Where We All Go From Here

The election is over, but our struggle with the results is just beginning. How do we go forward? What is our responsibility to one another, to take a step, to rebuild civility? In a first-person account, Tamara Witt, who is a member of PRUMC and of the Music Department – and who writes to make sense of the world – provides a story from her family.

WHERE WE ALL GO FROM HERE

Four years ago, on the cusp of the last presidential election, I made an urgent call late one evening to my brother. I was at my parents’ home an hour away from him, helping to care for my dying father in home hospice, and I was worried that my mom and I could no longer move my dad as his situation plummeted. We needed another strong pair of arms. My brother despaired that he was on call in a nightmare at work and wasn’t certain he could leave at that moment; but in the background, I heard my sister-in-law say, “Tell her I’m on my way.” Rachel was coming; I felt my racing heart slow in relief.

Rachel is – in the term I use to define human gold – the person you want in the foxhole with you. She will have your back. She will do whatever is required. And she won’t give up. I would trust her with all my money and my life. I’ve already trusted her with a parent’s life. And that does not change, despite the fact that she holds many beliefs that are diametrically opposed to mine and she basically cancels out my vote in every election – including that earlier presidential election and this one.

Rachel is a strong Conservative, and I am a strong Liberal. We try to listen respectfully to each other’s differing opinions. Yet she sometimes makes me want to scream when we talk about politics, and I’m sure I’ve made her want to do the same. Many times we give up on those conversations and just diplomatically wander to a different topic without acknowledging what we’re doing – tacitly protecting our precious détente. I lose heart on occasion that we can feel so differently about something so important; but I trust her with every fiber of my being, and I want the best things for her because she deserves them. I know she feels the same about me. And I believe that the only way we will ever get back to some sense of common purpose and a more promising future in this country is if we all grit our teeth and try to single out one person we know, and then another, and another, with whom we can strenuously disagree and for whom we can still want good things.

During my father’s downward slide, Rachel had my parents in her home for over two months. After my dad initially improved enough for them to go back to their own home, Rachel still stood regularly beside us for more months to help provide my dad’s care, or sometimes stood alone to do it – performing the most personal tasks with gentleness and even humor. I watched her in those moments and felt the most intense sense of “owing” I have ever known, a debt I can never repay. Even though she and I want completely different things in this country, I do not see an “other” when I look at Rachel. I see bedrock. That feeling is wonderful, grounding and affirming. It is human connection at its most basic level.

We are all fragile in this life, our dependence on each other very real. Why do we allow ourselves to be driven away from that, to be goaded into rooting for the failure of this “other” who represents half of our neighbors, our family, our fellow travelers on this planet?

In one of my father’s final days, when his precise engineer’s mind had begun to fire random tracers into a growing dark and he no longer consistently processed his circumstances, I sat with him and spoke about anything I could think of to soothe him. I mentioned that Rachel was coming that evening. He turned and fixed his eyes intently on me and repeated several times, “Rachel is coming! Rachel is coming!”, a seeming mantra of comfort. I blinked away tears at the gift she continued to give us in being a touchstone for him.

When I began writing this story, the election was a day away and I didn’t know which one of us was going to be desolate at the outcome. For several days, I stepped away from the writing to focus on events. Now, as I’ve finished, the winner has been declared but a legal battle is underway. I don’t know how our society will be changed by all of this. I do know that Rachel will still have my trust. She will still be a legal alternate to unplug me if my daughter isn’t available when the time comes. When Rachel steps up and does something lovely for my mother, as she is wont to do, I will still half-jokingly remind my daughter, an only child, that if she needs a kidney at any point we’ll have to find it somewhere else because I need to reserve my extra one for Rachel, in case she ever needs it. I know that Rachel and I will still love each other and continue to root and pray for the best for each other.

And I’m optimistic (given what we’ve managed so far) that the two of us will be able to have an ongoing conversation, with a few points of agreement, about where we all go from here.

3 Comments

  1. What a beautiful and inspiring testament to love. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Beautiful, Tamera! Thank you for sharing your experience. Love outshines our differences. and unifies us.

  3. Thanks, Tamara. Your story should help everyone realize that chances are we have each been pushed along by a strong rip-tide.

    Everyone can benefit from your reality.

    I appreciate you having taken the time to pass on logic and truth.

    Best

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