Everyone agrees that 2020 ranks among the worst years of their lives. There were others, though. My 93-year-old mother remembers Pearl Harbor, the secret attack on the U.S. Navy by Japanese airmen. I've never researched if life was going well up to Dec. 7, 1941. It certainly led to the bad years that followed, however, ending in atomic bombs being dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, while it seems in 2020 that we've had the longest series of months—"Is it still March??"—the date Dec. 7, 1941, launched a period that also seemed without end.
On that very day, my mom's younger brother was accidentally shot in the abdomen and was rushed to a Salt Lake hospital. That's another reason she remembers that day and the main reason she wouldn't let me have a gun growing up. If not for that accident, I may have gotten my hands on a gun or three, and you might see me today expressing my patriotic bravery at a Freedom rally somewhere. As you know, freedom cannot be expressed properly without a sidearm. Well, not counting sucking from a can of beer and making tracks on Utah backroads, that is. Now, that's freedom.
Another bad year was 1929, but my mom doesn't remember that one, only the aftermath. Nearly everything she does to this day is a result of her Great Depression youth. Does your mom save the un-squeezable itty bits of ketchup leftovers in the fridge so she can add water to make tomato sauce? Is she able to get her local butcher to mark down meat prices 50% (not kidding, and we love her for that!). Does she have a napkin, butter, cream, syrup and sugar stash from the packets unused at restaurants? Does she always eat only half a meal and save the other half for later?
My mom does all of that and then some. This past year, she's been without most of her friends and family. Her passion for bingo, multiple nights per week, ended sometime last March. So did her monthly senior-citizen lunches at the Greek Orthodox church downtown. She's missed the monthly bus trips to Wendover. She hates that we can't visit much, but we are all amazed at how resilient she has been otherwise. She said a few months ago that living through COVID wasn't as bad as other things she'd been through.
For that reason, she refuses to stop driving to the grocery store ("I go early when there's nobody there. Leave me alone!") or getting her hair done. She masks up and social distances, though her Greek impulses tug. Those are concessions our family decided to make. We love her, but we don't want her going crazy, either—and before Grandma shaming, we also shop for her and take care of her home and personal needs. She just needs some freedom, and she doesn't need a purple flag, a dumb sign or a gun to express it. When we see her, she reminds us that her youth was a tad harder on her than COVID with the rejoinder: "We never complained. All of us were the same. We'd just go play and forget about it."
A few of her friends have contracted COVID as well as have two grandkids. All are well. She even had an aunt get coronavirus and recover. Yes, my 93-year-old mom has a 99-year-old aunt. She's not all cavalier about becoming ill—she's religiously fatalist, not fearful—and therefore consumes her daily dosage of vitamins B, C and D, plus minerals and a multivitamin. She's not shy to get up in the TV when anti-maskers or virus-deniers make another silly scene. Among her most glorious charms these past months have been her loud, colorful descriptions of Donald Trump. You don't want to know.
Like other sane people who live into their 10th decade, she doesn't have much tolerance for people who belittle and diminish the sanctity of living. She recognizes their passion for personal liberties because her own father left the Greek island of Crete in 1906 precisely to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities of America, but she thinks they're damned fools. She knows his stories of life under Ottoman occupation are 10 times scarier than those of frightened people who fear their neighbors because they voted for Democrats or wear masks. The beauty of freedom, though, is that we should all embrace the freedom to be stupid—so long as it doesn't hurt someone else.
That's why these next few weeks are so important for her. She's seriously disgusted by the craven behavior of those among us who think COVID-19 is a hoax, the fault of China. It wasn't the fault of China that America came late to be proactive in containing the illness. Remember all those folks in St. George defiantly not wearing masks at their rallies? Well, look at Washington County now—more deaths per cases than Salt Lake County, and if my Mr. Newton-math is correct, it now is the sole owner of the silver medal for most deaths per thousand in all of Utah.
Dumb is as dumb does. But not now. The vaccine is here and, despite my mom saying she wants all medical workers to get a vax before her, it's her time. She's confused about where to get her vaccine. Everyone's confused. So, can we just make a place for our seniors to get a shot? That's my single ask right now in 2021. They gave at the office.
If those maskless marchers don't value what comes first—the order is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—then move them to the rear. Because those who value life first are the ones who should inherit it—and bless it and pass it on. All she wants is a shot.
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