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Song of Life

November 26, 2020

The voices beyond the wall are young and full of today, nothing more: One has the ball, one wants the ball. Or maybe there is no ball; I can’t really hear what they’re saying, only their kid-tones through the yellow autumn air on Thanksgiving day, musical assurance that life goes on wherever it can.

Even I, a month into illness, five days from a hospital bed, feeling certain that my head will go on hovering like a helium balloon, have come out to play today, masked on the sidewalk, masked in the park, strolling past foliage gone impossibly gold, past a caterpillar finding its way across the sidewalk to reach a quiet place to reinvent itself, past a single curled red leaf collecting sunlight like cinnamon tea. 

My wife is with me, my son, my dog. Only the dog has remained unscathed by this viral month, and a case could be made that she is leading us, she is keeping us whole in the world, she is requiring us to remain part of all that is. The voices of the neighborhood kids follow us home. During the early months of the pandemic, my wife whispered a sing-song sentence, “The birds don’t know, they sing and sing.” The kids are like birds, but they know. They know and they sing anyway. 

Inspired, my son takes a tennis ball into the backyard, sets himself up before our old hoop, and commences an improvised version of basketball. He’s just turned 20; he’s home from college, part of the national effort to keep students away from the coronavirus. He got it anyway. After three weeks his lungs are once again growing strong with air, his muscles agitating for action. His gesture is open, the invitation is clear, Let’s play.

My mouth starts to say no, then I hear it say yes. Basketball leads to baseball catch, then to a specialized sort of catch where each of us are allowed to throw and catch only with our off-hands. My smart son tells me that this will foster new neural connections in my brain. Already the helium balloon is reconnecting with the body, already the world is calling me back, and wondering if I will accept the invitation. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

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