It is the last Sunday in April. Like most days for the past five weeks, I am sitting on my wife’s sofa, pecking at my laptop. Fortunately, I can work from home.
Like most people these days, I face the near future with some uncertainty. We missed baseball’s opening day. But these are unusual times.
I have experienced good in this pandemic. The days are warmer and the trees have blossomed. A walk outdoors has never felt better. But the human side of the pandemic has impressed me.
I have hope that when this quarantine is over, our lives will have changed for the better. I see this in my registered nurse son who goes for his 12-hour shifts at his Alzheimer long-term care facility. He knows the risks for his patients and himself. With all of the mistakes I’ve made as a parent, I wonder how I raised a son that is both brave and caring.
I have my family. My son has 3-year-old baby twins. We can only see them on occasion, outdoors. They don’t understand why Grandma can’t hug them like she always did. But they are alive and with us. We marvel at their progress. There are more words from little mouths. I also miss my other grandchildren. But I know they are hard at work on their school assignments.
I’m grateful for those who care for my son with autism. Johnny doesn’t understand why he can’t come home for his usual visits. We bring him his favorite foods. We can see him outdoors for a few seconds while we pass him his wings or ribs.
I’m grateful for the neighbors who shop for my 85-year-old mother and leave the groceries on her porch. In my own neighborhood, I see examples of people finding ways to give service even with social distancing.
I’m thankful for work to do, enough to eat and a spouse with a cheerful attitude, which gives me the belief that the country will come back better.
We have been through this before. On Sept. 21, 1918, The Salt Lake Tribune had a column concerning the spread of the Spanish flu. It is hauntingly familiar:
"The outbreak of Spanish influenza at five additional army training camps was announced tonight by Surgeon General Gorgas, making a total of nine camps in which the disease has been discovered. The total number of cases reported from all camps up to noon today was 9313, with eleven deaths.
“In response to a request from Surgeon General Blue, of the public health service, health authorities in many states sent word today as to the development and spread of the epidemic … in all parts of the country steps were taken by health officers to check the spread of the disease.”
Before the 1918 pandemic was over, more than 100 million people had died. The flu overwhelmed the 1918 medical world. Like today, they had no vaccine. The years 1919 and 1920 saw a sharp economic depression blamed on returning soldiers. However, today’s experience suggests it may well have been the residual economic effects of the flu.
The great flu pandemic touched my family. My father’s uncles John and Afton Clegg were in the Army in France. The night before an attack, my great uncles were moving into position. Uncle Afton had the flu and Uncle John carried his pack until Uncle Afton could go no further. Uncle Afton went to hospital while Uncle John was killed the next morning in the attack.
My mother’s family also was not spared. Her maternal great-grandmother, Lucinda Bingham, died on Jan. 12, 1918. Lucinda’s husband Charles Nye died two weeks later, on Feb. 3, 1918. My mother asked her grandmother why her parents died at the same time. My great-grandmother could only answer, “Flu.”
That generation survived a pandemic and got on with their lives. I suspect we will also get on with our lives. As for me, I look forward to release from home confinement but more importantly, I have faith that one day there will be baseball.
Kenneth Lougee lives in Sandy with his wife, Jan. He practices law and occasionally writes about the United States in the early 20th century. He is the author of “Pie in the Sky: How Joe Hill’s Lawyers Lost His Case, Got Him Shot and Were Disbarred.”