Gotta be a silver lining in there somewhere. But saturated as I am in this morning’s live coverage of Donald Trump’s inauguration, I’m having a great deal of trouble finding it. I am squinting with great intensity at this image. Not squinting of the fake variety, as if I were trying to manufacture a “this is my serious face” face. Looks to me like someone was practicing his best Clint Eastwood grimace in a full length mirror at the Blair House last night. Not me. I gratuitously popped a NyQuil gelatinous pill. What my wife and I euphemistically call “a vacation.” But I’m not sick, mind you. I just wanted a little extra help sleeping through the night.
This is a very hard day, there is just no way around it.
This is a hard day to be a friend. Today would feel a heavy one to me, even if someone’s hand other than Trump’s had found its way to holding that bible opposite Chief Justice Roberts’ hand. I learned last night that a dear college buddy of mine has recently been given a very challenging diagnosis. He and is family will wake up this morning and find themselves in the midst of a genuine fight. They are up for it. His wide circle of friends will be up to it, as well. This development makes what I’m seeing on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn feel both far less important and far more important.
This is a hard day to be a son. Lately, the first text message I see in the morning lets me know how many inches of snow fell during the night at a couple Tahoe ski resorts. This morning’s first text reported precipitation of a different physical state and salinity. My mom told me she found herself in tears dealing with the gravity of this morning’s proceedings. No doubt hundreds of thousands of gallons of tears will be shed this morning by millions of troubled souls. My mother’s tears, though, bring a particular sting. They stung when I was 10 years old, sitting helplessly on our living room couch as she cried in pain for hours on the evening after a root canal operation. And they sting now, as I sit in my own living room 3,000 miles away from her. I am that helpless 10 year-old once again.
This is a hard day to be a husband. I vividly recall seeing my wife stumble into our living room on the morning of 9/11, the two of us making eye contact for the first time since the Twin Towers were struck. Her grief was so raw, and my inability to say or do something in that moment to console her remains a painful memory. I couldn’t protect my family from the hatred that led to 9/11; that is a gargantuan challenge. But I couldn’t even assuage my wife’s acute feelings of loss standing in our pajamas all alone. Helpless. November 8 and 9 brought vaguely reminiscent emotions to the fore in our household. And this morning’s inauguration came storming into our bedroom on our flatscreen TV. Hilary’s face bore a thread of resemblance to her look on 9/11. I found myself useless again, unable to make her pain go away in that moment.
This is a hard day to be a dad. If witnessing NBC News’ coverage standing by myself, in a vacuum, I would give George Carlin’s 7 dirty words some serious currency. Probably invent some new ones. Switch up the order. Get really into it, spittle flying, some wildly gesticulating arms that tested the integrity of my rotator cuffs. But I’m not alone, of course. Instead, I have to bite back that bile, and solemnly bear witness to the TV screen with my 5th grader, sending him off to school with, “well, buddy, this is going to be a tough day.” I think I told him I love him before he went off to the bus stop. I hope I did. As for my 10th grader, I agreed to drive him to school today. Beyond distracted while listening to NPR’s coverage on our local radio, I’m not sure I properly observed any traffic rules. I do know that I managed somehow neither to betray my anger nor my angst. I didn’t have that luxury. Because attempting to fill the driver’s awkward silence, and stirred by the NPR commentary, Max announced, “He’s going to intern jews.” So I found myself suddenly and uncomfortably thrown in the position of being a Trump defender. And I tried to screw Max’s head on more tightly, before I dumped him into a sea of jelly-headed high schoolers. “The things Trump has said and done, and likely will say and do, are bad enough standing on their own. Let’s not help him out by exaggerating things. Try to keep it together today.” I probably should have added an “everything will be OK.” But I didn’t, on purpose, because I can’t control that particular outcome.
I can, however, control my love. How I dole it out. To whom, and when. And today I will make sure I leave no “I love you’s” unsaid or unwritten. I love you, buddy, hang in there, I’m here for you. I love you, mom, and I’m sorry this election didn’t turn out the way you hoped. I love you, Hilary, I share and honor your emotions. I love you, Max and Everett, and I hope you can find a way to rise above this nonsense as you make your way in this world.
Gotta be a silver lining in there somewhere, good people. There always is.
Thanks for reading.