Dear Grandchildren, The Year 2020 is Cancelled

CovidThis Grandma just got off the telephone with our oldest grandson, age 16, a junior in high school.  It is March 16, 2020 at the end of the workday. He is on spring break. As I had done, he also just listened to the President institute greater restrictions on travel and a maximum gatherings of ten persons because of the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 in the United States, a pandemic that has reached nearly every corner of the world and threatens to kill millions of people.  President Trump was asked how long these restrictions would remain in place, and he responded hopefully only to August or September.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the medical expert who speaks the truth bluntly, came to the microphone to clarify that even greater and longer restrictions could be on the near horizon.

At that moment, the Headmaster from our grandson’s school sent him a text that included to look for an email which would have more information.  As he read the text to me, I said for him to put both pieces of information together, and what is probably going to happen is school will be on remote learning until the end of the school year, and might even be at the start of the next school year, his senior year.

His response was, “Oh, Man.”  He could not believe that he might miss out on part of his senior year of high school.  The SAT was already delayed twice and college applications needed to be done.  See, “Much of ACT and SAT college entrance testing halted because of coronavirus,” Washington Post, March 17, 2020.

He had not previously heard the Governor of Washington State who said more drastic measures were coming as the novel coronavirus cases are on the trajectory to skyrocket and we may face the chaos that is currently in Italy where COVID-19 is out of control.  When asked the penalty for violating restrictions in his state, Washington Governor Inslee responded,

“The penalty is you might be killing your granddad if you don’t do it. I am serious.”

I said that is PopPop and me and your friends’ and schoolmates’ grandparents too who are in most danger.  The Italian health care system is so overrun with shortages of ventilators and other necessary medical supplies and ICU beds that doctors are having to make tough decisions on who gets treatment and who lives and who dies.  Many of us of grandparent age may die unless every one of every age does their part now to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus so American hospitals and medical care system are not similarly overburdened and stressed beyond capacity.  America does not have enough in its medical system either.

That stopped him in his tracks.  I explained that he and those of his generation, Gen Z (4-24 year olds) and Millennials (Gen Y-1, 25-29 year olds, and Gen Y-2, 29-39 year olds) were key to keeping us alive by complying with restrictions and social distancing.  It seemed from Italy that 15% of their citizens of grandparent age were dying from the coronavirus.  That even though we were his Florida grandparents, I said to think of the grandparents where he lives, and I hope that the high schoolers and older here in Florida protect us by following the restrictions.  I think hearing it from his Grandmother hit home more than any President or Governor.

We discussed that he is going to remember for the rest of his life that the year 2020 is the year that got cancelled.  We have learned new vocabulary that I wish we did not.  Pandemic.  Social distancing.  Containment zone. See “From Flattening the Curve to Social Distancing: a Coronavirus Glossary,” New York Times, March 17, 2020.  We have heard cruise ships called petri dishes.  We just need to look back at the Black Plague period to get the word, “quarantine,” derived from the word “quaranto,” which means forty, from the forty days a ship had to remain outside the port to protect the city from the Black Plague being brought by the ship. See, “Coronavirus Contaminated Cruise Ships Mirror the Global Crisis: Cruises aim to be frictionless, but disruptions from land burst that bubble,” by Nicole Wetsman, The Verge, February 20, 2020. This perspective was of interest to him.

I said that this year will go slowly for him, especially since every day significant information and changes impact how we live our lives.  Just think what has happened in this last week or so. Seattle, Washingon, Mayor Durkan said. “I truly believe that this outbreak will be the most transformative and consequential event that we’ve had in this region and in this country.” For us Boomers, life has been speeding up as we have seventy or so years of life already whereas he has only had sixteen.

I added it will be the first such stupendous event in your life, and I hope it is the last horrible event.  But, as a Boomer, I have experienced so much, as in the last twenty years I have seen more technological changes than occurred the previous twenty years.  I can remember the first black and white TV and now have a Smart TV.  We Boomers have lived through the Korean and Vietnam wars, and now the longest wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We lived through 9-11 and terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.  We lived through the 2008 financial crisis as big as the Great Depression.  And GG (Great Grandmother) lived through that and two World Wars.  When we were children, we had drills where we went under our desks and covered our heads to prepare for a nuclear attack.  Now schools have drills for active shooters.  But, I never thought I would see a Pandemic in my lifetime.

We also have had great medical advances and cures for so many diseases in my lifetime.  The vaccine for this one to will come, hopefully, before this novel coronavirus kills too many of us Boomers.

You live a life, I told him.  There is good and bad, but the good is the best part of life.  We have lived long enough to experience and love six grandchildren.

I shared that the year 2020 may be cancelled, but he has a long, wonderful life ahead of him.  The present will be hard, but I know he will rise to the occasion and do his part for his family and his community and country.

As soon as he got off the phone, our grandson shared a video, and link to transcript of the video, he just received from his Brunswick School Headmaster, Tom Phillip, who was much more eloquent as he addressed his students and their families:

“Although obvious, I want to begin by acknowledging that no one alive today has ever experienced something such as this. The scale and impact of this experience is something that we are all likely to remember for the rest of our lives. We are living through history here, and history is the story of facing and overcoming challenges. No one bothers to write or read histories about the easy times. It is the tough times that define and mold us, and I know — without a doubt — that our Brunswick boys, our faculty, staff, and parents, our town, and our nation at large will face this challenge and come through it. . . .”

And the Headmaster concluded,

“. . . .I’ll end, then, by noting that there are — in life — situations and circumstances beyond our control. This is most certainly one of those.

As I say often to the boys, it is not so much what happens to us that matters, but rather how we respond to what happens to us that counts.

I have no doubt that our boys will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger still because of it.

As isolated as we may feel from time to time, given the circumstances of social distancing, there is no escaping that we are all in this together, and together we will come out triumphant on the other side. . . .”

Our grandchildren are up to the challenge.  Please consider speaking to them about our history and this challenge whether or not your grandchildren have a Headmaster as incredible as Tom Phillip of The Brunswick School in Greenwich. Ct. to do it for us.  Read his entire text at this link.

After all, we Boomers are their grandparents and we have been up to every challenge.

He and our other five grandchildren are the rewards for a life long lived and we want to be around for more

 

Joy,

 

Mema

 

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