Thursday, January 28, 2021

Ceilee Turns 40

Yesterday my son tuned 40, and it was a time for both of us to reflect. Happily, I caught him by phone last evening, just as he and his partner were waiting for a table at one of their favorite restaurants. I was sorry I wasn't there to celebrate with him, but appreciated having time for a chat.

Long Time No See

The first, obvious reflection was that I had not been in the same room with him the entirety of his 39th year—by the far the longest we'd ever been separated, and that hurts. (I also have been separated from my daughter, Jo, the same length of time and that hurts just as much.) While I understand that the pandemic has made this necessary and it's no one's fault, my heart aches nonetheless.

Child as Father to the Man

Ceilee was able to report that he is now old enough to have clear memories of me and us when I was the age he is now. That was trippy. Both of us had our first child at age 31, and both of us had a son and daughter at age 40. While he will always be my son, he is also now my peer. The wheel turns.

I didn't ask him what those memories were (of the 40-year-old Laird), but understood that they were generally precious. It simultaneously helped me feel a deeper connection, and stimulated a reflection about the cycle of life. It was sobering, for instance, to recall that my father died a month after I turned 40—which understandably adds impatience to my desire to get vaccinated and safely past the Covid travel restrictions. I have an incurable cancer and the sands are inexorably running through my hourglass. While I'm a battler with a strong will to live, and my doctors are whizzes at keeping me alive, I chafe at losing 18 months or so in quarantine, barred from the possibility of holding my children.

What Happens in Vegas

Thursdays are when I visit St Luke's (my local hospital in Duluth) for my weekly dose of chemotherapy in their outpatient Infusion Center. It's a relatively routine affair, and I generally enjoy chatting with whichever nurse gets assigned to me (after five years I've come to know most of them, and they me). Today, interestingly, Heather was tossed my paperwork and we got talking about Covid. She shared that her closest personal loss was an uncle in his mid-50s. While overweight, he was otherwise not identified as at-risk and it was a shock when he and his wife took a trip in August to celebrate their wedding anniversary, he caught the virus and didn't make it home. The kicker was that all this happened in Las Vegas—which is where Ceilee, Jo, and my two grandkids live. Gulp.

While I know that people are dying everywhere, and I have no reason to think that Las Vegas is less safe than anywhere else, per se, Heather's story hit pretty close to home, and I worry about the judgment of people who travel to Vegas these days—the people who are willing to take the risk and roll snake eyes. I get it about wanting to gin up the economy again, but at what cost? What price may my kids be asked to pay because Las Vegas, in particular, draws risk takers? It's scary.

The Bigger Pictures

Susan's kids live in Denver and St Paul. All our children have partners. There are currently three grandchildren among them, with a fourth on the way, and we ache to be with them. (And don't get me started about the dogs, which all five households among us have.) 

The next ring out are my siblings and their children. My very next trip last March—when the lockdown hit and everything got shuttered—was see to family in Florida and Alabama. Understandably, that trip got canceled. When will I see them again?

Stepping back another ring, however, I realize how blessed I am. Not only are Susan and I doing well in a safe house in a safe neighborhood, but all of the people I mentioned above are in good health and OK financially. There are way too many folks in this country who are struggling with loss of health, loss of income, and/or isolation. So my final reflection is that I have led an incredibly fortunate life overall—even if it's taken the current restrictions to bring that more sharply into focus.

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