Pan-damn-ick

By Anthony D. Wildman

 

Why did we always expect them to come in metal ships?
Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Who knows why things stick in your memory? If there was ever pieces of information that I thought I would never need, or pay attention to, it's these


In the Air Force we were trained how to avoid capture if you were caught behind enemy lines, and what to do if you were captured. One of the Trainers was a Brit who had survived years in one of their horrific and murderous Japanese prison camps. His plan for survival: three guys — one to be sick, one to guard, and one to forage.
 

Years later I attended the 60th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and met with Jim Malakos, who survived the Japanese attack on
the USS Curtiss. Jim spoke of 'four off, four on' while sailing from battle to battle in the Pacific.

 

We were so tired that we wished the Japs would get us and end it all.
 

We are having our Black Swan moment, that unpredictable event, so far beyond normal, with negative consequences for all. Unlike an
'invasion' from another planet, the 'other' planet has been inside ours all the time.


The unseen virus is more frightening because it can be carried by people who are seemingly healthy. A vaccine, or a treatment that cures
you, is thought to be months, if not years, away. We are left with changing our social behaviors, and even the simplest, wearing masks,
keeping six feet apart, are difficult.


I'm afraid, but want to get back to a more normal life. The question is how? I accept that certain behaviors cost lives. Alcohol use and
guns, driving cars and lack of proper health care, even ordinary flu has a statistical certainty of 'x' number of deaths. I wonder, what is
an acceptable death rate for CO-19?


I was nicely retired. Joe Biden had disappeared; Trump seemed unbeatable; the economy, particularly the service economy, was sailing
along nicely; and Faux-Fox News was proclaiming that this virus was just another Democratic-Trump hater hoax. All seemed hunky-dory.
Suddenly, the market shot past 20,000, heading south; Biden looks like our next President; Trump finally looks, well, like Trump; and the American economy is staggering and might be ready to free fall.


I in self-isolation and still think it's early March, and beginning to feel like Jim.


In stressful times like these I am reminded of the words of the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, who, when asked if she could describe her time on the prison queues in Leningrad, said,

 

Yes, I can.
 

I am nowhere near her experience, but in a tough spot, and don't pretend to be able to live up to her confident statement. I can try,
but the problem is we're all going through this together, so trying to describe might be met with bored expressions and the desire to talk
about something, anything, else.

 

It reminds me of World War II. I can remember it clearly because I was 7 when Pearl Harbor happened. Everyone, and everything, was affected. It wasn't something that struck a few and the rest of us picked up what pieces were broken and resumed our pre-event lives. The War spared no one, and it went with no end in sight.


Later, in the service myself, the endless days of sheer drudgery and boredom stretched out day after day, separated occasionally by a few
moments that did get your attention.


I consider myself lucky. At 85, I haven't got a job that may, or may not, be there. I don't run around a lot, so being stuck in the house
is not a terrible hardship. I am internet savvy, and a few key strokes brings most things to my door.


I'm an only child, so I learned after the day was finished I went home and was on my own. No brothers and sisters to compete, or play, with, and grown-ups were busy finishing their day. Being on my own became  something I got used to, so this isolation stuff is anything new.


My partner, Grace was preparing to retire, but at an 'essential worker' she decided to protect me and stay in the other house. This
wouldn't go on for too long. Really? She's still there.


Zoom and Face Time substitute for face-to-face. Our groundhog existence does present some challenges when trying to discuss the
events of this day, or that, and politics can lead us down avenues that, perhaps, might best be avoided.


I've picked up copies of Daniel DeFoe's Journal of the Plague Year, and Samuel Pepys' Diaries. What would have been grim reading at other times is turning out to be instructive. People are people and theiractions and reactions to 'plagues' are pretty similar.


In his closing pages, DeFoe praises 'the civil officers,' who 'did their business with as much courage as any, and perhaps with more.'
But he has a word of caution. When the plague in London broke and all returned to normal, the citizens, like the Israelites,
after escaping the Pharaoh and passing through the Red Sea,


Sang His praise, but they soon forgot His works.


There are unexpected benefits. I speak daily with my son, Sean. He won't admit it, but he's calling to check up on me. It is a nice
change from me worrying about him.


Secret, I still do, but don't tell him.

 

Anthony D. Wildman

I am 85. I grew up in Amityville on Long Island. I have a couple of degrees in History, flew in the Air Force, and taught in college and high school. I spent
34 years as a labor negotiator.

Trolley c/o NYS Writers Institute

Science Library 320

University at Albany

Albany NY 12222   

nyswritersinstitute.org 

© 2020 All rights reserved.​

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