This is day eleven of my self imposed “Stay at Home,” routine and day five of the California Governor’s decree.
How are you all doing?
Amid the humorous and not so funny memes and photos, I came across the above message, which gave me pause to reflect.
My mother is in her 90’s. Practicing self-isolation, I don’t visit, but I phone and ask her how she’s doing.
“Oh, fine.” She then goes on to talk about her “normal for her” ailments of age.
I talk to my sister, who lives with Mom, and ask, “How’s Mom doing?”
“She’s like nothing’s different, no big deal.”
I realize Mom is in a different situation than most elderly. She has a family member living with her who takes care of cooking, cleaning, and her medication. The other family members live within the county and take care of appointments, excursions, and visiting.
Many other elderly are not as fortunate.
Mom and I got to talking about her experiences with difficult times. She was born during the depression and was a pre-teen during World War II, which she remembers clearly.
Orphaned a year before war broke out, Mom was one of five children, second to the last. The youngest nine and the oldest seventeen.
This is one of the stories Mom related:
In the post office, there were giant posters of an Army woman, with a finger to her lips, with the caption “Shhh, be careful what you say because it may cost a life,” and “Loose lips sink ships.”
Newspaper headlines reported that a Japanese submarine fired on a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara. Another paper headline said “LA Area Raided!” There were rumors that Los Angeles had come under Japanese attack with airplane fire and bombs.
Your Uncle Cata enlisted in the Army. He had quit school when he was in the 9th grade, so he could work to support us when our parents died.
Lute was fifteen, but he worked at two jobs, which kept him out at night. He tried to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted. He had injuries from playing football and was called a 4-F. He was so disappointed; he moped around the house for days, but I was glad he wasn’t going, because then who would take care of us?
Sometimes I was frightened, mostly in the evenings when Lute was gone to work. I had nightmares about the Japanese bombing Pomona, especially when the practice air-raid siren would blast its earsplitting alarm.
Walking up and down the street, the neighborhood air raid warden moved his flashlight around our dark yard, the light darting across our rickety wood fence and up and down our fruit trees, like ghosts running back and forth.
Della and I would turn off the radio, the lights and cover the windows with blankets. We’d run through the darkness and hide under our bedcovers, hugging each other, sweating in the summer heat, when the warning siren blasted into the night.
How I wanted to have my mother and father, to wrap their arms around us and tell us that everything would be okay; that we weren’t going to be bombed and that they would protect us and we would be safe, like before the war.
But I knew that wouldn’t happen. They were dead. My dad for four years, my mom for one.
So I held my tears in and tried to be brave for my little sister. I told her everything was going to be okay, even though I didn’t feel like it was the truth. It was a very lonely and scary time.
This saddened me, because I know life can be so much worse. I thought about the kids in the same situation, those in detention centers, those without caring parents or siblings to protect them, and sad for any person who is isolated without anyone to help.
I think about what others are doing, the medical staff, first responders, educators, my son who stocks groceries and prepares food at a Brooklyn natural foods store, my daughter who works in a doctor’s office, and my other son whose factory is now making hand sanitizer.
I worry that they could catch the COVID19 virus by taking the subway to work, although it’s desolate now, or coming into contact with others at their worksites.
But Mom’s story also reminded me to continue to record all of her recollections. If you haven’t put your parent’s experiences onto the page, or computer, now’s a good time. Organize those old photos, tell their stories to your children, tell your stories to your kids. Now’s the time.
Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll return to the routine I’ve set up for myself. My “Artist in Residence” schedule.
Prayer, meditation, writing, reading, exercise, gardening, meal preparation, phoning others, thirty minutes of news and social media, a couple of hours of T.V (you know I’m lying, it’s sometimes more) and back to prayer.
Be safe. Stay at home. Be Kind. Wash Your Hands.