quo before this? That status quo that was already nothing but token education for our autistic kids? People are so eager for normalcy, they will forget about people like A again. But even we are foolishly pulled to a sense of nostalgia for it because, at least back then, we could get a sitter. We could meet friends. We could do what we do with some elusive ideas of being connected to other forms of life.
I’ve been going for daily walks to keep my head clear, and there we all are, trying to avoid one another. Trying not to die from Covid and aloneness. Trying to get our cardio in. Trying to make a party out of distant sightings of other people. Our local Facebook page had a report of a sighting of a rabid raccoon. So today we were all trying to avoid those streets. Trying not to hate the gift of this constrained life which is, after all, still life, in a country where there are no hospital beds if we should need them. Trying all the time to keep trying.
I love winter, and I also love that enough people find it miserable that I don’t have to dodge quite so many townsfolk and especially their dogs. They are not for me and I am not for them. R and I have a running joke about how white people cannot seem to go outside unless it is to walk an animal. And for Indians, we quip, we cannot leave the house unless we bring our whole tribe. You know what I’m talking about. It’s not a trip to Costco unless your visiting cousin brings her toddler and almost forgets little Bunty in the shopping cart. But she’d never forget the 40-pound bag of basmati.
We all have different ideas of what normalcy means. I am so tired, I don’t know what I want out of any hoped-for aftermath. I guess I just hope we don’t keep having to beg for resources. Is that too much?