Natalie is not a friend, though I see her often and we’re friendly.
Natalie works at my favorite deli.
I’ve been going to this deli for several years, and I usually order the same thing.
After a few visits – and despite the many customers Natalie had helped since I’d last been there – she had my order memorized.
“Want your usual?” she’d smile.
And I’d say, “Yes, thanks.” And often add, “What an amazing memory you have!”
While Natalie made my sandwich, we’d chat. Sometimes about inconsequential things, and sometimes not, like when she shared she’d recently gotten married.
I congratulated her, of course. And over my next several visits, I’d ask, “How’s married life?”
And Natalie would smile, and say, “Great!”
When the pandemic hit, it didn’t affect the deli as much as some restaurants, since it was already mostly carryout.
I’d ask Natalie how she was doing, she’d ask if I’d like my usual, and then we’d commiserate about COVID through our masks.
Until the day I asked how she was doing, and she said, “My dad is in the hospital. COVID.”
We just looked at each other, then I said, “That sucks.”
She agreed, and finished my order.
I hadn’t been to the deli for about a week, and when I returned, Natalie was there. I said, very quietly, “How’s your dad?”
Tears filled her eyes and dripped onto her mask.
“He died December 4th.”
I said, “I’m sorry, Natalie.” And I meant it.
She nodded, and wiped away her tears with her gloved hand. Then she stripped off the gloves and put on a new pair.
We can’t have tears getting in customers’ orders.
We can’t get away from COVID.
Trump will never know – and if he knew, he wouldn’t care – about Natalie’s dad.
But I believe President-Elect Biden cares.
On December 15, the day the Electoral College confirmed his election, Biden gave a speech.
Toward the end, he expressed more empathy and kindness in two sentences than Trump has in the last 10 months – or in his 74 years.
“Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths to this COVID virus. My heart goes out to each of you in this dark winter of the pandemic, about to spend the holidays and the New Year with a black hole in your hearts, without the ones you loved at your side.”
I hope Natalie and her family can find some comfort in Biden’s words, as they face the holidays with that black hole in their hearts.
There won’t be any comfort coming from Trump: