Summer of 2020 (1)
We all have memories of past summers, drawing frequently from the more pleasant ones to retell stories of beaches and family outings, summer camps and workshops (but not of summer classes), of coming of age (especially for the guys losing that piece of skin), of falling in or out of love.
The rains have come to mark the end of the summer of 2020, which we will remember as one when we were mostly united in common cause, in unrelenting battle against a virus, the angry red ball of spikes now a new representation of the Grim Reaper that threatens not just to take away people we love, but also to snuff out the very meaning of life.
Psychologists talk about the need for closure, and I’m afraid we’re not quite there yet with the pandemic. But the end of the summer of 2020 should spur us toward therapeutic rituals of remembering. Don’t wait too long to write, or to video memories to keep for a better future and a better normal.
I start by saying, partly tongue in cheek, that I spent my summer as an LSI or locally stranded individual, one of the many new abbreviations that came with COVID-19. I finished my term as UP Diliman’s chancellor on March 2, still halfway through packing to leave Balay Tsanselor, the house assigned to me by UP.
Then came the lockdown.
The weekend before the lockdown, I tightly hugged my kids in Laguna, where I had decided they would be safer with fewer people and wider open spaces. I assured them we’d see each other soon, and as I drove off they ran after the car, shouting out goodbyes not so much to me than to Chichi, our dachshund.
Besides Chichi and several other dogs, I was to be pretty much alone the next few weeks. Except for the security guards, the Balay staff stopped coming in from Day 1 of the lockdown.
I plunged into mild depression, binging on Netflix and on junk food. But, like a free diver, I learned I had to swim up for air. Air was work, from cooking for myself and the dogs and washing dishes and cleaning the toilet (bathtubs are murder) to voracious reading and writing.
The World Health Organization had the mistake of introducing the term “social distancing” (actually borrowed from the social sciences) and then attempting to withdraw it, suggesting that we should use “physical distancing” but stay socially connected, which became a major challenge during the lockdown as we all realized how desperate we could get to remain in touch.
It was the summer of frantic texting, sometimes late into the night, to console, to assure friends who were losing or who had lost loved ones, not necessarily to the virus, yet affected by COVID-19. Too many patients died alone, isolated from family and friends because hospitals had to presume any critical case had to involve COVID-19, and with the test results just taking too long to come out, often after the patient had died.
Dying became too abrupt, wakes banished, burials and cremations rushed.
In two summers in my youth, I lost close elderly relatives and was swept up by the many rituals around death. This summer, I marked, alone, the second anniversary of my parents’ deaths. As I stood in front of my mother’s columbarium early in June, I found myself missing my children and wondering about how the pandemic might be depriving our young of the rituals that teach us how to mourn, grieve, and move on.
In the summer of 2020, we did learn about another kind of moving on, from one queue to another—time stretched out, it seemed, to infinity.
Now that the summer has ended, we ask where it has gone, one quarantine phase crunched into the other.
In the summer of 2020, we learned to connect, through Viber, texts, and emails… and this newfangled Zoom that made it so much easier to talk with and to see friends and loved ones here and overseas. In my case, it was especially important with my sister in Canada, and close friend Anita, a Dutch professor who was in California where she was on fellowship. Anita became an LSI like myself when California went into shelter-in-place—a nice term, I thought, better than quarantine or lockdown, home as shelter and Zoom allowing us shared shelter.
On Thursday: Part 2 on online lifelines, and a summer of fruits, food cravings, and a wedding.
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