I doubt anyone from the old days is still following this blog, but just in case someone pops in to see why I rose from the dead, I want to make clear that I’m not planning on rebooting this blog. I’m just a person who finds writing both cathartic and therapeutic, and these days I could use some catharsis and therapy. This blog post will also be political, not writing-related, and it is written by a Democrat. If any of this is problematic for you, please feel free to stop reading. I won’t mind. Okay, here we go.
Yesterday, my three-year-old son brought us (me and my husband) his jacket. I may live in North Dakota, but summer does reach even this area of the country. It was high eighties/low nineties yesterday. (And humid. God I hate when the air has water in it. Growing up in Los Angeles will do that to you.) But the air was on, so my husband indulged our son. Put on his jacket. Then my son went over to the front door, looked back at us, and asked, “Bus?” [It is at this point that my eyes are welling up. Here’s that therapy bit I was talking about earlier.]
See, my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was two. He is language delayed, often speaking in only one-word sentences. When he turned three in January of 2020, he qualified to start preschool at an early education center. My son’s favorite vehicle is the bus. On the Monday after his third birthday, a bus showed up at his home. A real bus. One that he got to ride in. And he took his little backpack [tears are starting to fall now] and he ran out to that bus. It took him to a magical place where he got to play with other kids his age, and he did art projects, and he even got speech and occupational therapy. Every morning, he looked out the window waiting for the bus to come back. He liked preschool so much that he threw a tantrum every time he came home. My husband and I didn’t love dealing with the tantrums, but we loved that he was happy with preschool. I had been scared that he wouldn’t understand what was happening. We couldn’t exactly explain due to the aforementioned language delay. But he loved it. He loved it so much that he didn’t want to leave.
And then in March it all stopped.
See, March in North Dakota was still jacket weather. Which is why he brought us his jacket in hopes of making the bus reappear yesterday, a hot day in June. And my heart shredded. Because when the bus suddenly stopped coming, I couldn’t explain to my child why that had happened. I couldn’t tell him we had to stay in for our own safety. All he knew was that the bus had stopped coming. And we’d stopped going to his grandparents’ house. And we’d stopped going to his “gymnastics” class every Friday when he didn’t have school. (Can it really be called gymnastics without scare quotes when a three-year-old is doing it? Perhaps. I shouldn’t disparage his hobbies.)
My son no longer slept easily at night. He screamed endlessly whenever he entered his crib. During the day, he stuck by my (or my husband’s) side like glue. Again my heart shattered when I realized he was doing this because, well… if his school, his grandparents, and his gym could all disappear in a day… why couldn’t his parents be next? He was scared we were going to poof away like everything else he loved, so he was sticking by us. (Incidentally, he has recovered largely from this, to my great relief.) I’m running too long here. Sorry.
So I found myself some days just standing in the middle of my kitchen feeling something I’d never felt before. I felt sad–and above that I felt a frustrating kind of impotence–that the President of the United States didn’t care about me. For the first time in my life, I wanted him to. Me. My family. Specifically. Not the “American people.” Me. But that wasn’t what broke my heart. What broke my heart was the certainty I felt, the clarity, that I wanted him to care about me… and he didn’t. He just didn’t. Doesn’t. I am fairly convinced that if I somehow ended up sitting across the table from him today, and I let him read this, or I told him the story out loud (surely crying like a baby), that he still wouldn’t care. Even more worryingly, I’m not even sure he would know that he should pretend to care.
I used to comfort myself with the knowledge that preschool would come back in the fall. I can’t anymore. I can’t because the president doesn’t care about me or my son. Or my second son, who will arrive this August. He doesn’t care about the 120,000+ dead or the millions infected. And his followers see wearing a mask as some sort of symbolic declaration of disloyalty. I suspect Trump himself sees wearing a mask as troubling symbolism. See, if he puts on a mask, it is a tacit admission that the virus did not go away as he said it would. That it was not a hoax or a conspiracy. He puts on a mask, and it becomes real. And it becomes, in some way, his fault.
Trump can’t have that.
So he doesn’t wear a mask. His followers don’t wear masks in solidarity. And maybe my little boy doesn’t get to go back to preschool in the fall. It’s not just a school for him either. He needs those speech and occupational therapy services. He needs to socialize. He needs to learn about others’ emotions and how to respect them. I don’t know what I’ll do if that is taken from him again.
I am aware of the hypocrisy. I am sitting here wishing others would be less selfish. I am wishing that others wouldn’t look at 120,000 dead and ask the question, “Yeah, but how does that affect me?” At the same time, this whole post has been about me. It has been about how I am affected. And let me assure you, I am aware how lucky I am. No one I know is sick. I have not lost anyone to this terrible virus. My heart goes out to those who have suffered from this. I would never assert that my preschool issues are more important or tragic than mass death. But I do want to assert that this pandemic affects everyone. It affects absolutely everyone. And to see what is happening in this country… Look, I’m going to categorize this and tag this with words like “politics.” A story about a global pandemic, and I’m going to label it political. My God, the one thing that shouldn’t ever have become a political issue was a global pandemic. Sickness is not partisan. Viruses don’t care who you voted for.
I love my son. Very much. When he was born, I found out that I have more capacity to love a single human being than I ever would have thought possible. I want the very best for him. I want him to have every opportunity to succeed in life [God I’m crying again], and I just… I don’t know what to say to him when he looks at me and asks for his bus.
I’ll end by saying this all happened before we became aware of the Russian bounties on American soldiers. Now, with that knowledge, I know that my story is even more insignificant. And yet I had to type it out. I had to type it out so… I don’t know. So someone out there would know how I feel. And maybe someone out there needs to read this. Maybe they’re going through something similar and they need to know they’re not alone. I’d love to know that I’m not alone. That’d be great. I’d also love for the bus to come back for my son, and for the president to care about me. Like so many others, I’m scared. And, yeah, I’m angry. But I really appreciate you reading this. I’ll be done now.
Maybe I’ll come back if I need to cathart again.