Ordinary: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Everyday I get a report from my mother’s assisted living facility. Today I was informed that of the 118 residents, 19 have tested positive for Covid-19. More stringent rules have been put into place. The one on one visits with masks have been curtailed for some time. Visitors may no longer venture beyond the entry doors into the lobby. Residents not longer take their meals in the dining room but instead have breakfast, lunch and dinner delivered to their apartments where most, like my mother, eat their meals alone. I had hoped to gain entry to my mother’s apartment in order to decorate it for the holiday. Instead, I had to content myself with delivering a wreath for the door and a poinsettia for her table. At 93, my mother has an increasingly difficult time marking the passage of hours and days, much less holidays. I had hoped that decorating her apartment might help her to mark the season, but even that small gesture now seems impossible.
So, I do what I can.
I call her every evening and try to ascertain from her voice her physical and mental state. Some nights are better than others. I should add that like most mothers, mine is very adept at “faking good”. She’s often feeling, “just fine”. When asked about her day, she often tells me how busy she’s been, even as the nurses tell me about her isolation and lack of activity. In addition to the fear of Covid-19, the staff is battling depression, their own and that of the residents. Twice in the week I “visit” my mother. This usually consists of delivering a package to the door to be taken up to her room and then talking to my mother from the parking lot where she can see me from her second story window. While the delivered packages contain necessities, we also try to add bottles of wine, holiday napkins, magazines, etc. My mother is fully aware that things around her are not normal, but nonetheless she rises at 5:00 am, showers, gets dressed and puts on her makeup and jewelry only to face what must seem to be another day of fear and isolation.
She does the best that she can.
Like everyone else, I am experiencing Covid Fatigue. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, things are likely to get worse before they get better. I find myself, by turns, angry and depressed. A friend, who is an ER nurse, tells me of patients dying from Covid while still asserting that the virus is a hoax. The degree and amount of disinformation and denial which has been promulgated over the last several months borders on the criminal, as does our inept national response. That many churches were complicit in this program of disinformation and denial will, I believe, be remembered and that memory will redound to their shame. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and, it now seems likely, that they will be joined by tens of thousands more in the coming weeks. So, we are left with lockdowns of varied severity, mask wearing, social distancing, sanitizer and washing our hands.
All of us, it appears, must be content to do what we can.
If, like me, you are not a scientist, or an epidemiologist, or a supply chain guru, that which you can do appears to be very ordinary. Wearing a mask, while occasionally annoying, is not an extraordinary sacrifice; nor are social distancing or washing your hands. Yet, it also has occurred to me that the life that we desire to return to is one that is filled with ordinary. I want to see my mother again and give her a hug. I want to invite friends over for dinner. I want to meet people in person instead of on Zoom. There are so many ordinary moments that seem as though they have been taken from us… and we want them to return.
In this Advent season, perhaps we might do well to meditate on the season in a different way. Often we celebrate the extraordinary nature of the season. The parties, meals and gatherings are extraordinary. The decorations, the lights, the Christmas trees (whether in Rockefeller Plaza or in our own living rooms) are extraordinary and beautiful. Yet with so much of this constrained in this time of Covid, perhaps we should turn our gaze to the ordinary. While angels may sing above the shepherds, a very ordinary scene is set before us in Bethlehem. A man and a woman have made a journey to their hometown. The young woman is in the ninth month of her pregnancy. She gives birth in a stable as there is no room in the inn. The babe is wrapped in swaddling clothes and is placed in a manger. No one else is there. The shepherds have yet to arrive and the Magi are still distant as they follow the light of a star. Yet, it is in the very ordinary nature of this event that the extraordinary revelation of the Incarnation takes place.
So, while we wait during this Advent season, maybe it is enough for us to merely do what we can. Maybe this year we simply embrace the ordinary and realize how extraordinary it is…
“That many churches were complicit in this program of disinformation and denial will, I believe, be remembered and that memory will redound to their shame.“
Like the Michigan pastor who, last month, encouraged his flock to contract COVID.
There are examples all over the country… but we can be thankful for those who have acted responsibly.
Ordinarily, I struggle with a seasonally related depression. Fortunately, my students have always been a source of energy & enthusiasm, a tonic for my malaise. Ordinarily. This year they are grey boxes with names and nicknames & rarely interact vocally. My eldest son, who took his life nearly five years ago (where has the time slipped?) was born December 8th, 1984 and we will gather, his family, and mark his birthday again tomorrow evening. Even reading through the first part of your essay today took a measure of willpower because of the C-19 content–though I am sympathetic to your mother, your circumstances, and pray for strength and wisdom–it was all I could do to keep going. Our cafe is shuttered and catering has but a dim pulse. I am growing in empathy for those facing unemployment, loss of businesses, eviction, depression, and hunger. I suppose empathy is always a positive. I have grown in my level of disdain for pat, simplistic answers–throwaway factoids or quotes of scripture intended to encourage but which often illicit shame instead–but your holding up the simplicity and beauty of incarnation is the balm of Gilead for me today.
I have Covid fatigue and political fatigue and have no strength to fight either or my own seasonal depression.
My heart isn’t working well metaphorically or literally.
I was going to tell fil that I’m praying for him…but not in the way we usually say that.
My prayer is that fil find the strength to remain the person I know…when everything around us is conspiring to make us all less than we desire to be.
Well said, Duane…thank you as always.
Many thanks… It does feel like a dark time, but the manger in Bethlehem still gives us hope despite the darkness.
Stay strong… metaphorically and literally…
The double-minded Xenia is unstable in all her ways.
I have changed my mind about COVID so many times since March. At first, when I saw Wuhan citizens being welded into their apartments, I thought it was The Plague. Now I know at least a dozen people, including family members, who contracted it and claim it was no big deal. Yet now I read it’s the leading cause of death in the US. People say it’s only deadly if you are elderly. I am *almost* elderly, and I don’t want to catch it. As Gibbs once said on NCIS when someone asked “Who wants to live to be 90” he replied “Someone who is 89.” The fact lost on may people is that older people cherish their lives just as much as they do.
Anyway, the conservative people in Ortholandia are rather strident that COVID is no big whoop and is part of an insidious plot for the Dems to take over the world. The liberals in Ortholandia are making changes to Ortho-Tradition and practices that are disturbing. Our county is having a COVID surge so we’ve decided to stay home from church for the time-being, after having attended for a month or so. We’re doing Reader Services at home rather than watching the Liturgy on computer. We find this much preferable to watching the Liturgy.
So no Christmas services for us. One daughter is coming up from Los Angeles and we’ll open presents and it will be just like Christmas mornings before we became Orthodox.
I did most of my Christmas shopping by Amazon, which was efficient but not especially satisfying. I don’t feel like putting up most of our Christmas decorations, but just the few that seem to be the most humble and childlike. We pick up our groceries from Walmart and take the pup for walks. I practice my dead language skills and read fat books. I should probably get to work on preparing the garden for winter… It’s odd. When you have all the time in the world you don’t seem very motivated to use it to get stuff done. At least, that’s me.
I really, REALLY wish Trump would just shut up and go away. I have reached the point where I am GLAD Biden won.
The fall semester ended well and we students have formed a study group so we can continue translating Old Norse poetry. Next semester is Gothic I (the language, not the fashion trend) and after that it is thesis time. I missed the Medieval Congress gathering in Kalamazoo last May but they are having it online this year and I am tickled pink about it.
So that’s my ordinary life these days, which is pretty much a yawner. But I have my husband and my wonderful, attentive family so I have no complaints. (And a houseful of smallish animals.)
May the Lord have mercy on Filbert and his family.
“To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.”
John Henry Cardinal Newman
Fil is suffering, and I’m struggling because I don’t want to give him a standard saying that he will find even more hurtful right now.
Fil, I care. That’s all I know to say right now, but I do care, as do many others.
My life is pretty crazy, but nothing too extreme. Had a bit of a family crisis this summer, but it seems we’ve survived and will move on. My biggest complaint right now is that I am always uncomfortable. I don’t have a time or place where I am refilled, then go back out into the hectic world. Everything is just constant edge.
That being said, to this point this season has been just that for me – uncomfortable, but not tragic. I still have a job, a ministry, a family, and my health. Most of the people around me can’t say that. My heart goes out to them.
Duane, thank you for the article. Both my wife and I have been inspired by your words, and, reminded of just how precious is the ordinary.
Your mom sounds like an amazing person. Just to do all her routines every day, right now.
I’m a lot younger and I don’t do what she does every day!
Many thanks… Yes, what we once took for granted has become very precious…
I’ve been astounded at my mother’s resilience. When you take the dislocation and then add to it that she has lost friends as well, I’m not sure how she manages to do so well. Some lessons for us all…
Duane what I find most interesting is that in 2019 some 2.8 million Americans died yet so far in 2020 even with Covid we are only at
That, of course, is false. Here are the figures of excess deaths.
Don’t you just love the subtleties of the gotcha scholars?
The factual basis of any of these false claims is easy to ascertain. I have concluded, however, that people such as this really do not want facts… they prefer the lie. (2Thess. 2:11)
I think you owe Angel an apology!
For a guy who writes and champions literacy you seem to not be able to read the very link(s) you posted.
From your link:
2018 CDC Death Stats:
Death rate 867.8 per 100,000
Life Expectancy 78.7
As of December 11, 2020 from the CDC (your links)
Total deaths (all including COVID) 2,728,104
Death Rate 824.2 per 100,000.
COVID blamed deaths 266,548 (included in the 2.7 mill)
Stats are easy to misinterpret and apply in the manner desired to make the point.
“Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred from late January through October 3, 2020, with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to COVID-19.”
MM, I await for you to prove yourself either civil or literate… I’m not hopeful.
As this was raised, this is a fact check from Reuters based upon CDC reports…