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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: The Presence Of Absence

Tommy Tomlinson

My wife and I needed to get out of the house for a while. So while her mother napped, we went for a drive.

A car is a nice vantage point during these Virus Days. Big windows, mobile, but sealed off from the rest of the world. It’s a good way to check in on the world and see how close it looks to normal.

There were still cars on the streets and people around. A road crew had dug up a chunk of Sharon Amity Road. The parking lots at the drugstores were full.

But as we drove, what I started to see was the absence of things.

It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday and there wasn’t a single school bus.

Every third or fourth storefront was dark and shuttered.

Over at Veterans Park, where the basketball court is often packed, one guy was shooting at one end, and another was doing ballhandling drills at the other. A few more people sat around the fringes, safely spaced apart.

We drove through Sharon Memorial Park, the big cemetery at Monroe and Sharon Amity. On a normal day there might be several funerals going at once. But now it was empty except for a woman walking her dogs and two men working a backhoe. Those green tents that mark a burial service were scattered around, but there wasn’t a soul beneath them.

It had the feel of a mini-rapture, where some got spirited away while the rest of us got left behind. And of course that’s exactly the worry about the coronavirus: that it will take some unknown number of us away, and leave holes in the lives of the ones who remain. That’s the low hum in the background these days as we try to assemble normal lives.

You could already feel what it might be like to live among the empty spaces.

It was a beautiful day, 75 degrees on my car’s dashboard thermometer, the kind of day to let in the spring breeze.

But as we were stopped at a red light, I looked at the cars around us. Every single window was rolled up. Ours included.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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