Probably like everyone else, I have my decent days under self-isolation and I have my difficult ones. Increasingly, they are complex, especially as the parental holidays approach…but every day now has some kind of asterisk, doesn’t it? Here’s my latest on Medium, (here’s a friend link!) which, like everything I seem to write, is about the Bronx but also about trying to navigate grief and humanity and showing up for ourselves in the midst of all of it.
Before the pandemic, my hometown had been changing dramatically, while also remaining very much anchored in what it has always been. The Bronx is always treated like a predominately Latinx and Black outpost of New York City. But it is actually the city, too. At last Census count, there were roughly 1.4 million people here.
Like Queens, the Bronx has been highlighted as an epicenter within an epicenter of the coronavirus because of the high rates of infection and death among people of color here. The deaths of people of color from coronavirus have been at rates 50 percent and higher here in the Bronx compared to Manhattan, with some of the wealthiest zip codes in the city.
Many stories have documented the health disparities that have been laid bare — showing that many black people at higher risk of being infected because of long-standing problems accessing affordable health care, distrust of healthcare providers and our likelihood of being among the ranks of essential workers.
I share in the collective anticipatory grief — grieving those you know will die — that now hangs over the city. It also feels hauntingly familiar. My father died by suicide a decade ago this month. As shocked and confused and angry as I was then, as long as it has taken for me to try to peel apart all of the emotions that still feel fresh in that grief, I know that to lose him now, when the way that we mourn is even shifting, would come with an additional stain and stigma.
I felt the most anticipatory grief for my mother, who died almost two years after my father in 2012. I watched her skin shrivel around her eyes and cheeks as Stage IV cervical cancer ate away at the fleshy, coy expressions she always made that taught me the finer ways to flirt, to help joy shine from one’s face.
In those months and days before she died, I felt a lot like I do now: I kept a daily vigil at the edge of the world I used to know with her at the center, whether I wanted her there or not. Mourning itself felt like a virus I needed to save others from.