A Letter From and For Your Future

By Glenn Bielefeldt | May 23, 2022

To My Dearest,

I’m writing to you with some mind-boggling realizations and some helpful information on the COVID-19 epidemic: worldwide and heading your way. Francesca Melandri, an Italian novelist, wrote “A Letter to the U.K.” about what she knew of our future while living amidst the onslaught of COVID-19. Between Melandri and myself we will relate to you “our” struggles in hopes of preparing you for the precautions you’ll need to deal with COVID-19 and as Melandri puts it that “will completely take charge of your life as you know it”.

Melandri notes, “she is but a few steps ahead of me in the path of time” COVID-19 time. The Italians are being told to lock themselves inside their houses. You’ll have many questions: Will you be able to keep your job and work from home or will you lose it? Schools will be closing. Children will have on-line schooling from home. Yes, children will be home 24-7 and if they’re teenagers, good luck! And she makes sure to emphasize that with this lockdown, there will be plenty of time to eat.

You will be told that “society is united in a communal effort, that you are all in the same boat!” But you will be sailing your own boat and arguing with those who say it’s only a cold or it’s the flu. Your social life will be put on hold. Although with cell phone in hand it will be non-stop “on-line” apps, Zoom, Skype! After you do all that, you’ll most likely eat again. 

Melandri paints me such a beautiful picture: “We turn our gaze to the distant future unknown to you and to us too. When all of this is over the world will not be the same.” You cannot travel to see your adult children and grandkids, you’re scared to go shopping alone, rules to venture outside will be made. And since she is in Italy informing me of what she knows of my future with COVID-19, she warns that “she is just small-scale fortune-telling.” Off to the kitchen to eat again.

So, here I am in California State Prison San Quentin with COVID-19 knockin’ at the gates. One day we’re goin’ about daily routines exercising in the yard, education classes, library when I turned around and masks were being handed out to everyone with instructions to wear them over the nose and mouth. With them came lockdown. To the cells we went. No more yard, no school, no more, period! COVID-19 has arrived and taken over. I believe this is the realization Melandri was warning about. So, while I mull this over I’ll eat again.

With COVID-19 raising its deadly head and taking over the prison, the sports field has turned into a MASH unit, a tent city for quarantine. Medical performing COVID tests on all inmates and staff. I contracted COVID, which lasted about a week (I’m so grateful that I’ve been tobacco free for seven years) and didn’t attack my lungs. Most correctional officers also had COVID and in the cities around us, hospitals are full with COVID patients. We can still order from the canteen once a month; my order just got filled, time to eat once again.

We learned quickly to live with this nightmare. Rules became daily rituals: never forget your mask, hand washing, sanitizing your cell, and social distancing. A few school and college courses went to correspondence, some privileges returned such as phone usage, outdoor time, showers. It’s now a year’s time and gradually we began to overcome and get back some sort of normalcy. Medical and dental began making appointments and testing swabs are still up your nose. We’re gaining an upper hand on COVID. More and more of the population here are vaccinated. I believe we are on our way; always with a mask. Shall we eat again? 

I do hope my letter is in your hand before COVID-19 is. Melandri’s letter was a heads-up awakening for me. Hopefully between the two of us, you should have a head start with taking on COVID-19 with an understanding. It’s not a weekend cold, but a serious respiratory infection wreaking havoc on the populations, both sexes, all nationalities, hitting the old with deadly force, but for now sparing the young children. Start preparing, so I may see your heart-warming smile again!

Love,

Dad

p.s. In the basement cabinets with my vinyl L.P. records and VHS tapes is Jane Fonda’s complete set of work-out tapes. You’ll need them for all the “eating” you’ll do when you’re locked up in the house for a year!

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An uplifting story to start your week, too!

It was an incredible (first) experience substitute teaching at @MtTamCollege, a college that runs out of San Quentin State Prison. Here's a little thread to recommend volunteering there to other Bay Area folks.
https://www.mttamcollege.org/about/our-story/

We're beyond thrilled for Mount Tamalpais College graduate Rahsaan Thomas!