The Loss of the Expected, Our Unpredictable Lives

Sure, we all know that men plan and God laughs. Every time I booked an airline or hotel reservation or decided what to make for dinner, there was inherent knowledge that it might not happen. All kinds of things could change my plans. I could get too sick to fly…..or worse. Or, maybe someone would invite us over to dinner and I’d chuck the chuck. Anything from the benign to the tragic could interfere. And sometimes that’s exactly what happened.

In 1960 I was planning my wedding, impervious to life’s real challenges. The wedding was set for early June and, just three weeks earlier my grandfather suddenly died. He was a youngish man, 77, three years younger than I am right now, who lived with us and loved us as we loved him. He was a major player in our family’s lives. I remember so well that his suit for the wedding, navy blue, his holiday shul suit, was hanging on the door of his closet, cleaned and pressed, protected by plastic, ready to go. Ready to wear. And then, without warning, he was gone in the most permanent way. Dead. We were distraught.

The officiating rabbi would not let us cancel the wedding, which took place on schedule. But I, a 20 year old kid, still in college, learned a lesson in life. We don’t always get what we expect. Anyway, for sure I was luckier than another family I knew where the groom’s father died during his son’s wedding reception. Never sick. Just dead. The French say, c’est la vie. Life is unpredictable.

The point is that bad things happen. And we all know that, or have learned it merely by living our lives. Shocking and terrible things happen. Think 9/11. Think Shoah. Think wars and famines and depressions and plane crashes and earthquakes. Think tsunamis. Think Trump becoming president of the United States. For all of these catastrophes we garner our resolve and deal with ameliorating the crises, while life goes on, for most, more or less normally. This is the truth. We respond, depending on our closeness to the event. If we are not in the direct line of the tragedy we may not forget it but we carry on.

Until corona! The impact of corona is that we have lost the expected entirely. There is just nothing we can count on any more. There is nothing we can plan for. We need coping strategies for the most trivial parts of our lives like buying toilet paper. Or flour. Or going to the supermarket. I haven’t driven my car in almost three months. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March.

The hypochondriacs are now afraid to visit their doctors. A virtual doctor can’t palpate your lump via his telephone. But visiting his/her office is fraught with terror. And when I see my unrenewable prescriptions running low I wonder and worry whether my doctor will renew my blood pressure med without an examination.

What about buying season’s tickets for a concert series or theater? Sports events? Nope. Not reliably. After all, even with things, possibly, opening up a bit, who wants to sit next to strangers in a stadium or concert hall? Will I ever thrill to the crash of the cymbals as the orchestra reaches its crescendo? Will I ever enjoy live theater?

Do you want to travel? Is there anyone on this earth who hasn’t yet seen the video a few days ago of the fully packed airplane, with nary an empty seat. It happened to be a United flight, United Airlines where my husband and I have million miler status, but it could have been any of the other companies, many on the verge of bankruptcy. In the airlines’ desperation they are filling smaller planes to capacity. Imagine the air quality in those 2 x 2 lavs. Maybe they’re even smaller. I never measured. They are claustrophobic even without all those teeny tiny carona floating around just waiting for the next hapless victims to inhale them. They can enter your mouth without a moment’s waste and multiply with astonishing haste.

And then there’s El Al. How I worry about El Al. The government of Israel must bail out El Al. We Israelis need the security of knowing that El Al is there when all of the others desert us.

So what’s the point? The word limbo comes to mind. Our lives are emphatically in limbo. If we’re foolish enough to make plans, we’re really pretty foolish. If we ignore the epidemiologists and take the advice of the politicians, many of whom deserve condemnation for their ineptitude, we are even more foolish. What we can do is probably gain weight from too much food focus and insufficient exercise, cook more than ever before, divert with Netflix and, via Zoom, pray up a storm that there will ultimately be an end and we’ll be there for it.

And so, one thing we can really expect is that it won’t be easy or soon. It won’t!

About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of two. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.
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