One hundred and eleven days. That is how long Argentina has been on a lockdown since COVID-19 began wreaking havoc across continents. Being in quarantine for this long is like being on a slow-moving roller-coaster: within the context of a wider health crisis, the novelty of confinement is kind of amusing at the beginning. Being home, alone or with family, is a chance to enjoy some time off from your previous routine, reorganize the house and adjust your life to the new circumstances, all within four walls. Then, as the days go by, you realize you have managed to create for yourself an inescapable series of repetitive daily tasks, whose only function is to indicate the sluggish passage of time. Some days are better than others. Some days, spirits are high. My husband and I feel compelled to make the most out of our day by being as productive with housework and our tireless three year old daughter as possible. Unassumingly trying to keep alive the illusion of being productive. Other days, there is an unbearable sense of being. Exacerbated by the inescapable reality of a doomsday scenario: a global health crisis turned into a social and financial emergency with no end, and unsettled by all the news bombarding us right and left. It is hard to stay motivated. Life utterly transformed.
The lockdown has taught us how to slow down. How to put things into perspective, revisit the past and compile a brand-new New Year’s resolution for when we eventually return back our lives. During one of those morose days, I found myself dwelling in memories past. The unpredictability of this pandemic made me realize that life cannot really be planned. There is an old saying “if you want to make God laugh just tell him your plans”. As much as we try, this is the unspoken rule of life.
It was not so much nostalgia as much as the wondering of what my father would have thought of all this. Suddenly, I realize that he has missed twenty one years of family milestones, worries, frustrations and celebrations, moments and emotions he would have loved to be a part of. Somehow, the luxury of time provided by this pandemic has made me think of him fondly and miss him dearly, more than any other moment in my life. More so than when I got married or even gave birth. With life on pause, there is finally time to genuinely miss him for all these twenty one years growing up. To measure once again the emptiness he left behind when he, unwillingly, had to give up life, leave my mother, brother and me behind. The trauma of losing a parent at a tender age remained dormant while I was busy building a life. The night it struck me, I sobbed in bed as if I had just lost him, all over again.
He was 39 years old when he passed, after having fought cancer for two years. I think of the dreams and hopes he, as a young man and father, must have had while mentally planning for a future that was never meant to come for him. Like planting seeds in a garden he would never see, in a future that he would only be part of in spirit and in our hearts. He deserved more than anyone to see and enjoy his future. Today, at the age of 31 and a young mother myself, I see my daughter and wonder what is in hold for us. If my father, at my age, had only been aware he would have just eight years at his disposal, before reluctantly having to say goodbye.
In hopes that I will not have to part ways with my family too early in life, I muse over achievements I would like to accomplish within the next eight years. I know I just said life is unpredictable, but having a time-based plan and being flexible with it at the same time is, I guess, the art of adaptation.
We humans are so strong and frail at the same time. We venture and we strive to take over the world, to live a life worth sharing and glorifying over. And yet, we forget how ephemeral our physical presence is, and how nature and time can be volatile and unforgiving. Life was transformed for me twenty one years ago when my father passed away, and has been transformed a million times since. Only this time, the essence of this quarantine-induced mental transformation is, in my mind, to make the most of our temporary existence. Twenty one years later, I found myself grieving once again the early death of my young father. Losing a loved one grounds you no matter the amount of years gone by.
Though personal memories are limited, I know he was a man who enjoyed reading and writing; who was loyal, just, kind, and loving to everyone who knew him. That is not a bad legacy to leave behind.
The feeling of imminent insecurity accompanying this unfortunate pandemic forces you to take stock of past events that contributed to your present identity. It impels you carry out a sort of situational awareness on a more personal level. Perceive events, define their meaning and, somehow, their projection in the future.
As I approach, year after year, the age my father was when he died, and while I witness my daughter’s adorable innocence as she grows into a vibrant little girl, I can only hope that time will be kind enough to allow me to enjoy this treasure, carry on my father’s legacy, and tell his story.