Sunday, November 22, 2020

Edith

Back in April, I signed up for a pen pal program that matched volunteers with seniors at risk for isolation due to COVID lockdowns. For the first few weeks I wrote letters to introduce myself and my family before I began telling her stories, usually about completely banal things like how the garden was progressing or minor childhood misadventures. I took it as a given that these letters ought to offer some kind of normalcy, even if only as a brief respite from the general feeling of doom that hovered at the edges of the world.

Eventually I got a letter back. Edith, my pen pal, couldn't write as frequently as I did but she did make it a point to write when she could. I heard about her children and grandchildren as well as her own childhood. She shared her tips for fighting off pests, be they the bees eating our peaches or the whistle pig eating our tomatoes by the pound. 

There were many weeks that writing my letter to Edith was also an exercise in gratitude as I scoured the week for the good that it brought, even during the summer as my father's health declined in the weeks before his death. Edith's letters, too, were suffused with a certain optimism, even as she wrote about missing her children and grandchildren.

Yesterday, one of my letters was returned. Someone at Edith's assisted living facility had, rather bluntly, written "DECEASED - RETURN TO SENDER" across the back of the envelope. I found Edith's obituary online and learned more about my pen pal, some of which I knew, much of which I didn't. 

Although I'm not writing her a letter today, I still find myself looking for the good. I'm grateful I got to know Edith, however briefly. I'm grateful our paths got to cross. And I'm grateful that during this year, when so many people felt so far away, a stranger and I became friends.

People Watching

On Wednesday, I went out to meet up with a friend and do some writing. We met at the Athenaeum, a historic building in Indianapolis designed...