Persons, places and things: ‘Day unto day takes up the story’

Barb Arland-Fye
Editor

Last week’s schedule included a trip to the dentist for a checkup, a visit to the hair salon for a professional haircut, and time at church spent in prayer. Six months ago, these activities would have been ordinary or routine. In this time of the coronavirus, even as the pandemic appears to be flattening, each of these activities merits an exclamation mark!

Arland-Fye

A friendly dental hygienist greeted me outside the clinic with a smize (smiling with her eyes). She wore protective clothing, a face mask and shield and escorted me into the building. I also wore a face mask, which of course had to be removed so she could clean my teeth. Like a welder about to begin work, she lowered her face shield to protect herself from whatever might escape into the air from my mouth.

At the hair salon, my stylist wore a protective smock and a face mask and helped me to adjust my face mask so it wouldn’t interfere with her hair snipping and styling. Just three of us were in the salon; she spaces appointments to avoid customers’ exposure to each other.

Our first visit to church for private prayer began with a greeting from Deacon Matt (Levy), standing in the gathering space next to a table with hand sanitizer and face masks for people who forget to bring their own. My husband Steve and I and our son Colin proceeded into the church following green arrows taped to the floor.  All of the pews were taped off, reminding me, fleetingly, of a taped-off crime scene. We sat on plastic chairs spaced six feet apart from each other at the foot of the sanctuary. We prayed the Liturgy of the Hours with Deacon Matt and four other people present. What a comfort to pray the universal prayer of the church in these uncertain, unfamiliar times!

When we finished praying, we followed more green arrows to exit the building. The deacon, who is very good with logistics, aimed to make our church visit as safe and easy as possible. Colin asked Deacon Matt when we might be able to return to Mass, a question that many have been wondering for several months. All depends on progress made in efforts to mitigate the pandemic.

The major challenge with this unpredictable time in our lives is conflicting signals. News reports last weekend showed face mask-wearing nurses and doctors protesting en masse against racism. These brave heroes risk their lives for victims of the coronavirus and now risk their lives for another group of victims. What do we take away from this message? 

People talk about the “new normal” as if it is something we can calibrate. We cannot. Today’s “new normal” may not be tomorrow’s “new normal.” In a conversation with my friend Jennifer, a parish nurse, she wondered how much more difficult it must be for people with disabilities.

Our son Colin is a case in point. At the beginning of the pandemic, he appeared bereft about the sudden and dramatic changes in his daily routine. Now, his responses are more subtle, and I continue to try to figure out how his autistic mind works.

During the pandemic, he spends several days a week at our house. As part of his routine at the Fye house, he spreads out atlases, history books and Bibles in the family room. In recent weeks, he has added a new ritual, clicking on a big, colorful image of the U.S. map on our desktop computer.

“Why,” I asked last weekend. “Because I need to see the interstates,” he responded. For the most part, the interstate system doesn’t change, and that must be comforting to him.

Steve and I continue to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, morning and evening prayer. On Monday morning, a couple of verses from Psalm 19A gave me a sense of a lasting new normal: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message.”

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye and arland fye@davenportdiocese.org)


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