By: Ellen Nimmo
I can figure it must be pretty tough to be a parent these days. Maybe it is tough to be anyone, during any time, but parents have been especially on my mind lately.
While there are a slew of adaptations and adjustments for all of us at the moment, parents (and kids) are, in some ways, getting a double dose. I’ve heard from several of my friends with kiddos that this has, and will be, a tough chapter, a season with new struggles to navigate, new joys to find. Could be that’s you. No doubt it is someone you know.
My own parents have been top of mind too. They live in Oregon. My mother and I have a weekly phone call, which I wrote about once before (you can read that here if your curiosity is peaked). Anyway, this call is something I have grown to appreciate deeply. This set aside moment, to connect. Sometimes we talk about nothing much more than weather and what we had for lunch that day or that embarrassing thing we did that no one else saw or knows about, like recently when she told me about a mouse she found in a potato chip bag and tried to “set free.” Turns out the mouse had its own thoughts on what to do, one can imagine. Other times, our conversation has more depth. Both are good. Both needed.
Last week, on our call, my mother told me a story about my grandmother, Muriel.
Picture, if you will, a young girl, a child whose close cropped curls dance in the wind as she plays in the yard with her dolls and dog. Dog and dolls, all dressed in black, form a gangly circle. The dog’s dress is misbuttoned and its canine jaw is slack with panting, revealing a quasi-grin. The dolls, frozen in their places, seem to mirror the dog’s toothy smile, each of them content to be included in the odd scene at hand, a funeral.
My grandmother, creator of this strange scene, was as kids tend to, imitating the life she saw unfolding around her. If with a touch more whimsy and flair. The drama, a composite. A play, both comedy and tragedy, with players both real and imagined, was part of what my grandmother would use to understand both life and death.
The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 was one of the deadliest epidemics in human history and it’s precisely why my grandmother was busying the family dog with make believe funerals. It’s why her mother, my great grandmother, encouraged all three of her daughters to become nurses, which they did. This continued on with my mother and three of my aunts joining the medical, care-giving community. And, at least in the way I’ve experienced them, it appears to be less of a family tradition and more of a commitment to a deep conviction.
I was struck. You see, before last week, I really didn’t have any concept of the magnitude or impact the Spanish Flu had worldwide, much less on my very own family. I won’t elaborate on the doom and gloom here regarding the Spanish Flu, but suffice to say, things were pretty darn rough the world over.
After our call my mom text me something. Take a look and see:
Frodo, my man, ditto.
And Gandalf, Old Grey Beard, thank you.
And Muriel, dear grandmother, bless you. You lived through harrowing times and you, at your mother’s encouragement, decided to use the time that was given you, to do something positive. To serve and nurse the sick. To do, what you could, to enhance lives amidst uncertain times.
Admittedly, there was a bit of sadness that washed over me when I realized I didn’t follow along and enter the medical field in some capacity like these brave women before me. But the more I thought about it I realized there are lots of ways we can each take the times we’re given and do something to show compassion and healing to a hurting world.
Come what may, if I do that in my own way (and you in yours), I think we will have lived our lives well.