Sunday, August 2, 2020

Dear Mom (Part 2)

(See Part 1 of this series by clicking here)

It's you, me and Dad dressed up as outlaws!

Dear Mom, 

It’s been nearly 4 months since I’ve written. I don’t know why I’ve been away so long. Maybe it’s because it’s too painful to write. Maybe it’s because I’m just trying to focus on surviving. The whole world is focused on surviving. It’s a very weird, and very somber time.

As of this writing (July 31, 2020) we have 4.67M confirmed and 156K deaths.) In NY State alone, we’ve had 420K confirmed and 32,390 deaths. We’re no longer the hotspot in the country - our numbers are still among the highest in the country but we just got overtaken by California and Florida. In Escambia County (your home) there have been 7738 with 95 deaths. Most of those numbers have happened in July alone, and it’s not stopping anytime soon.

I’m keeping an eye on Pensacola’s numbers because we have yet to sell the house. I’m holding off until we can reasonably have an estate sale to sell the household items that Lisa, Sean, Pam, Ronnie and I didn’t take. By the way, I did give Ronnie all of your tennis clothes for his granddaughter, and she loves them. Pam is still trying to figure out if she’s going to take all of the office furniture or just some of it. It’s been a ridiculously hot summer, so she’s been hesitant to take on that job of getting the furniture to her house! She and Ronnie have been doing a great job of taking care of the house - the pool is the hardest thing to keep clean and working properly. It’s so hard being all the way in NYC and trying to manage things from here. There was a little part of me who thought it might be a good idea to go back to FL for a little while, but that doesn’t seem to make sense with everything shut down (not to mention the lack of safety in flying.)

You won’t believe the things that have been happening in the United States since I last wrote. One of the positive things was the solidarity NYC has had with the health care workers, who put their lives in the lines for all of us for so long. Mom, nurses and doctors were traveling here from all over the country to help NYC in the height of the pandemic here. And at 7pm each night, residents of NYC would gather outside or near their windows and cheered for a good 5 minutes, some people singing and playing instruments, many people banging pots and pans together. We can’t take credit for it, though - the idea began in Italy as they had the second international outbreak of the illness (after coming over from Asia.) Which reminds me - our lovely president insists on calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” to put negative attention on the Chinese people, which has sown a huge amount of racist backlash here in the US. There has been a huge wave of hate crimes against Asian people.

And speaking of hate crimes... and this would sicken you so much... on May 25, a Black man named George Floyd was minding his own business when he was approached by a few cops in Minneapolis, who suspected him of passing off a counterfeit $20 bill earlier that day. He was eventually handcuffed and escorted to a police car, when he ask officers to un-cuff him if he was being put in the car because he was claustrophobic. They considered this to be resisting arrest and tackled him, and one of the white officers knelt on George’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. George repeatedly cried out and said he couldn’t breathe, and one of the other officers even told the kneeling officer that he shouldn’t be doing that. At some point during those 8 minutes and 46 seconds, George called out for his mother (who was already deceased) and then fell unconscious. He later died.

Mom - this has sparked the most glorious and necessary uprising of Black people, supported by non-Black allies who have been marching and protesting ever since. It’s called the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and it is repeatedly compared to the protests and march from the Civil Rights era. Citizens around the world have been protesting in solidarity with Black people against the tyranny of the police. Most major cities in the USA have had ongoing protests over the last few months. But of course, these protests have exposed an even larger divide between the right and the left, with the right championing police and the left calling for reform, which is being dubbed #DefundPolice.

Trump has done some truly horrible things related to this movement -- and also related to the virus. I imagine you and I would be on the phone for hours and hours just trying to talk out what is happening, especially about how our world could turn so ugly so fast. And actually, if you were still alive we probably wouldn’t be talking by phone - I would be with you in Florida taking care of you and we’d be weathering things out, together. Or maybe I would have finally convinced you to use FaceTime on your new iPad. Which, by the way, I have with me and I am using. It's still named "Flo's iPad" and still have your same password, which makes me feel close to you every time I open it. Oh, and also... my debit card just so happens to have your birth date in the expiration date. So every time I type it in I think of you. 

Anyway, back to politics... Our country is truly divided. It has been proven that something as simple as wearing a mask can help reduce the spread of the virus by 95%. But the far right refuses to wear them, saying that it infringes upon their civil liberties. There is a major divide in who is out on the streets protesting for BLM - mostly progressives. Moderates and conservatives stand back and decry the destruction of property but don’t decry the destruction of Black bodies.

Also... Joe Biden is our presumptive Democratic Nominee. I say presumptive because we haven’t had our convention yet. Not sure if we’re even going to have one. Pretty much everyone dropped out in March (Bernie was the last hold-out and he dropped out in early April.) As you can imagine, I was DEVASTATED when Elizabeth Warren dropped out. It felt the same as when Hillary lost in 2016. 

By the way - and this was expected because NOTHING surprises us anymore - but the other day Trump actually tweeted this:

As you know, Mail-In Voting and Absentee Voting ARE THE SAME THING. We have all been waiting for him to start suggesting a delay in the election, because he's trailing to Biden in the polls. We also expect him to fight the results if Biden ends up winning. It's a shit show, Mom. A goddamn shit show.

Anyway, I could go on and on about the political implications of everything going on - and I know you’d want to listen. You were always such an engaged citizen, and I know it frustrated you that you felt helpless to do anything. Well, I’m doing something. Though theater worldwide had to shut down all live performances (no group gatherings are allowed) - we have found a way to use an online video chatting portal called Zoom (kind of like FaceTime, but for groups) to broadcast readings of plays to the public. We just did a play called DUTCHMAN, written in 1964 by Amiri Baraka about a Black man who is seduced and ultimately ruined by a white woman he meets on the NYC subway. We used this play to open up a conversation with our audiences about white complicity in racism, even now when things seem like they’ve gotten so much better. 

Just a few other things in this update -

Remember when I teased you for bringing home so many things from the hospital because “they were free”? Well, I want to thank you personally for all of the bottles of hand sanitizer! When the virus first hit the stores/manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand, so hand sanitizer became like liquid gold. Also, toilet paper. For some reason, people were buying it in hoards and there wasn’t enough left for everyone. I had two friends who had to send me extra rolls to help me get by!

I found Dad’s dog tags from his days in the military. I have one of them on my keychain now. It’s the same keychain we bought when on our cruise at Christmas & New Years 2009/2010. I also have another remembrance of you on the keychain. Oddly, the funeral home include a metal tag (with your cremation number on it) in the box with your remains. So both that and dad’s dog tag are sitting next to each other on the keychain, and I think about you every time I pick up my keys.

When I was at your home for your services (February 26-March 7) I spent a lot of time out on the back porch, just trying to feel your presence. I even sat in your chair rather than the one I usually sit in. I spent time watching the squirrels and birds, just like you used to. Its was such a peaceful place to be. I miss it. I miss you.

When Pam came to pick me up to take me to the airport, and we pulled out of your driveway, I got very upset. I tried to hide it, because I didn’t want to upset Pam. But she noticed and asked, “Are you ok?” I shook my head no, and then started to sob. I also cried as the plane took off. And every time I think about the house - sitting empty, quiet, and alone - I’m filled with such anguish and guilt. Guilt that I’m not there taking care of things, and anguish because even if I were there nothing I could ever do will bring you back. Ever.

This week I watched a bunch of videos I had shot on my camera over the years. I found one from 2008 where you had discovered a children’s coin-operated ride - a yellow cab. You hopped in and asked for quarters so that you could “ride in a cab like all New Yorkers.” You were always so silly and fun-loving, and willing to have a laugh at yourself. I also have a video of you from a cruise you took and you were learning to line dance - it was the Electric Slide, I think. You kept trying and trying to get the steps, often going the wrong way. But your smile never left your face, and you never got frustrated (like I would have!) And you started to get the hang of it toward the end. It was so wonderful seeing footage of you when you were healthy and vibrant. I like remembering you that way.

I’m having a hard time signing off from this letter today. I’m not sure why. I guess writing to you makes me feel close to you and I don’t want to let go. But I have to keep reminding myself that you are always with me. Even though I don’t have a belief in the “hereafter” I do feel your presence each and every day. And though it makes me so, so sad I also know that I’m very lucky to have that feeling. And that will have to do, for now.



Look! It's us! (You, always tanned. And me? Always white.)

Erin Cronican is a Stage IV breast cancer patient, whose career as a professional actor, producer, and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally and appeared Off Broadway with several plays and musicals. She is currently the Executive Artistic Director of The Seeing Place Theater in NYC. For more information, please visit

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful letter, Erin. Would that there were better news to share.


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