Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What we will remember

April 1, 2020

Growing up, I listened to my grandparent's stories of living through the Great Depression. My mother was born in 1937, as things began to ease. She has no first-hand memories of how difficult those times really were, but she grew up poor. Life for her was a gradual improvement until, as a widow, she married her second husband and money was no longer an issue.  

My maternal great-grandparents were both born in 1889. I look back and am astonished to have personally known people born in that century. Historically, they lived through the Spanish Flu (1918-1920), and the time of polio. A short mile from my house is a graveyard that gives silent testimony to the impact of a scarlet fever outbreak in this small community. A distant relative of mine on my father's side is buried there beside his wife and five of his children. Those five children all died within days of each other from scarlet fever. He and his wife lived to have five more, all girls. They were contemporaries of my great-grandparents although I never knew them. 

In my life and times, we have vaccines against measles, polio, diphtheria, and a host of other diseases. Up until now, HIV/AIDS has been the plague of my generation, a plague we know how to prevent but seem unable to eradicate. We've had significant scares with the Ebola, Zika, and West Nile viruses, but we got through. Modern medical researchers continue to study these and work to develop cures. 

Listening to my elders speak of living through those times was more than a history lesson. It spoke to the lasting impact it had on the lives of the people of those times. They were times of uncertainty and fear and great loss. The Great Depression and the Spanish Flu defined the lives of my great-grandparents and grandparents. In many ways, my grandparents never moved far from those days. My grandmother panicked when one of us got sick, as all children do. My grandfather bought land to farm and keep his family fed. He worked a factory job by day and then came home to tend his garden. He also kept honeybees, a lucrative sideline. They bequeathed more than land and money to me. Their gift was love and a shining example of how to truly live well. 

I look at the next two generations in my family. These days we are living now, today, will be days that define their lives. One of what I call gen4, myself being gen3, is pregnant. The gen5-ers are going to school via the Internet. COVID-19 will be what we remember, what my young cousin will tell her baby about, what the youngsters across the creek being homeschooled via the Internet will have in common with their peers. 

When I'm once again able to join with my gen3 cousins at the table, what we did in our self-isolation and social distancing time will be our discussion. I'm sure we'll note how people paid little or no attention to how serious the COVID-19 virus is. Perhaps we'll speculate on the bare shelves in the grocery stores and wonder how much worse it was for our grandparents. We have constant news and the Internet to keep us informed (on both the true and the false). They had a weekly newspaper and word of mouth. 

In my own little world, I sense a shift inside. I won't remember my time under a governmental stay at home order as a hardship. My employer's reaction to it is something I'll never forget. I've talked a lot about retirement and so I'm looking at these days as a test run. And I'm liking how I feel quite a bit. Being home is a good thing. Now all I need is for the stock market to rebound so I can lock in a few numbers. My own silver lining. 

Time will roll on. Please be smart and protect yourself so you can be a part of it. It'll be more fun to tell your grandchildren about self-isolation and social distancing than to have them tell their peers their grandparents died young, in the pandemic of 2020. 

KC Kendricks

No comments: