One family’s corona story
A potential infection exposes our deepest desires
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"That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35).
A woman’s brother came for a four-day visit after several years. We know it was several years because he hadn’t seen the new kitchen floor tiling job, and remarked on it.
The day of his arrival the woman bought fixings for cheesesteaks but chose not to have a hoagie at dinnertime with the rest of the family—brother, husband, and father. While serving, she fleetingly wondered to herself why the thought of chipped steak with extra sharp provolone didn’t appeal to her at the moment.
That night the woman retired early, excusing herself with unaccustomed fatigue, and grateful that her husband could stay up to be hospitable. In subsequent hours she had a fever, a mere touch of chills, and took two extra-strength painkillers for a headache.
The woman felt fine in the morning but casually mentioned the symptoms to the adult son who stopped in to pay his respects to his uncle. She did that some moments after giving him a reflexive hug at the front door—not thinking. In mothers’ logic, “stranger germs” are bad but “family germs” can’t hurt. A quorum decided she should get tested for the virus, which was done while the brother hung out with aged father (the main purpose for the visit). Test results TBA in two to four days.
The elephant in the room every day of the visit was the test results.
Enter the two millennial sons. Fastidious as Trappist monks when it comes to the pandemic protocols, they were angry to find their mother had gone out to an open-air restaurant with granddad in tow, even after she had felt symptoms. Never having got the pandemic rules down pat, the benighted woman lamely protested that she had been visited by only a couple of unpleasantries on the corona checklist, and that sunlight and fresh air are virus nemeses.
On Day 2 of the visit the brother checked in with his wife in North Carolina, and they talked. She was very concerned about her sister-in-law’s possible corona illness because they have children and grandchildren coming to North Carolina from Colorado in mid-July, and now this! She told her husband he shouldn’t even be in the same house with the woman. Which in hindsight might have been the smartest early cost-benefit decision.
The elephant in the room every day of the visit was the test results, which were so annoyingly slow in coming, and upon which the good-naturedness of all parties hinged.
During that limbo period the two sons snatched their grandfather away to safety at their houses till the holy grail of CVS conferring “clean” or “unclean” status would turn up in the emails. They expressed annoyance at likely having to forfeit long-anticipated vacation plans. The no-longer-feverish-but-occasionally-headachy woman had a neighbor (whose flower bed she had weeded a week earlier) who was freaked out too. All of which unexpected reactions made the woman at the center of the COVID storm start to feel her good standing in the family and the human race was predicated on her good health.
What comes to light in the unsavory tale, if one is sensitive to it, is that everybody is running into everybody else’s deepest desire of the heart, a desire in each that till this incident has been unsuspected by each; that has lain dormant under an alarmingly fragile amicableness; a desire that is now being threatened. People will fight fiercely to safeguard that desire. In case you don’t know, a secret desire talks like this, if it had words: “Unless I have x, I cannot be happy.”
At first all this made the woman pray fervently for quicker test results, so that everyone would be happy again, and friendly again, and could un-cancel their cancellations, and so that the woman’s brother and sister-in-law could have their Colorado visit.
She still prays that but with a little less certainty that getting “back to normal” is the most desirable outcome. If normal was so great, then why did God just shake it up? Could it be He has a better work in mind?
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