On Friday evening, we gathered with some friends in their backyard. This was the first time we had done so since March. Everyone wore masks, we were spaced apart when eating, and we stayed outside.
The kids ran around in the giant backyard like there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. But I constantly had my eye on them, calling my kids over to adjust their masks if they seemed to slip down below their nose. After roasting a S’more, they would have to back up away from the group to eat.
The adults sat around talking, louder than usual so we could hear each other through the muffle of the mask. As the evening grew chillier and we began to think about heading home, I happened to look down at my phone. I had a flurry of text messages, from several different people.
RBG has died.
I exclaimed the words out loud to the group, followed by “Omg, no!” I quickly brought up CNN on my phone to confirm that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had indeed passed away.
As we drove home, I tried to explain to my kids the magnitude of losing such a trailblazing icon. I have read the book Notorious RBG and have the book I Dissent for kids. But for some reason, it was very hard for me to articulate her accomplishments in that moment and I knew that I hadn’t done her justice.
After the kids went to bed, I read the text messages that had continued to arrive. “I am so sad.” “I am crying.” Yet, I had not shed a single tear. I replied that I thought the news was still sinking in for me.
I took a bath, something that often allows tears to flow freely for me. Still nothing. But it allowed me time to process what I was feeling. Or not feeling.
I think 2020 has sucked me dry. I cannot feel anymore, not in the way that I normally do. I am numb.
I remember a time after Iris died that I felt like this. I had spent months grieving Nelle and then losing Iris… after a few weeks, I couldn’t feel anymore. I couldn’t cry anymore. I had no energy left. Now, more than six months into this pandemic, I feel the same way.
All of my energy has been expended in keeping my family safe. In the early days, it was constantly processing information. Fighting anger and frustration at the cavalier way so many people approach safety and social distancing. Fear even when gathering with friends, something that would normally bring me joy. I am exhausted.
I read something horrific on the news and I can only hold onto it for a minute before I have to let it go, for my own mental health. And there is still no end in sight.
And now – I hear something that in Beforetimes would have made me incredibly sad, and I cannot feel sadness.
By morning, that perspective on being numb was intermingled with another thought: RBG lived a full life, in the fullest definition of full life. The greatest tribute to her will be how we carry forward. And perhaps that is also why I did not cry: because while the timing shocked me, her death was not unexpected. She has earned her rest.
I gave my kids homework: to read the book I Dissent before any screen time that day, and then to give me at least one fact that they learned about RBG. While I may still lack the emotions that normally accompany my personality, I have enough awareness to go through the mechanics of supporting my family. Support, here, means honoring the legacy of RBG in our home.