Waiting and Bleeding
May 21, 2020 § 4 Comments
Part of Brevity’s “how I wrote the essay” series from authors in the Fury anthology.
I am sitting in a hospital waiting room. I have washed my hands more than twenty times today, almost four hours into my husband’s brain surgery. I haven’t yet heard from my grandfather, who is 86 and has almost successfully beaten Trump’s European travel ban, but will return to O’Hare where lines to go through customs are six hours long. My sister is at an Airbnb not far from this hospital, watching my children, who are not allowed into the hospital at all. Quarantine restrictions are tight. There’s a chance I will not be allowed to return to them, having had to make a choice between advocating for my husband or caring for my young kids during a pandemic.
None of this has anything to do with my essay in “Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era,” and yet it does. My story, “How I’m Teaching My Jewish Daughters About Donald Trump,” is about the horrific cross-section of vulnerabilities in my life both created and exacerbated by the Trump administration. Just as I am sitting to write this message in an atmosphere of justified fear, heightened risk, and borderline desperation, that is how I sat down to write my essay about gun violence and antisemitism, as a Jewish native of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and mother of three girls attending a Hebrew School that receives threats from strangers that Trump will “finish Hitler’s work.”
It feels like I am on the verge of burning into flames, and the Trump administration is throwing matches at me everywhere I step. Dismantling disability access, disbanding the pandemic response team, appointing white supremacists to the national security council, bending over backwards to the gun lobby, cozying up to genocidal dictators, assaulting and attacking the free press. As a woman, a Jew, a writer, a mother, a wife, a person living with mental illness, a rape survivor, and somebody with a family deeply vulnerable when it comes to access to healthcare, it never stops for me. Not a week has gone by of this administration when I haven’t felt the weight of some existential threat, when those threats have mostly existed in the background of my life. There is no background noise, now. There is only waiting for the next horror.
The light on the board listing my husband as a number instead of a name (a convention designed for his privacy but with the unintended side effect of terrorizing anyone with family who were lost in the Holocaust) has changed from green to pink- the surgery is ending. Also ending, the hospital’s policy of letting more than one family member stay in the hospital with their loved one. I am facing the reality of having to choose—stay with my husband in the aftermath of his brain surgery, or be with my children during a pandemic?
I am constantly making these choices, and an astounding number of them come down to the disastrous presidency of a single person.
In my essay I ask myself, is it better to be safe and silent, or to make yourself heard and empowered? Today I ask myself, whose safety is my primary duty? How am I supposed to justify any choice in these conditions? When asked, “Your husband or your children,” who am I supposed to choose?
There is no right answer, of course, aside from to have never put the reins of a fractured and divided global superpower into the hands of… well… we’ll let history decide what to call him.
There is an oft-misattributed quote I live by, which goes, “Writing is easy; you just open a vein and bleed.” As somebody who has been living in the shadow of brain cancer my entire adult life, I am used to bleeding. I am comfortable sitting in front of my keyboard and spilling out everything I have, ugly or beautiful. In the last three-and-a-half years, I have permitted myself to bleed into Google Docs, Scrivener, WordPress, and a constantly rotating stack of paper journals. But bleeding doesn’t always equate death. We also bleed when we bring new life into the world.
The future, the newness of things, the constant shifts in the stories we are all telling as we sit alone in our homes, these are things I cannot bring myself to speculate about. All I can do today is tell my story, scream into the void, and wait for a better moment to be born.
From “How I’m Teaching My Jewish Daughters About Donald Trump”
I realized I had spent the weekend teaching my children the two things they have to know to survive a Trump presidency. The first, to stand up and be seen, to demand to be treated with dignity and respect; and the second, that they must learn to hide, to be safe when the white nationalist tide Trump attempted to ride comes flooding toward our doors.
Lea Grover is a writer and speaker in Chicagoland. She freelances for a variety of parenting, women’s, and social issue magazines. She is the winner of numerous awards in writing and is a vocal activist for healthcare rights. She is a member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, devoted wife and mother, and de-facto caretaker of two cats. Her essay, “How I’m Teaching My Jewish Daughters About Donald Trump,” appears in Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Trump Era, now available from Regal House.