Reflections from an Octogenarian…the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 

 

 

 

The words “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and Covid 19 run through my mind every time I watch the news. I’ve struggled to find the good. I’ve tried to think of something to say, but like you, most everything I heard and continue to hear has been negative, so I chose to remain silent. However, to the possible woe of many, I’m breaking my silence.

As you can see, I have occasionally forgotten to wear my mask and have had to “make do.” I do believe the masks, appropriate social distances, and hand washing are the only options we have right now to try to curb the spread of Covid 19. So in spite of what I’ve read about masks not working, I’ll continue to wear one, or something.

It appears that many of us born before mid century are “potential Covid 19 statistics.” Another article said seniors have become “cases of double jeopardy.” Until I read all this and repeated the word “octogenarian” out loud several times, I really didn’t feel that old. Well, it sort of put me in my place, didn’t it!

Looking back over my “many years,” as I’ve been so rudely reminded, some of my earliest memories are of my parents talking about what they needed and what they could afford. The United States was still recovering from the Great Depression of 1929. Jobs were few and salaries were low. I have a few faint memories of mother and dad saying, “You’ll have to make do with what you have.” As a little child I didn’t quite understand that money was scarce and a new doll or book wasn’t a necessity, but I learned to “make do” with what I had at an early age.

As Dallas was beginning to thrive and come back from the Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, and in 1942 our nation entered World War II. The world as we knew it changed drastically. There were bomb drills in elementary school. We were taught to hide under out desks with our arms over our heads and at times to crouch down in the halls. Food rationing started and everyone got a ration book filled with stamps for the purchase of certain items. Much of our nation’s food supply was sent to feed the soldiers. Mother learned to “make do” with honey when she couldn’t buy sugar.

The 1940s were a mixed bag of good times, bad times, and ugly times. I remember visiting a friend in the early years and finding a “Quarantine Notice” tacked to the door. There was scarlet fever in that house and no one was allowed in or out. My friend wasn’t permitted to go to school or play outside as her sister had scarlet fever. There was no medication for it at that time. Penicillin was used for treating soldiers during World War II, but it wasn’t available to the general public until the late 1940s.

Another friend’s mother had tuberculosis. There was no cure for it and she was isolated in a TB hospital when he was five years old. He never saw his mother again except through a second story window. He has no memory of her kissing him. During the 1940s and 1950s if you worked in any type of food service, you had to be examined and certified okay by the health department of Dallas. A treatment for TB was found in 1943, but wasn’t until 1990 that a cure was achieved, however, it still took about six months of treatment.

And then outbreaks of infantile paralysis, more commonly known as polio, hit our nation in the 1940s and 1950s. It was a terrifying illness, one requiring the victim to live in a huge metal chamber called an iron lung. Most people that had it were left with some sort of paralysis.  My friend across the street from me was in one. We’d visit her by standing outside her bedroom window. She could turn her head and look at us. We could hear the metal clank as the iron lung breathed for her, up and down, up and down, it never stopped. Scary, terrifying, you bet it was. The Salk vaccine was discovered in 1953, but didn’t come into commercial use until 1961.

So why am I talking about the bad things? 

Because I’ve observed in my long life that every so often the world does a reset. The hardest life changes that reset my world were the deaths of two husbands. The most significant thing I learned is with every major life event, whether personal or otherwise, the world as I knew it changed. And eventually a new normal emerged. And it wasn’t easy.

The world changed after the Pearl Harbor attack, men turned into soldiers and women had to pick up where the men left off. Former homemakers turned into factory workers, plumbers, electricians, and did the jobs men had previously done to keep our nation going. And a new normal showed up. And it was difficult.

During the times of tuberculosis, scarlet fever, and polio, we learned social distancing, although it wasn’t called that. Gloves were the norm when shopping or riding the bus. You seldom saw a woman without gloves on when shopping. The gloves went in the washing as soon as we got home. Hands were washed often and thoroughly. Another new normal and it was scary.

Change is always difficult when it’s not our choice, and sometimes even when it is our choice. We don’t like to give up what was customary and comfortable. Perhaps that’s why we hear people talking about the “good old days.”

So what do we do with this?

Covid 19 will run its course and a vaccine will be found, maybe this year, maybe next year. But it will pass and the youth of today will someday tell their grandchildren about it. Those in my generation didn’t like the restrictions any more than people do today. But the ones who survived did what they had to do and followed the guidelines set forth by the authorities. It’s worth noting that they survived all this without air conditioning or the internet.

Today, the news is reporting people feel their “rights” have been violated by having to stay at home. I’m hearing many people refuse to wear masks and social distance. They refuse to obey the rules that have been set in place to keep them safe.  And I wonder what has happened to common sense, compassion, and even just plain kindness and caring for others.

Isolation and wearing masks isn’t fun, but I remember so many other times in my life when I didn’t like things. That said, many of us survived and isn’t that what we all want. John Wooden said “Character is what you do when no one is watching.”

Take this opportunity to read, work a puzzle, play games with your children, learn something you’ve always wanted to, take classes and watch church online, support restaurants by picking up food. The challenge is to find constructive and fun ways to stay involved with those we love without endangering them or strangers.

There is a lot of loss and uncertainty in the world right now, but it will pass. It always does. The good, the bad, and the ugly—what will the new normal be?  How the future unfolds is up to each of us. It’s a choice.  What will you do?

Remember—
Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague
and he wrote King Lear.

About Betty Kerss Groezinger

Betty Kerss Groezinger, a native Texan, was born in Dallas. She was a legal researcher for President Harry S. Truman in Independence, Missouri, taught business courses at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Missouri, and on her return to Dallas, she worked for more than a decade with advertising agencies. She has been a resident of Irving, Texas, since 1965, and is now working on the sequel to The Davenport Dilemma.
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14 Responses to Reflections from an Octogenarian…the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Joanne Connell says:

    Very good Betty!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  2. Patty Gartman says:

    I always appreciate what you write.  Thank you. Patty Gartman

    Like

  3. Mary Jo Ferril says:

    Thank you, Betty! You never fail! I have needed to hear this. I will forward to as many as I can!
    We love and respect you and your knowledge and stories.

    Like

  4. Jodie Niznik says:

    Betty, this is excellent. I so appreciate and value your thoughts and perspective on this. We have a lot to lear from you and your peers who have already endured many “resets.” Thank you for taking the time to write this. I have been blessed by your thoughts this morning. Sending love and virtual hugs. Jodie

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  5. Wanda Yohn says:

    Betty, I enjoyed your reflections on our current times. I am planning to write my own perspective. I appreciate and agree with your common sense approach. The part about life doing a “reset” was particularly powerful, especially when coupled with the loss of your husbands. My husband also had polio in the winter of 1949-50.
    You may recall that you came to our book club in May 2014 when we read “The Davenport Dilemma”. Just last month in June we celebrated a major milestone in that as a group we have read and discussed 200 books. I asked the ladies to list their “most” favorite and then to add 5 or 6 next favorites. I think you will be pleased to know that 3 ladies listed your book as their close favorite.
    Blessings, Wanda Yohn

    Like

  6. Lavern Howell says:

    Betty, you are something else. I’m so proud of you and how you have continued to stay with the second book with all you have been going through. Bill is excited to get your second book so he can read it. Love you much lay
    Lavern

    Like

  7. paul A dean says:

    great message Betty!

    Like

  8. Teresa Kerss says:

    It’s good for us “younger” (somewhat anyway!) generations to be reminded of the trials our nation has overcome in the past and that this too will someday be in our rearview. It makes me wonder…. What will I see when I look back? Will I be happy with how I weathered the storm? Will I be proud of who I became on the other side? This was powerful and quite thought-provoking.
    Thank you Mom💕

    Like

  9. Karen Watters says:

    Loved this!! I have forwarded it to several people who in turn are forwarding it on! Thank You for writing it and sharing your Wisdom and wise words!!
    Love you 😘

    Sent from my iPhone

    Like

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