“It is said that Wisdom lies in not seeing things, but seeing through things.” – Manly P. Hall
“I’m not going to worry about it.” My 23-year-old daughter is sitting across the kitchen counter from me, her eyes resolute with certainty. She’s been questioning, like all of us, the observational purgatory we find ourselves trekking through. The conjecture of why this is happening, when and how it will end, and what we as a family, community, country and culture will look like when it does.
Along with many other Gen Zers, she’s lived with us since graduating from college ten months ago, a celebration that is now over in a practical sense for current seniors.
My daughter, like innumerable of the world’s young adults, has been dislocated from forging new beginnings, the structure of their lives suppressed and replaced with more time spent with parents who themselves can’t redress the situation or predict what’s coming next.
“I don’t mean I don’t care,” she says. “I am informed—but I can only take so much in, internally, because it wrecks my emotional head space.”
My daughter was not even double-digit-years-old when she first cried at the thought of others hurting or having less than she did. She once asked me what the point of money is. Why can’t everybody just do what they are good at and share with one another, she said.
That girl understood actual Marxism long before I ever had a chance to introduce her to the 80’s heartbreak songs I listened to on repeat sung by the other Marx. Now we are all just trying to “Hold on to the Nights…” And, the memories.
She took her deep-seated, intrinsic concern for society, along with her degree in psychology and is working at a mental health services hospital. She feels distress in the air, and not just oxygen that may be contaminated with COVID-19 droplets. She helps people who are sick, and she understands profoundly that their suffering is not unique. My girl has known this, seemingly, since the time she was old enough to think for herself and certainly before I thought to tell her myself. I am simply a spectator, watching as my adult child reconciles the world, in the manner she chooses to see and navigate it.
It used to be that I eased her burdens and worries; now she eases mine by not having the same ones.
I tell my 23-year-old that this too shall pass, that I understand her pertinacious demeanor and respect it. I remind her how blessed we are. To have necessities. To be together. To live together during such a time as this.
I tell her I’ve been thinking a lot about my formative years. How when I was trying to reconcile the world, I’d watch three generations of our small but close-knit family play Penny poker and Blackjack, drink warm beer out of 8 ounce glasses, and rough-house in my grandparent’s cramped living room, taking care not to overturn the boxy television set that was only ever turned on for background noise, as if there wasn’t enough already.
My family comes from Appalachia (and Italy before that). My grandparents spent their lives in an itty-bitty house in a small factory town in northeast Ohio, walking the same sidewalks, sitting on the same porch stoops and aluminum gliders. Their kids—my parents—were only a few houses down. They cooked Sunday dinners replete with ravioli, meatballs, bread, pizzelles and spumoni. They joked and hand-washed the dishes while the coffee percolated. They griped and groused and gossiped and generally found contentment in the simplest of lives, one exigently small because of poverty and lack of opportunity, but perfectly big because of togetherness and love.
Small and scanty as it was, that life held security. Winsomeness.
And I realize now, that in my own life—stuffed into a restricted routine; taking long walks, painting, playing games, yelling, “UNO!”, teaching my daughter to make overnight oats and wash hand-wash only clothes—along with that winsomeness lives profound meaning that has always existed generationally.
We will need to find our purpose and new normals in the everyday things, I tell my daughter. We will need to go through this to get out of this. We will need to get back to our roots.
“Yep,” my daughter responds, appeasing and affirming with one fell swoop facial expression.
I watch her from across the kitchen counter, ever the same, calm and loving, carefree and inquisitive, like she was when she was a child.
Her smile catches my peripheral. As if to say, wisely sharing experiences is what indeed will see us through.