The Hardest Choice
Choosing between what’s right and what’s best
In William Styron’s, Sophie’s Choice, the protagonist is forced to make some difficult decisions. While the film version simplifies the issues and shows her choice to be picking a son or a daughter to survive the Holocaust, no sinecure for sure, the original novel presents Sophie with a series of choices between life and death, over and over again. As if that isn’t enough, she grapples with belief versus doubt, faith versus profound uncertainty.
The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"
And the answer: "Where was man?”
If we compare ourselves to Sophie, all choices seem facile.
Yet, they are mine.
I have four grandchildren, three in one family and a baby in the other. Boringly, they are the lights of my life.
The older three are in Grades 8, 6 and 5. The other is in Grade “stay home with mummy and daddy”.
Covid has been tough on all of them and their parents. And me, but not in the way you might imagine.
The baby is truly a Covid kid, conceived, born and living in its grip. Vaccinated in utero, she knows nothing else. Her parents’ priority, like all parents, is that she be safe.
The other three remember life before Covid, as well as what it was during the many waves. Hockey was on, no it was off. Birthday parties were drive-by events, posters and balloons hanging from open car windows. No, they were full-blown affairs, bursting with cake, relatives and touching. Nothing was certain, that was for certain.
Being hospitalized was made tolerable by having family around to advocate. No, one was on one’s own. My daughter needed hospital care last year, but her husband was not permitted with her in the ER. He wrote a note, put it in her hands and pushed her wheelchair through the doors.
We all lived in revolving doors and they often trapped us in their clutches.
On the 20th of December, children in Grades 6 and 8 flew to Florida to spend time with their other grandparents. It was supposed to be a five-day trip, designed to take some sting out of the fact that their much-awaited hockey tournaments had been cancelled. Think Gilligan’s Island: a three-hour tour.
Grade 5 child had not been fully vaccinated, so she was to stay home with her parents. On December 23rd, two events occurred; said child was able to get her jab and Quebec announced further restrictions. My daughter and son-in-law grabbed the child and the dog and drove to Florida.
In-person school was of utmost importance, but if that was not to be, then waiting this out without snow was a good plan. They all had a month in the sun, no hardship.
I was most grateful not to be in that car on the way home: two teens, a pre-teen, a Labradoodle who believes he is a teen and five opinionated individuals.
But then my choices began.
The three older kids started school that Tuesday, thereby being exposed to the hundreds of kids who had been exposed to thousands more over their elongated vacations. We are all triple vaxxed, which is a good thing, of course, but it does not assume that we cannot become ill or transmit the disease.
If I visited them, would I get sick? If I saw them and then the baby, would I be a carrier? My pre-existing condition is called age and I am not a pleasant sick person. I tend to complain and worry and throw Kleenex.
To think that I might infect a six-month-old was unimaginable.
What to do?
I feel as if I have lost my 14-year-old in this pandemic. He was just 12 when this struck, an age where Nanny was, if not cool, God forbid, then an okay person to hang out with. We had permission to play cards and eat and wrestle and read and watch movies. We bonded over casino and pizza. It was acceptable to be physical with a 12-year-old boy; a 14-year-old, not so much. He is, as he always was, polite, caring and sweet, but I feel a loss of connection.
But if I go and hang out with him, am I doing harm to his baby cousin?
King Solomon had a way to figure out who was the real mother of that baby. There was no compromise position available (you can’t actually split an infant in half) so he proposed the absurd suggestion that indeed gave him his answer. If I have such an option, I don’t see it.
I feel as if I am being forced to choose between two children, between four grandchildren, between two households, and that whatever choice I make will be the wrong one.
Not making a choice is also making one.
Towards the end of the novel, Sophie declares, “Then I resolved that I would go back out there and somehow cope with the situation, despite the fact that I lacked a strategy and was frightened to the pit of my being.”
If anyone has a strategy, please let me know.
Wow, I need to declare this is READER APPRECIATION DAY so I can thank all of you for being here and reading. I know there is a lot competing for your attention!
Don’t miss out on next Sunday’s story, which includes a strip club. And thanks to Ginny for this week’s fabulous contribution.
And if you have time for more reading, here is a story that appeared in this week’s Guardian: Emma Thompson on living in a woman’s body.