We are standing in a field on the Saturday before the election, somewhere between Highway 61 and the White Bear Yacht Club, 20 miles northeast of Minneapolis.
Judy spent the week and I drove up on consecutive Fridays and back on Sundays to visit the children, Matt and Shannon, with child. With a packed lunch, “We’re not stopping for nothin’,” we drove fast so as not to be run over, across the concrete trail from Indiana to Minnesota, through the Illinois and through the Wisconsin. Rain and orange cones, rumble strips, stay in your lane, thumpa, thumpa, thumpa, don’t stay in your lane, Covid and Trump and Halloween. Oh My.
Sorry, I got carried away. It was pretty much your ordinary drive.
We did see a few Trump signs and a few for Biden and a few for people I do not know. Some supporters waved flags from overpasses and some supporters waved flags from pick-up trucks. Like an election.
At the gas stations and rest stops friendly people wore masks. No one said, “Boo.”
No incidents. No altercations. No insurrections or revolutions.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in with all her matter-of-fact about the not-storm,
On that second Saturday, we’ve ventured forth to the Pine Tree Apple Orchard at White Bear Lake because the Internet told us they have apples.
They have also, when we arrive, a white house, a red barn, a cider press, a corn maze, and a depleted patch with squishy pumpkins.
That’s where this story started, with us in the field. We’re in the pumpkin patch when Shannon takes a picture and that’s what I really wanted to talk about, that picture.
“Show that to your son,” I said, “and tell him about the pandemic and that those people were his grandparents.”
I’m not saying we won’t be around for his birthday next month, but in the moment I saw it on Shannon’s phone, it felt like one of those long-ago pictures, only we were in it, one of those yellow faded photos of Grandpa as a kid in a uniform getting on a ship to go to Europe or great-Grandma getting off a ship at Ellis Island.
Only thing, that’s us, we’re in the picture now, the one that someone who doesn’t know us is going to look at 75 years from now. “Those are my grandparents,” our grandson will tell his granddaughter, “on my dad’s side. They’re wearing those masks because of the pandemic.”
“Pan …. dem … bic?” she’ll say in 2095. “What’s a pandembic, Grandpa Vern?”
“Pandemic,” he’ll say. There’s no “b” in “pandemic. Pan. Dem. Ick.
“My mom and dad told me it was a scary time for them, Sweetie, right at the time when I was born. They said that so many people were sick at the same time that it was hard for the hospitals to hold them all. Sometimes the doctors and nurses who were taking care for people got sick.”
“That is scary.”
“People had to stay home so they wouldn’t get other people sick. Some people wouldn’t wear the masks, like Grandma and Grandpa were doing here, even though that would’ve helped, I guess because they didn’t like the idea of other people telling them what to do. A whole lot of people died, and it was sad because a lot of it didn’t even have to happen, they said, but I guess some people think that if you ignore a problem it will just go away.”
And then his granddaughter, Vern’s granddaughter, will say, “It’s hard to imagine living in a time when people could be like that.”
“You’ll never have to live in a time like that, Sweetie,” he’ll say, because grandparents love a happy ending.
And, when he points at the picture I will whisper to her, “You would have liked us, your great-Grandma and me, and we would have loved you, too, and you should know that we aren’t really all that different.”
It’s one of those pictures that remind you of a picture you’re seen before.
Music: “Can’t Do Much” by Waxahatchee – from Saint Cloud