Strong emotional content alert. I’ve written about loss and dealing with grief on other occasions and probably even the intense aspect of loss with no warning. This, then, may be a post to skip. Irony will “out” at times because with so much attention on COVID-19, the fact that “Death waits for no man” in the normal range still applies. One week ago yesterday, I picked up a friend at 5:00 a.m. to take her to one of the strings of “prep” appointments one has prior to a scheduled out-patient surgical procedure. She was in great spirits and her son was to pick her up later. I sent a text the next afternoon to check on her. She was fine; had slept on and off most of the day, but was ready for the CT scan scheduled for Friday. If she was finished in time and not too tired, she would join our small group for Happy Hour. When she didn’t show for that, we assumed she was either running late or tired. I meant to text/email on Saturday, but the day got away from me. Her not reaching out first was a little unusual; not enough to raise concern. At 10:30 Saturday night the call came from the other friend who’d been at Happy Hour. When she received the news and called me, no one knew quite what had happened, but our friend had passed away. The shock set all of us back and it took a while to get the correct version. For reasons as yet unknown, she suffered a seizure followed by a heart attack during some part of what was a routine procedure and they were unable to resuscitate her.
Our friend had been to dinner Thursday evening, her usual smiling, pleasant self. As everyone has attempted to come to grips with this, the comment of, “I didn’t know she was ill,” is understandable except she wasn’t, not precisely. The condition she had (can’t recall the exact term) is one that many deal with; that medical technology is such, you go in, have an out-patient procedure, rest up a bit and make sure you do your follow-up with the doc later. Then there are those tragic turns no one anticipates and no one is prepared for. Her service is today and due to the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, what would be a full church will instead be a relatively small group at the funeral home although the service will be “live-streamed”. Watching a loved one/close friend suffer through a lengthy illness is incredibly difficult. Coming to grips with sudden death, especially when it is, “too soon”, carries with it a different level of loss. (She would have been 73 in September)
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always been a morning person, routinely waking between 5:00 and 5:30. This was helpful during my Army career as there are so very many early morning calls for different reasons. Nothing prepared me though for a child that did not sleep through the night until he was four years old.
I mean, people often prepare you for 3-4 months and you think, okay, I can do this. While that would have been difficult enough, this was of course the tragic year when my first husband was killed which meant I was now doing this as a single parent. I tried everything that should have worked, might have worked, etc;. It was a success when he slept for as long as three hours at a time. Anyway, we both came through it. Later, within a few weeks of being deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I served in a position where sleep was not a priority. I was also in a position where we were in the desert, but not in a direct combat zone. Hubby was further in, although not a direct combat zone either. We managed to get through that as well and did sleep a great deal the first few days when we re-deployed.
A couple of years ago, I began having issues with insomnia. I’ve tried a number of techniques and do give in and take an over-the-counter supplement maybe twice a week. Without that, my pattern seems to be 3, maybe 4 hours of sleep, then awake for 1-2 hours, then another 3 hours. Once I awaken the first time, if I’m not back to sleep in 15 minutes, it isn’t going to work so I move into the front room and tune into the Spa Music channel. I frequently fix a cup of chamomile tea, come up and log onto Twitter as I drink my tea, then head back down after to sleep on the very comfortable love seat. Perhaps I will eventually shift out of this.
My cousin’s youngest daughter is among those who have had to cancel their wedding. It would have been a lovely outdoor event on a beach in Alabama the first week of May. The issue with trying to reschedule was my cousin wisely said they would not go for a date that was also during hurricane season which meant pushing into the fall. Rather than try and manage all that, the couple decided to forego a wedding for a civil service and as soon as they are able to travel, they will go on the honeymoon.
That brings to mind a friend who was discussing his daughter’s upcoming second wedding. He was quite clear about the fact he never thought her first husband was the right man for her, but did dutifully write the large checks for the “perfect wedding”. I suspect he did not refrain from at least one, “I told you so” though when the divorce was finalized. The second husband-to-be did meet with approval, but the event, while still quite nice, was not going to be anything like the first one. His comment to me was, “The last time we paid for a wedding; this time we’re paying for a marriage.”
I have posted previously that people may spend their money in whatever way they choose. Weddings, like cars, certainly have a range from economical to astronomical. If one has always wanted to own a Ferrari and either has the resources to do so or chooses to sacrifice buying other things in order to have the Ferrari, that’s fine. I, on the other hand, don’t even have that on my “if we win the lottery list”. That simply isn’t where I would want to put $200,000 (or in that ballpark). So, for my second cousin who won’t have the pageantry, it will still be a marriage.
As I have discussed in previous posts, our son becoming a dancer was not what we expected and of course I have never had the commercial breakthrough as a writer. Hubby takes fabulous photographs and while he has sold several, it certainly hasn’t been substantial. The small percentage of anyone in the arts making a decent living, (not to mention the tiny percent that become rich and famous), is why so many parents say, “Well yes, but what are you going to do to make money?, to the actor, artist, dancer, musician, singer, writer. In this current crisis it is especially difficult as so many are independent and therefore don’t properly fit into an employment category. One of the reasons for the block grants to states was to allow them to use funds for programs they may have to help individuals like this. Florida has such a program, apparently Virginia where they kids are does, too, and I would like to think the other states do as well.
So, the paradox here is as people are sheltering in place, particularly if they have children, what are they doing? Reading, watching television, listening to music, playing video games, doing some kind of arts/crafts; in other words using the arts to help distract them/fill their days. There is a definite element of irony. Like everyone, we hope we are soon able to start a return to “normal” in the sense of getting what have been termed non-essential businesses back to work. Most major corporations can weather a few months, but for the proverbial “mom and pop”, it’s extremely difficult. Aside from the economic aspect, there is a psychological impact that some will find they don’t recover from. With Easter on the horizon, I suspect many people will be thinking of the term “resurrection” with more than the traditional meaning.
Potentially emotional alert. I am one of probably a lot of people who didn’t recall the Swine Flu of 2009 was in fact a Pandemic from January 2009 to August 2010. Like many others, I thought the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1920 was the last one. There were more than 12,000 deaths in the U.S. during the 2009-2010 one which was basically a 10% death rate. So far, with COVID-19, it is holding around 2.2%. The interesting point I ran across earlier today is differentiating with cause versus presence of the virus and death.
This is not actually splitting hairs. It’s a bit like what happens when counting scuba diving fatalities. Heart attack is the prime example. If an individual suffers a fatal heart attack while diving, that doesn’t mean he or she wouldn’t have had the same fatal heart attack under similar circumstances.Let us say the individual did not go diving that day, but instead worked in his or her yard, raking leaves or weeding. The same level of exertion set up the attack which had the same fatal result. It would not likely be referred to as a “yard work death”, but most assuredly is listed as a scuba-related death.
In the case of the COVID-19, a number of physicians are now trying to explain the fact a person has the virus and dies doesn’t mean the virus was the cause. The inclination is to make the assumption the virus is the cause, but that may not be correct, nor can it be determined unless an autopsy is performed. This will probably not happen under the circumstances. It does support the concern that people with underlying conditions are more vulnerable to the effect of the virus. The deaths are tragic and does not lessen the pain of loss, no matter the actual cause. However, as decisions are being made that impact the entire country from a social and economic perspective, it is important to try and pinpoint the true degree of danger.
We Babyboomers who had grandparents we were close to often did not necessarily pay attention to their stories of coping with the Great Depression. In each case for me, what they dealt with was bad, but paternal grandparents had the farm in rural Arkansas and maternal grandparents were in a very small Louisiana town. They, therefore were somewhat shielded from the worst of what people saw with breadlines and utter devastation in places where the Dustbowl hit. Daddy, born in 1924, was a youngster throughout that time and had nothing to compare deprivations to. Since his parents had some livestock, to include chickens, and grew produce for their own consumption, crops for sale were on a relatively small scale. Mother, the youngest of three, was not born until 1930 and so had little memory of the most difficult years. While they did live in town, one of the claims to fame of the local bank was it stayed open, having somehow convinced people (it was in fact named People’s Bank) to not have the kind of “run” that closed so many down. I now wish I’d listened to the story of how that came about.
My point here is if our economy cannot restart until around May, that will be approximately two months of intense closure. Several state are already declaring June for three months. Logically, there will be a ramp-up rather than a “roar back” for another some months until full recovery. This then is why the “old rule” of having six months (preferably a year) worth of living expenses in savings would seem to have been accurate all along.This mantra from many of our grandparents, passed on to their children (our parents) is rooted in what they experienced.
For those who live paycheck-to-paycheck because of low-paying jobs/high cost of living areas, that has never been doable. For those who chose spending versus savings, once we get through this, the old adage may be something they re-visit.
I don’t intend to get into politics. We are as is being said, in “uncharted waters” (or whatever term you prefer), yet some of the restrictions set out are simply not sustainable. As more hard data becomes available rather than mostly modeling, decisions as to focused solutions will hopefully come about in the next week or two.
In the meantime, small businesses considered non-essential will see some financial assistance with passage of the economic bill yesterday. Help will not be immediate of course, which goes back to the point of the mantra of having three-to-six months of savings set aside to carry one through emergencies. Many, of course, do not have that various reasons.
In the case of a barber shop being closed, there’s nothing we can do to help them. With our local restaurants, we can, and are doing carry-out to reflect at least the same rate as we usually do, and a little more. Less than two weeks ago, when I had one of those lunch out five days in a row in addition to the standing Wed and Fri Happy Hours, Hubby joked about me having lunch out more than anyone he knew. In general though, I do have lunch out at least once and often twice a week, so there is no reason not to do that now. Fridays nights have always been pizza night for us and Hubby’s favorite is Papa Johns. Under the circumstances, he said we would use one of the family-owned places instead until they are all able to re-open for regular business. I was especially glad to see the governor here is allowing those restaurants with their liquor license to sell beer and wine to go. (The usual laws pertaining to it being bagged and no open containers in the vehicle still apply). After all, when we dine out, we always order a bottle of wine or beer. I am also glad we’re in a position to be able to do this for at least a while.
Parenting is rarely easy for people who live in the real world. Having been a single parent with no live-in help for almost six years, (age four months to just after son’s 6th birthday), I completely empathize with all parents trying to cope with the extended release from schools. Aside from so many families where both parents work which means one might have to take off, the work from home if possible comes with its own complications. Not every family can arrange dual office space to be productive plus have somewhere for the kids to be. As much as I applaud schools who are able to have distance learning, not every parent is equipped to help with it. These are the moments when the parent who chose to home school rather than go into the external workplace does have an advantage.
We are about three generations removed from when stay-at-home moms was the norm and there were only three TV channels – four if you happened to be somewhere with PBS – so kids in general weren’t routinely entertained by TV and of course there were no computers at the time. Going back to doing things the old-fashioned way has some good points, but it’s definitely an adjustment for those who don’t have much, if any, experience in what that means. On the other hand, families that do have plenty of electronics can access a variety of virtual “travel” and other tools they might not otherwise “get around to”.
When I spoke to the kids yesterday, I did recommend they keep a journal. None of us knows how long this will go on and not only is it extreme disruption to so much routine, there may be long-term impacts we can’t anticipate. Recording one’s raw thoughts at this time could be valuable for later. Granddaughter is at the age where she is likely to remember little of what is happening and might want to know more about it when she gets older.
Serious musings alert. There are many unknowns the first time any generation faces a crisis. For those of us of a certain age, the 1960s were when lots of parents/grandparents weren’t certain the country would survive. The Vietnam War brought protests to a scale they had not previously experienced. There were riots with huge swaths of cities ablaze, assassinations, the ever-present Cold War and nuclear arms build-up. If we took the time to listen to our grandparents, they told of struggles during the Great Depression and impact of World War II.
This means my generation might not have fully understood the 1960s, yet most of us were changed in different ways by immense cultural shifts that occurred. We entered then into uncertainty of the 1970s which for a variety of reasons took us to a point of the period that became known as American Malaise; gas shortages, high inflation, and the terrible taking of the American Embassy in Iran where fifty-two were held hostage for more than a year. (The movie Argo in an excellent treatment of some who escaped initial capture and isn’t even too over-the-top). The era of President Ronald Reagan brought a remarkable time with a revived economy and an ultimate end to the Cold War. On the other hand, new dangers arose. Desert Storm also brought a much-needed boost to the U.S. military, which I won’t go into in this post.
For Generation X, (those not personally touched by Desert Storm), the horrors of 9/11 was the equivalent of our parents/grandparents’ Pearl Harbor and their first impact of a world-changing event. There have of course been regional natural disasters of hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., tens of thousands have been through.
For Millennials and Generation Z, the Corona Virus pandemic may, however, be their first major-scale crisis. Perspective is important. Let us hope the current turmoil ends soon, but also work with our younger generations to assure them we have dealt with crisis before.
The advantage of modern medicine compared to the 1918 Influenza (Spanish Flu) pandemic which lasted two years, is treatments are being worked as is a vaccine. While I completely agree with fast-tracking, that is a relative term. The expression, “the cure was worse than the disease”, exists for a reason. Despite wanting to get something out and available, adverse side effects must be avoided.
Setting aside the medical aspects, the economic impact is going to be far-reaching and difficult for so many. Even though disaster funds have always been part of a recovery, they are very much after the fact and generally bogged down in red tape. How someone manages with no pay for perhaps as much as eight weeks is especially unsettling. Then there will be the inevitable scams that arise in similar situations and of course we’ve already seen the absurd hoarding aspect.
With all that said, for every kindness and consideration that is being shown, I hope we spread those stories. Who hasn’t teared up at the clips of Italians opening their windows and doors to share the beauty of opera within the neighborhoods? Even if we can’t be creative like that, let us keep an eye out for good ideas others are coming up with and support them either with action if practical or by letting people know about them. I’ll be talking to the kids today about their situation. Living in a 1,000 (basically) square foot condo with an active five-year-old will be challenging. They do have the advantage of their weather entering true spring and lots of nearby outdoor areas. Since they both work for businesses that have been shut down for at least a few weeks, they will have plenty of family time. I suspect trading off so each parent can have a little “me time” might turn out to be just as important.