Stop, Thief!!!

So there I am, in the shower, which I consider a place of refuge because No Tech, and No Stress (I know how to take a shower), and into my head gallops a little ditty called Erlkönig or Elf King. Goethe wrote the poem based on folklore; Franz Schubert turned it into a lied (art song), and my mother learned to play a piano version when she was a girl.

It’s spooky music, all minor and full of tremolo, and a spooky tale. A father is riding through a stormy night, inclement weather bearing down, a sick child in his arms. The child–maybe delirious?–sees the Elf King, who tempts the boy to join him in fairyland. The father reassures his son. It’s just the shadows, it’s just the whisper of dry leaves, it’s just the swaying of the willows in the darkness… and all the while, the music is growing faster, modulating up a half step, becoming louder.

Old Schubert knew his stuff. The Elf King claims he’ll snatch the child by force, though the father has arrived at safety at last. But too late! Dad finds to his horror that the child in his arms is dead. In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

I get to that part, and I just start crying. Why must das Kind be tot? That’s an awful song. Who writes this crap? Half a million Kinder are tot from this stupid virus, and I hate that. And why did this song accost me in the shower when I haven’t thought of it for years?

Then I’m dreaming–I don’t dream much–and the gist of the story is, an autistic child cannot speak until the music starts, and then the lyrics pour forth. What is going on here? Crying in the shower, dreaming? Grace Ann? Is this birthday business? Signs of spring? A new book germinating? Inquiring minds are flummoxed.

Then I’m scrolling through social media, and I see somebody has posted a St. Patrick’s Day version of their church choir doing a virtual rendition of Be Thou My Vision, which–irrespective of theology–is a great old hymn. I sing along, scaring the cats.

Speaking of cats, I’m out on the front porch, feeding the Vandal horde their daily ration of wet food. When Sunny Gets Blue pops into my head, an old torch song I haven’t heard since college. I serenade the cats, and again I’m curious: Where is this coming from? Yeah, I have a music history degree, but that thing is 40 years old…

And then I think: I got my vaccination. I got the one and done vaccination, and this rubbishing, stupid, idiot, detestable pandemic stole my music, and I didn’t even notice. It’s normal for me to cry to sad music in the shower. It’s normal for me to dream music. It’s normal for me to sing–hymns, torch songs, pop tunes. I’m not any good, but I love music.

And I have not sung, danced to, or dreamed music for the past year. Oh, that is an abomination against nature that is. That is thievery of the worst sort, because I did not realize my heart’s pocket had been picked. For shame, damned virus. For shame upon you.

What has the pandemic stolen from you? Are you seeing any signs of hope? To three commenters, I’ll send an e-ARC of Shelter and Storm.

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41 comments on “Stop, Thief!!!

  1. 1
    Elizabeth Cecconi says:

    This is very interesting to me. The virus stole my music as well. I first became aware of it at Christmas. Without my daily commute, I did not get my daily dose of Christmas songs. I decorated, but still didn’t feel quite the Christmas thing. I watched Christmas movies, but something was still missing. I can’t work with anything going on in the background, no music, no TV, no conversation. I like complete quiet when I work. I was the same way in college, couldn’t study worth a darn if there was anything going on around me. About three days before Christmas I realized I was missing the music. I dropped everything and grabbed my phone and hit the Christmas playlist. Then I cried because all that the virus was stealing from me became that much more real. No family gatherings, no holiday parties, no cookie exchange, no gift exchange, no Christmas morning mass in my beautiful old church.

    The virus has taken so much, but thank God, I didn’t lose anyone. Yesterday I saw my mother, fully vaccinated, for the first time in 4 months. We only live 30 minutes apart but I was staunch in my belief I could not be part of the problem, so unless there was an emergency, I was staying put in my house. We hugged and held each other close and cried for joy. It was the dawn after a long dark year, I hope.

    • 1.1

      Curious is a good word. I realize only now–when I too can see daylight at the end of the tunnel–how I unconsciously constricted my emotional bandwidth by avoiding the music. Lordy, this has been a tough year, but hats off to you and mom for the staying the honorable course.

  2. 2
    Teenie Marie says:

    Me three! Yep the Pandemic stole my music too. And it’s how I make money, so for over a year, no pennies.

    No church gigs, no conducting gigs, no voice lessons or recitals and more….I don’t feel like myself, that’s for sure.

    But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me. At our Zoom get together last Tuesday, I learned many of my singers have had at least one of their jabs, were scheduled (I’m registered)and our state will be opening up eligibility to everyone over 16 in mid-April. So sometime this summer we could be singing together and that’s great.

    I could hear the Schubert in my head as I read about your shower experience and wept a bit too, Grace. It’s such a sad and beautiful piece of music and can’t remember the last time I heard it. I do sing Schubert Lieder but this is not appropriate for my voice…..I do love it. 🙂

  3. 3
    Teresa says:

    The pandemic has stolen my already small circle of friends and almost all of my comforting touch. I never can get enough hugs and now I feel like I am beyond starved for affection. It’s so bad that my 21 year old son, who normally does not like to be touched, has taken to squeezing me just so I won’t feel so lost

    • 3.1

      Ain’t it the trufe. I’m always on the look out for a good massage therapist, just because I live without tactile comfort. I suspect this is why so many women were upset that the hair salons had to close. It was one place to get nurturing touch.

      And I too can’t wait to hug my friends and family. To see each other and NOT hug is so weird.

  4. 4
    Brenda U K says:

    My spark,my enthusiasm,my ridiculousness,my sense of fun,my love of being with folk and enjoying life,doing simple things like taking a paddle in the sea and sharing a coffee after with friends who think your crazy soaking your feet in the cold North Sea at my age.Around the world I see anger and frustration and it makes me sad,we seem to be on a short fuse,we must all calm down and stick it out.I may have lost my spark but it will return one day.We will have learned a lot when we look back and hopefully be better people.

    • 4.1

      I hope you’re right, Brenda. I hope one thing we learned here in the US is that many of us CAN SO work from home rather than jump in our cars every morning to schlep downtown. We learned that school is so much more than just the three R’s. We learned that we’re not very good at pulling together, and that letting social media propagate any old lie has consequences.
      But what will we do with that learning? Fingers crossed…

  5. 5
    Make Kay says:

    The pandemic has stolen friendships. Friendships that were not strong enough to last through just Zoom calls while there was a lack of dinners together. What a bummer.

    • 5.1

      Maybe they can revive. I know my bonds with most of my writin’ buddies have grown very attenuated. We went from griping about writing to griping about life in lockdown to not having much to say.
      I’m hopeful that we can regroup, process our pandemic trauma, and move ahead with a sense of shared hardships overcome. Me and my optimism…

  6. 6
    Beth Lisk says:

    So much gone for me, too. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant in over a year. I haven’t been to in-person church (just watching online) in a year. I haven’t seen a lot of family in a year. I haven’t felt like doing a lot of decorating for all the different holidays (but I did some any way).

    And I haven’t felt like singing in a year. I have recorded myself singing a few solos for church’s online worship, but it is not the same as singing in fellowship. My Sweet Adelines Chorus hasn’t had regular rehearsals in a year, much less gone to the yearly competition (last March or this March). We have had Zoom rehearsals and a few outside gatherings last summer where we sang briefly with masks on in a big circle, but you can’t sing together on Zoom and the fear takes away energy and freedom in-person. I don’t feel like working on music. I miss the friendships and hugs, but I don’t miss the 45 minute drive to rehearsals. After some major surgery and recovery the past 2 months, I don’t know when I will be able to go to in-person rehearsals now that they have begun. I don’t know if I am up to it physically or mentally. But then I think about the times in the past when I haven’t felt like going, when I did go, and when I am glad I went because I got to see my friends and feel the music moving through my body. Maybe I will be able to go back sometime. Maybe I will go and be glad I did. I am still recovering.

    • 6.1

      Aw, Beth. It is not fair that you have to deal with the pandemic AND surgery. That’s a big double-whammy. Singing is so good for us, I hope you do get back to it in some form, whether it’s with your group or more solos, but LIVE. Better days ahead, and more good singing!

  7. 7
    Tina Armato says:

    The pandemic has stolen my ability to invite friends over for dinner. I love to cook and nothing makes me happier than having 15 or 20 people around my dinner table, enjoying the meal I have created. I’m also Italian, so feeding people is in my genes! In normal times we would have several large parties (30 or so guests) a year, usually one in the summer around the pool and one near Christmas, then smaller gatherings (some family, some friends) every few weeks throughout the year. Pre-Covid, we even had a “make your own pizza” cocktail party with 20 friends! I miss seeing all those people, making all those delicious meals, enjoying all the camaraderie and good cheer. To celebrate, since we and many of our friends are now fully vaccinated, we are planning numerous (small) “Post Vaccine Celebrations” with individual couples who are likewise, fully vaccinated. Hope springs eternal…

    • 7.1

      We won’t take the get togethers, the Sunday services, the casual lunches with friends, the anything for granted for a long time. My mom used to attribute her compulsion to cook for a gang to “the Potato Famine,” but I’m sure the Depression had a lot to do with it. Camaraderie was a tonic in her girlhood, and she was good at re-creating it around food and friends.

  8. 8
    Beth says:

    It stole proper medical care. I couldn’t get isopropyl alcohol to make freezer slushees to recover from my stem cell, so a friend donated bottles of vodka to mix the needed ice packs.

    I had to wear a mask for my cataract surgery.

    I had difficulties getting rides to the surgeon’s office after my surgery when pressure spikes literally blinded me & I required manual pressure relief + jaunts to the pharmacies for constant med changes.

    I had to have vascular procedures done outpatient in my surgeon’s office when the hospitals were overwhelmed with plague patients, but waiting would have consequences, too.

    Some of my common much-needed medicines were impossible to refill at one point because corporate idiots outsourced everything to the cheapest foreign source rather than considering an interruption in the supply chain & its consequences. My doctor’s staff literally tracked down drug reps to get multiple sample bottles to see me through until the pharmacies could get their shipments. Until you’ve been blinded to where all you can make out are light, dark, and some motion for a few days, you don’t know what terror is.

    I’ve had to plan grocery runs for highly inconvenient, hard to navigate pre-dawn “safe times” only to find half of what I needed was rationed or unavailable because of the poor decisions of idiots. 4 rolls of TP aren’t gonna cut it for a woman recovering from an orthopedic procedure that makes driving physically impossible for 6 weeks. Thank God for the mercies of everyone from my lawn spray people who brought corporate TP to my doorstep, to my bestie who drove nearly an hour to see I had food, meds, & literally someone to hold me up when my leg wouldn’t support me to the necessary.

    I haven’t had a hug in months because everyone I know is in quarantine from someone in their family either exposed to a confirmed patient or positive test results. My last human touch was my mammogram. Before that my doctor’s office. Everyone wearing gloves. I miss skin privileges, to quote another author I read.

    Most grievous to my taste buds, this year’s Naw Ruz celebration by the sizable Persian contingent of my community was online. No fabulous food, no attempting the sinuous dance moves of my friends to wailing music and flat drums, no crazy laughter at my awkward moves while we talk to all hours.

    I miss customer service. Remember when you could pick up the phone and call a store or government office and not get a message they were “temporarily unavailable” when an expensive error happened not in your favor? Or you need a question answered?

    • 8.1

      You have been through it, Beth. Yikes!
      I don’t see enough coverage of how for-greed medicine got us killed with this pandemic. It’s all, “Oh, but they came through with the vaccines!”
      We had no PPE because we’ve outsourced it, we had no nose-swabs because we let two mega-companies corner the market, our vaccine roll-out has been a mess because we have no public health system to speak of. In countries that had to deal with Ebola, they got on this thing and Dealt With It.

      Oh, we must sit down over some adult bevvies and straighten out this messed up old world…

      • 8.1.1
        Beth says:

        I’m in! Heck, I’ll do a road trip just for tea & kittehs, with a side of equine spoiling.

    • 8.2
      KarenM6 says:

      Beth!
      I agree, you’ve been through the ringer!!
      I also had trouble finding isopropyl alcohol!! Mine was for swiping my skin for inserting needles and I _could_ have done the disinfecting with simple soap and water… but, having the extra protection always felt necessary to me. Some pharmacies came through for me, though, when I found out that some were holding supplies in the back for medical needs. So, I got lucky!!! I really hope that big squishy hugs and friends and good, proper medical care comes to you SOON!!!!

  9. 9
    Ratty says:

    What has the pandemic stolen from me? Simple human contact. I live alone, have no children,and no relatives, so I get no hugs at all. I can’t greet my friends. I can’t seal a transaction with a handshake. When I’m very ill, there is no one to rub my back for me. I think I am slowly emotionally starving.

    • 9.1
      Beth says:

      Virtual hugs, Ratty, from someone in the same boat. People who live with people can’t comprehend a year or more in what’s essentially solitary confinement. I completely understand.

      Rib creaking smushing from the woman who babbles at cashiers & the appointment lady because I haven’t heard my own voice in weeks, if not months. You might be physically alone, but you’re not alone if that makes any sense.

    • 9.2

      Me three. I’m used to the baseline level of “I live alone” isolation, and I even like it most of the time. But this wasteland of tactile isolation… I see a big dawg and I’m like, “Doomed puppy. Gonna hug you and love you and call you George. Get yourself over here..”

  10. 10
    KarenM6 says:

    The pandemic stole my father.
    The pandemic also stole my ability to move forward, but I am coming to understand that I just need to move forward internally before moving forward externally.

    • 10.1
      Beth says:

      I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words for the pain of losing a parent.

    • 10.2

      Condolences. When my parents died, I had good and bad days for a long, long time, and I still stumble. Sometimes, it takes me a while to connect, “Oh, St. Patrick’s Day. My mom’s favorite holiday… right.”

      So many people are trudging the same trail with you, but nobody can trudge it for you. I hate that.

      • 10.2.1
        KarenM6 says:

        Thank you, Beth and Grace, for your condolences!!
        This mean a lot to me.

        Someone told me… and I am hanging on to this with both hands… that, the hole I described to them would eventually fill back in… it would fill in with memories and the love I received from my father… that I would likely always miss him, but the intenseness would abate.

        And, I count myself lucky that we had him around as long as we did! Thank you for the compassion!!

  11. 11
    Lynn says:

    I miss being among smiling faces. I miss being able to light up someone’s face with my smile. Last week I was masked in a shopping area and noticed a mother (masked) and her two toddling children. Those sweet babes waved and beamed their smiles at me. They looked so hopeful. I waved and hoped they felt my smile. I’m weeping as I remember.

    I miss hugging my sisters. All four of us are in our sixties. Last year one sister was diagnosed with breast cancer & went thru it all without hugs from us. Another is living alone for the first time ever, and pines for hugs. As do I. We’ve all gotten our first vaccine dose, but 3 of us still need the second. I’ll have mine by my birthday Easter weekend, but it will be my 2nd Zoom birthday, too soon for hugs.

    In May we will all converge with other vaccinated family for a group birthday celebration with smiles and hugs galore. I can wait for this. It will be worth the wait. And very very sweet.

  12. 12
    Marianne says:

    Starting with the mask order, this small town (5,000 +/-) has had a “protest” each and every Saturday at noon. They are unsanctioned, so after the first couple of weeks, the police arrive to fine the organizer/s. There have been incidents in a few businesses. One grocery store hired security to enforce the masking. Their “guard,” also a local, was rammed with a grocery cart and injured, although not seriously. The “security company,” an older local couple, suffered major vandalism to their home. There have been a few arrests when local officers and/or protesters have felt cantankerous.I have personal losses, but we’ve lost our sense of community.

    • 12.1

      I’ve heard this from other people, that even where nobody lost family members, a sense of community has been lost. Was it ever real if that kind of behavior was so close to the surface? I dunno. I have anti-mask neighbors who go around flashing their entirely bogus “HIPAA” and “ADA” memes on their phones, the ones that supposedly entitle them to put everybody around them at risk for death and disability.

      I think we will be shaking our heads over that behavior for a long time. We’re meaner and dumber than we thought, apparently. Not good news.

  13. 13
    Ann-Marie says:

    This might be the obvious, but about a year and a half or so before the pandemic my cousin’s girlfriend had twin babies. I spent most of the next year or so helping babysit them (I have no kids of my own) and the pandemic put a halt to that. They were less than 18 months old when I last saw them–they’re over 2 years now (September). I doubt they’ll remember me at this point, and the pandemic stole that time with them from me. I’ll never get it back, and that hurts. It’s also taken my peace of mind when it comes from leaving the house to take a walk to get the mail. Now I’m anxious about every step outside, like the virus is lying in wait. There’s probably more but… well. On the other hand, the sun is shining right now, I plan to get vaccinated when I can, and then hopefully I will be able to enjoy sitting outside this spring!

    • 13.1

      Oh, me too… I stopped getting my steps anywhere but on my tread desk. not the state parks, the battlefields, the dog parks… Nowhere. Hunkered in my bunker, and again, I did not realize I was making a fear-based (and prudence-based) adjustment. I just did it.
      On the way to getting my shot, I was in tears. I’ve been carrying around so much fear–for good reasons–and carrying it around all on my lonesome. Being brave is hard! Enough already.

  14. 14
    Pam says:

    My life hasn’t been that impacted. I worked from home for a few months, before returning to work at the office. My husband had to quit because it was too dangerous for him to be around people in his retail job, and he has really missed being around people other than me and our son. My son has found that he had to put his plans on hold. I know that we have been blessed. One of my husband’s cousins did die from covid, and my nephew got very ill but recovered.

    I don’t know what I miss right now, because going to a concert or a movie or out to eat at a restaurant seems like such an alien idea.

    • 14.1

      Pam? Not that impacted? A death in the family, a spouse going through job loss, the resulting income loss from that, a son forced into a holding pattern, a nephew getting very sick… You were impacted. You WERE.
      I hope the days of going to concert soon return for you, along with movie nights and dinner out.

  15. 15
    Margaret Garten says:

    We have been sheltering in place. All the stores were closed. Even now so many remain closed, limited hours or worst of all closed for good. My husband and mines big date was to go to the book store and spend hours in there. We’d look at every kind of book you can imagine. Enjoy a nice drink and a sweet and walk out spending too much money but still not have enough books. That was our get away from crazy world we live in. I can’t even remember the last time we did that.

    • 15.1

      You will do it again.
      Many of the bookstores did a fast pivot to curbside, mail order, and ebook services, and I know the publishing industry generally is doing better than most (with some exceptions for publishers that don’t move many ebooks).
      The book stores and libraries will open, and you and hubby will get to wander the racks again. Just not soon enough!

  16. 16
    Jeannette Ruth Halpin says:

    Oh my goodness! I don’t know that Schubert song but I will have to look it up. Wow. And I love Be Thou My Vison as well. My sense of purpose has been hard to maintain this long year. I am retired and I had several volunteer activities that I felt very good about, mostly with refugees or English learners, and that all shut down or became zoomified, which is just too hard after a few months. Also my unfortunate irascibility – always just slightly under the surface – has been very hard to tamp down. I found myself just going OFF upon a spam?scam? caller wanting me to do something about health insurance the other day. Calm down, calm down!! But there are daffodils in my yard and my fellow wind drinking buddies have all been vaccinated so we got together yesterday in the sunshine to celebrate. Hope! Joy! Take a deep breath! Whew.

    • 16.1

      I quickly got Zoomed out. It’s better than nothing, but not much better than nothing. We’ve lost the knack of catching up by phone, but that’s not the same as being with each other either.

      I hope you can ease out of your pandemic miasma, find some purpose, and resume the volunteering. I’m pretty cranky these days too though, have to admit. Get me going on the immorality of Big Tech and surveillance capitalism… I go from zero to cranky in about two sentences.

  17. 17
    Glenda M says:

    Covid has stolen my family in that we cannot spend time together like we did before all this. We are lucky to have mostly cooler weather in the fall and winter. We also have a back yard large enough for distanced get togethers. But none of our gatherings feel the same. I haven’t been able to go visit my father at all during covid. He has developed more physical problems that put him at greater risk for catching and dying from almost anything.

    I won’t even go into detailed discussion of what has happened with my relationship with my sister who lives pretty close to my father and is a devoted anti-masker and believer that the election was stolen. When we do talk, conversations are very short. It doesn’t take long before she brings up politics, etc, etc, and I have the option of trying to discuss things logically and let the conversation devolve or the option of saying goodbye. I didn’t let the mask issue rest when dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It took a few medical professionals saying she needs to wear a mask around him before she would.

    • 17.1

      Oh, I want to give that sister of yours a big talkin’ to. I’m glad the medical professionals did that heavy lifting, but what a betrayal, that she’d put Dad at risk of further harm rather than mask up. I just do not get that… I hope you can get your shots soon, Glenda, and I’ll be curious to know if your sister rolls up her sleeve.

      My sister works in a medical setting, and had on her staff a sizeable contingent of “you’re not sticking me,” attitudes. When the vaccine actually become available, those people all changed their tunes.

  18. 18
    Theresa Freese says:

    The virus deprived many of us hug-happy people of our frequent hugs. My brother-in-law is a world class hugger who will have sore ribs for months when hugs return. (A long line will also be a factor for a while.)

  19. 19
    Margaretta Bir says:

    COVID stole my hairdresser, a good friend, and a mainstay of our local historical society! Larry was 60 but looked much younger. Unfortunately, he had COPD from years of smoking when he was younger. COVID took him quickly whereas his younger partner recovered just as rapidly. I miss Larry on so many levels! Nobody does his variation on the old wedge hair cut as well. I could always depend on him to offer some lovely comment about my outfit or general looks. And I knew if I had a problem – from a flat tire or a prowler – I could call Larry and he and help would come to the rescue! I just miss my friend! We didn’t need to lose so many loved ones!