Living Through a Pandemic
May 2020

 

Last year was pretty much Bad day at Blackrock, making depression my default frame of mind. Talking to a friend, who's the same age and with whom I therefore share the same clock, it occurred to us that while we've never seen a crisis exactly like this we've experienced a lot.

Our parents lost everything during the Great Depression and had to rebuild their lives from scratch. We grew up with the economy improving but we knew what being poor was. We grew up handwriting letters to family that always started with something like"We've been sick with the measles" because sickness and death were always a fact of life.

As we shared what Covid-19 is doing to our lives now we realized everyone in both families has a nice place to live, good food to eat and none of us have died or been disabled by this plague. "We've got it pretty darned good."

"It's not where we are, but who we're with that counts." When I retired in 2014 my wife and I booked and paid for a summer trip to Europe then she had a stroke. Instead of touring Europe we were together in hospitals 24/7 for seven weeks. Europe would have been exciting but being a full-time caregiver, helping facilitate complete recovery, was much better.

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Reconnecting with family revives memories. My sisters and I chat about things that happened years ago more than ever as does my wife and her sister. Sister talks reinforce the importance of family. Conversations on memories of the past and how we're adapting to today.

Our eldest Grandson is a true hero. One of the "Red Vests" managing the "Front-End" of our local grocery store, he calms irate customers who don't want to comply with quarantine regulations and purchase-limit rationing. He has been continuously exposed to Covid-19 every day for six months, a hidden enemy infecting millions that has killed more Americans in three months than died in all wars combined since World War II. What he is doing is much more heroic than what almost all us military veterans did. I will never again take grocers for granted.

Quarantine's been an education. We have a decent library, both of us read books and magazines and then there are Public Broadcast System (PBS) documentaries. Plate tectonics was just a geologic theory, and genetics just an advanced probability class, when I took these courses in 1959. Discovery of the homo sapiens genetic code, how DNA and RNA and Chromosomes work and what the Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us about the fragility of life leave me wishing I'd been born 30, instead of 79, years ago.

I have been lucky and privileged to enjoy having a place to do work that makes a difference. Many mornings, a little after the sun comes up, I go to our church where there is a campus of bushes, lawns, gardens and columbarium to care for. Not an employee, but a volunteer getting physically tired doing useful and appreciated work.

Politics are hard to ignore - stay positive. For example a neighbor works in the United States Post Office which is experiencing the greatest volume of package delivery ever. She does this covering for absent fellow employees too sick to work as well as with sick colleagues who can't afford to stay home given they're only allowed two sick days off before pay is reduced. Providing an essential service, while constantly being denigrated by President Trump, impacts morale.

Crises clarify. Yes, we are experiencing a real-time lesson in what it is to live through a life threatening crisis in nation being temporarily led by a seriously mentally ill narcissist. But in reality our lives have been and continue to be incredibly blessed. Born to the right parents, at the right time in the right country makes us recipients of an incredibly wonderful unearned gift. My wife and I are still alive and together with healthy, well-fed and housed adult children and grandchildren nearby.