November arrives on Pine Street gently this year. Everyone seems to be holding their breath, waiting to discover what the upcoming winter will hold. The year before, early November was fraught with the tension of national politics and anticipation of a dark time in the pandemic. This year, things feel uncertain in a different way.
People turn inward, toward their families and friends. This is a natural dynamic of the colder season arriving, and it seems even more prominent this year, as if everyone is exhausted of monitoring the bigger picture. Last winter, our Pine Street friends ran an unofficial food bank, delivering to those who were too fragile or too frightened to leave their homes. This winter, they marvel at the opportunity to focus on those closest to them. The virus is still out there, but there are more tools to fight it, and the world feels less immediately dangerous.
David feels the loss of a cause, a purpose that organized his time. He finds that now he has to face the minutia of daily life as a single parent. He has plenty of help from his father, and his friends. He knows that makes him lucky. But with each day, the mantle of responsibility for a life that is just beginning settles more deeply on his shoulders.
Penny goes through all the typical baby stuff: colic, ear infections, colds, changes in sleep patterns, periods of contentment, moods that flash through like lightning storms. When she sleeps, David finds himself gazing at her small face, seeing the traces of Sasha there. He wonders if he will ever find another partner, or if he really wants to. Having lost so many years of his life to bitterness, David finds little desire in his heart for a new relationship.
Mostly, he longs to rest.
Rosa stops by, one lovely late fall day, one of those almost warm afternoons bathed in gold, as the sun backlights yellow leaves on giant maple and chestnut trees. After chatting a while, she poses a question.
“Do you need some help, David?” His initial reaction, a wave of panic, must show on his face. Rosa corrects the impression. “Not like that. With Penny, I mean. Because I need to do something else. The hospital…” she trails off. David has read the stories about the flood of unvaccinated patients, the horrors of the late summer illness and loss. He can fill in the blank.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” he answers. “But I will.”
Rosa waves as she walks away, and David considers hiring her to watch Penny for a few hours a week. His shoulders fall about four inches as he recognizes the true help that would be.