Quarantine lessons from the past

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I was at the grocery store utilizing my social distancing, hoping to get a pre-cooked bag of chicken and get back out quickly. I turned around, cooked chicken in hand and a beautiful, elderly woman rolled up in her wheelchair. No one pushing her, just rolling along using her feet with a jar of peanut butter tucked under her arm. Elegant, old fashioned hat with a huge diamond broach on the side. She was dressed up, all in black with thick heels, a dress and a heavy coat. Her ear lobes were stretched out with heavy dangling earrings. The epitome of a woman with class. I imagined her in her youth.

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She asked so sweetly if that was the bagged chicken. I said, “Yes, which one would you like?” I read off what kind was left in the heated shelf that she would have had to stand up to reach. She wanted the Lemon Pepper. But she needed two because she explained that was pretty much all that she ate. She sat them on her lap. I offered to get a carry basket since they were hot and she shook her head. I asked if she needed anything else and how she was faring with the quarantine. We think this is new because we haven’t lived it. But it’s not new, it’s been fought and won before.

This woman was amazing. I looked into her eyes filled with wisdom and her face lined with a long life. She told me that she was eleven when yellow fever broke out in New York and it inspired her to become a nurse. She remembered so many people dying everywhere and that children shouldn’t see or have to live through those things. It made her stronger and more determined to succeed. She also told me she graduated in 1946 from nursing school and that she had a wonderful life. She called me darling and said not to worry, just wash my hands, soap is the important step.

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Today we are fighting the Coronavirus. Staying at home doesn’t seem like we’re fighting, but we are. I’ve seen the joke on Facebook that our grandparents fought in a war and we are only asked to stay home to watch TV and not to screw it up. Sounds so easy.

Some people don’t have that luxury. They are the essential workers who go out into the public and take the chance that they will breathe or touch the virus and have the worry of bringing it home.

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Back to my sweet elderly lady in black. I came home to look up yellow fever. Looks like the last outbreak in the United States was 1905 in New Orleans. The only information or clues she gave me was that she was eleven when people were dying of yellow fever and she graduated from nursing school in 1946.

Using my deduction skills and some simple math… IF I use 1905 and go back eleven years, she was born in 1894. Making her 126 years old. If it was earlier that she lived through it, she would be even older. So, was she 126? No, she must have been mistaken on the virus. So let’s see, graduated nursing school in 1946. Guessing she might have been twenty-three to twenty-five? So back to my superior math skills with the calculator, approximately 1923 she was born.

So was my inspiration mistaken on her memories and dates? Or was she a ghost from the past spreading hope?

The news uses scare tactics with big numbers. Yes we have 75,178 cases of positive Coronavirus and of those, 1069 have died. That is only about 1.5% of those infected. As of 2019 the United States had a population of 329.45 million, give or take.

Photo by Terri Underwood

My ghost from the past, no matter how old she is, reminded me to keep washing my hands with soap. It was a good reminder and I am also practicing social distancing to slow the spread.

Don’t forget to thank those essential workers risking their lives for their families … and ours.