Here Comes the Sun

Posted by mwallach on November 14, 2012 in New To You |

Dear That’s Life,
You know life has changed when my toddler tells her Morah (teacher) that I did not bring her to school that morning because, “[Mommy] is on line for gas” – and that is a completely acceptable answer, even to my daughter.

It has been almost four weeks since I last posted, with the last two locked in a permanent state of blur. Like the power source to my home, life seems to have stopped and restarted a bunch of times since Sandy came to town. When I stop feeling the need to sleep with a flashlight next to my bed or light a yahrzeit candle before shabbos in case the power goes out again, then I may actually believe we are finally out of the woods. Until then, the oodles of canned food we stocked our cabinets with and the jugs of water my husband filled two weeks ago lest we need them to flush the toilets will stay right where they are, thank you very much.

Sandy took its toll in many ways. As if it was my kryptonite, I was rendered powerless and my greatest strength, the ability to find humor in absolutely everything, was gone. Nothing was funny. I could not laugh. What could be funny about people losing their homes? Their possessions? About neighborhoods being wiped out? There is no silver lining in any of those scenarios nor should there be. They are simply awful. So for days, I made not one joke, and I did not find other people’s jokes to be funny either. This was not a time to kid, but rather a time of mourning. Fourteen days later, utilities are coming back but the pain is still here, and will be remain.

I met two women the other day, one from Oceanside and one from Long Beach. For an unseasonably warm day, the woman from Oceanside was wearing too many layers. Then she explained that she still had no heat in her home and was using the frozen yogurt shop we were in to warm up. Ironic, I thought, but not funny. She ate while her phone and laptop charged on the bench beside her.

The other woman commented that portable toilets had just been set up on her block. With no power and no utilities either in her Long Beach home or in the homes around hers, the town was taking desperate measures. Frustration and sadness in her voice, she wondered where the authorities were and when life was going to get better. And it did not matter that she was venting to anyone who would listen, and to no one she had ever met before. Sometimes, it feels better just to talk and to feel like you are being heard.

In an attempt to get back to myself, I posted a few funny one-liners on Facebook. It still felt strange. Even though power had been restored in my home after ten days of darkness, it was merely an inconvenience compared to the suffering of others. I certainly had nothing to complain about. And in deference to them and the pain in our community, I just could not joke around. Not yet.

Like many others, I found refuge in various coffee houses as I tried to do some work and charge various electronics. Finally able to commute into Manhattan, I went to my favorite Starbucks in Penn Station, figuring I would do some work there before heading off to a meeting. Unfortunately, I was not the only person with that idea as every seat and small table were taken. I then became that person who lurks in a parking lot waiting for a spot to open up.

I was a hoverer, standing in the corner, eyeing fellow customers who might be leaving. I then noticed one table that was not actually occupied. The two gentleman on either side of it were just taking up too much space. Once the man on the left collected his bag, I felt comfortable asking the other gentleman – someone I had never seen in my life – if he’d move over a bit so I could sit down. His response was not what I had expected.

“Well, it’s about time you showed up!” he said, in reference to my request, moving over to give me more room. “I’ve been saving this seat for you!” I could not help but crack up, appreciating the moment and needing a good laugh. “You didn’t write, you didn’t call…” he continued, a little twinkle in his eye. I thanked him for his clairvoyance, since he “knew” to expect me. And with that, I sat down next to this complete stranger and felt completely at ease.

A few minutes later, we exchanged some pleasantries as the gentleman packed his bags to go. Like it had been planned, a musician performing in the corridor for the throngs of commuters passing by began playing The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” as the man walked out of the store. Within seconds, he disappeared into the steady flow of people rushing by.

And that is when it occurred to me that, yes: the sun is coming and New Yorkers are resilient. It will take time, and some people will not recover for a while, but we have seen tragedy before and have bounced back. Some things will never be funny – but that does not mean we do not get to laugh again. I need only look at the Manhattan skyline to know that.

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