A Dreaded Experience!
When I turn on the television I can see clearly that the war with C19 is on everyone’s mind. There’s no doubt it is having its effect on our lives, not just here in America, but all around the world. Declared a global pandemic it is moving to infect us at a dramatic speed, often with critical, if not fatal consequences. In my career as a public servant I dealt with many different kinds of emergencies from tornados, hurricanes, floods, and even the concept of dealing with pandemics. The problem is that this one is spreading faster, perhaps because we travel more and faster. Perhaps it’s the diabolical nature of this particular virus. Time will likely give us more answers. Sadly, in the meantime, many will die. At highest risk are the medical doctors, nurses, practitioners, and support folks, who are our front-line soldiers in this fight. Risk is also high for the very young or old, especially if they have other chronic issues. Also, those in the grocery business, and pharmacy trades have high exposure as they face a public made up of carriers of the virus.
Covid19 is different, for sure, because it is a global issue affecting not only our health, our business practices, our economy, and our ability to get about living our lives. I have been sent to do my job from home, only being allowed doctor visits or to pick up necessary supplies. The people I see at the medical workers are wearing masks and protective clothing. Instead of waiting my turn in a waiting room I am instructed to stay in my car until I am called. Once called on my cell phone (didn’t have those in the old days) the hallways are cleared so I can pass through without meeting others save those holding open doors for me. They are wearing smocks, rubber gloves and masks and stay at least six feet away. Wow!
I just received a notice of my class reunion. I have been looking forward to pausing my life and making the trip to see old friends and classmates on this 60th anniversary. The declared emergency in Virginia is through early June so I may not be able to make it. I am working from home dealing with various needs of local government, so really can’t desert my post. I could reserve a room but I’d likely have to cancel if the global threat continues. I don’t know if this old body could handle an infection, so I am having to shelter at home. If things change I will be anxious to jump in the SUV and head out for old stomping grounds. We’ll see.
This situation is on everyone’s mind. From one TV channel to the next is broadcasting statistics showing how Covid19 is spreading and how many are dying. They tell us about the celebrities that have contracted the dreaded bug, including even the future King of England, Prince Charles. I suppose this column is not different today, but will revisit some differences I remember from my earliest childhood from a time prior even to grade school.
When I was growing up in Louisa my whole focus in life as a little kid was about play. At night, after reluctantly being taken to bed, usually at the threat of a grownup, I laid me down thinking of the exciting things that might happen tomorrow. When I was very young those things were simple, such as building a block fort, a highway through the dust for my tin cars, or a bridge over a make-believe river or steam. The play that really counted most to me was the play with others. With friends, our imaginations could soar as we interacted with fresh ideas, or a new toy. Such is the value of diversity and friendship.
What I’m leading up to is that dreaded event that would suddenly come along and spoil our plans and make them totally impossible. Back in those days, adults understood the potential risks that could face a family in the form of illnesses. It seemed to me that we had a lot of ‘childhood diseases’ back then and some of them could be life threatening. Some parents actually exposed us little kids to other infected kids so we’d get the bugs early in life and not have to face a disease as an adult. Apparently getting sick when older was considered more dangerous.
Whether it was mumps, measles, scarlet fever, chicken pox, diphtheria, croup, or whatever, it was the time that I learned about the most horrible word in my world. QUARANTINE! That word meant no play, no friends, and no visitors even for the adults, except if another family wanted to have their kids get sick. My, how cruel. In the first place we were sick and not feeling all that great. Having those germs running amok in your body takes a toll, but when you had little spurts of ‘normal’ you still couldn’t do anything. Remember, we didn’t have TV, or ‘X’ games, or smart phones. Instead, when you or anyone in the family got sick a sign would go up on the front door and everyone knew to stay away. The milkman would leave the bottle close to the door, but he’d slink away quickly before anyone could open it and expose him to the dread disease that was bound to make his life miserable.
I remember almost losing my Cousin George once when he got so sick. The bad thing was, he stayed in his room for what seemed like weeks, and I was left to play by myself. It was a dull time, but before it was over it was my turn. Yuk! Now I was sick. I laid in bed feeling perfectly awful. The only redeeming element was that I knew he couldn’t go out either until I got well. Well, it was only fair!
All of this has come to mind because of the ‘social distancing’ we are now being advised to maintain. It is not about a strict ‘quarantine’ but rather something that restricts close contact with others. While this is ‘kinder’ it isn’t as effective. The problem is the global scope. Quarantines would shut down life if applied to everyone.
Back in those early post-war years it seemed that each had a turn with illnesses. Our parents had to be both housekeeper, maid and care-giver. The rest of us who may have either gotten over the illness or never had it, were nonetheless penalized and imprisoned in a house that grew smaller every day. Even now, because of this latest bug, all meetings, conferences, church services, group activities, concerts, are shut-down. The hotel industry, the food industry, and the travel industries are hurting as folks are required to stay away in droves. Even weddings, spring breaks, (and maybe funerals) are stopped.
While medicine has gained some success in doing away with some of the old childhood diseases, we are now subject to an endless list of serious infections caused by bacteria or viruses. We used to hear the term epidemic, but now it’s pandemic. That’s the result of a cosmopolitan world with people going to and fro around the world. New ‘black plagues’ are popping up all around and some of these new illnesses are taking lives. Even care-givers are at serious risk, and whole nations are wearing surgical masks in a vain attempt to protect mankind.
Can the old word quarantine be applied to whole world? No, I suspect this is too widespread and a quarantine is too severe. Whether Covid19has appeared naturally or whether some diabolical mind created and released this malady, it is in my mind second only to the Black Death of the dark ages. The difference is it travels faster with help from us, the carriers. We use trains, ships and jet planes and we tend to often find ourselves in crowds.
I remember being locked up in the Louisa Inn for a couple of weeks, and perhaps again somewhere else, but back then it was a horrible situation for me because of both illnesses and restrictions. Now, the world is learning about the joys of quarantine. Cabin fever is the result, but in trying to ‘flatten the curve’ we may get lucky and buy enough time to develop a cure or preventative vaccine. Over the years, when I contracted an illness, or my wife did, we temporarily moved to other rooms for a night or two to protect the other. The fact that my grandkids are doing the same touches my heart, but gives me pride that they are thinking of others. As an adult now, we can all see and understand why we must do our part to slow this new virus. Shelter in place and keep well, my friends.
Please pass my new address to the committee as my reunion notice went to my old house. The new address is: 942 Turner’s Landing Road, Lanexa, VA 23089. Landline: 804-557-5085 if you need me.