Let’s Ponder This

Found in the Gonzales Inquirer (gonzalesinquirer.com) newspaper from Gonzales, Texas, January 6, 2022 issue:

Gonzales History

“1891 – January 29, the City Council passed an ordinance relating to vaccinations. Because of the danger of smallpox, all persons who have not been vaccinated shall be immediately vaccinated. The Council also recommends to all boards and superintendents that Sunday School and all other scholars be excluded until they have proof of vaccination. The Council has made arrangements with local physicians to vaccinate all indigent persons. The marshal is requested to see that this ordinance is strictly enforced.”

Smallpox was NASTY. You always knew when someone had it, and so had the option to run away at high speed. It was deadly, highly visible, incredibly painful, and wildly contagious. Whole towns, Indian tribes, and families were decimated by it. More, the physical surroundings were infectious. Sometimes all that could be done was burn an entire house down. People understood the danger.

In the Spanish flu pandemic, there are photos of masked guards on roads leading into towns ready to shoot people who refused to wear masks. There were no vaccinations. YEARS went by before it finally faded out. Infrastructure was damaged. Bodies piled up in alleys, on streets, because there weren’t enough people left healthy enough to collect them, much less bury them. Children were orphaned, often starving until they joined their parents in death. The photos are horrific. Yes, there are photos, because even then, journalists understood the historic events needed to be recorded, and some were willing to risk their lives to leave a warning for future descendants of survivors.

And here we are today. We went through the alarms of bird flu, swine flu, ebola, and various other fun times. Science researched and developed vaccines, learned about infection vectors, and came up with plans for pandemics in the future. Stockpiles of equipment, personal protection items, and medical paraphernalia were assembled. We were going to be ready!

SO WHAT HAPPENED? The plans were tossed, the stockpiles seem to have disappeared, millions are dying and have died, and the survival instincts of millions have disappeared. Bodies are piling up, infrastructure is breaking down, children are being orphaned, the hospitals are overwhelmed, and people are violently protesting being told to protect themselves, never mind others.

“I don’t trust the research.” Really? What do you know about research? You take Viagra, antibiotics, Ivermectin, and the latest “cure” or “prevention” you read about on social media, but don’t trust the work of people who have spent their entire LIVES trying to make sure the human race survives? You’ll trust your own immune system even though you can’t hold off the common cold? You see reports that MILLIONS have died from COVID and MILLIONS have survived getting vaccinated, but you don’t trust the vaccine?

I have a sister who likes to put a finger to her face and say “Let’s ponder this!” A few questions to ponder:

  1. Why are talking heads in the media and politicians getting vaccinated and boosted, but advising you with great fervor to avoid it?
  2. Why are they insisting you go out and socialize in person as if staying home will cause your brain to explode?
  3. Why are they insisting wearing a simple mask will make you a prisoner of the state, even though folks routinely cover their faces with scarves in the winter to keep their lips from getting chapped and their skin from feeling cold? Even though millions wear sunglasses year round so they won’t squint? You’ll wear sunblock to keep from getting a sunburn, but a mask to prevent death from an airborne disease is a violation of your civil rights?
  4. Why do they insist all the information about the pandemic is a hoax? Doctors are now going on Twitter to ask if hospitals have available space for patients because it’s taking too long to sit and phone all the hospitals they can think of to find one. No one ever thought we’d need a national clearinghouse of hospital availability! National Guardsmen are being deployed to help in hospitals because health care workers – huge surprise! – are getting sick, AND exhausted. Refrigerator trucks have to be used to hold dead bodies because they can’t get processed by morgues and funeral homes. Do these hoax fans think Hollywood is making big bucks arranging scenes for news crews and actors and actresses to cry from despair while they pretend to be health care workers?
  5. If they insist the pandemic is a hoax, why do they push weird “cures” and “preventions” like animal wormers, malaria pills, and household cleaners? Thanks to their doing their best to kill their listeners and fans with medicine for other medical ills, those suffering from the diseases and conditions the medicine is actually meant for can’t get what they need to stay alive or at least avoid great suffering.

Sheer survival instinct used to rule us as individuals and as groups. Protect the children, protect ourselves, make sure the community endures. What happened? Eleven years ago strangers went out of their way to help survivors and the injured escape buildings under attack. Many risked their lives. They didn’t worry about their jobs, appearance, or ask if the government knew what it was doing, or whether masks were a good idea as smoke and dust billowed.

Now folks are more interested in whose fault it is, who can be trusted, who should be giving orders. Maybe we should ponder this: When a tsunami warning goes out, it’s not really intelligent to stand on the beach and hold onto someone trying to run up a mountainside so you can argue that it’s not a tsunami, it’s a tidal wave, or it was caused by a government experiment, not an earthquake, or it’s better to get a boat even though they are now all beached. Know why? Because pretty soon the guy trying to escape is going to decide maybe they should just coldcock you and run.

It’s not just in the movies that people determined to survive decide those trying to stop them need to be removed. History has plenty of examples. If we don’t learn from history, it WILL be repeated. Other nations are already taking steps we think are too harsh. But their caseloads are dropping, and their healthcare systems are not crashing.

I’ve had COVID, before vaccines were available. My sister did, too, and nearly died. She was kept waiting for 12 hours before they could find a hospital bed for her. I don’t want to go through that again, but we did. She got a respiratory infection this past December, and again had to wait 12 hours for a hospital bed. I was sick with the same thing at home. Luckily I, as with my COVID infection, wasn’t QUITE sick enough to need hospitalization.

My mother’s in isolation right now. She tested negative, but her roommate tested positive. Her nursing home staff is shorthanded, and my mom is bedbound. Last year she was positive but asymptomatic. Most of her nursing home was not. Now it’s happening again. She’s not happy and neither am I. I’m especially not happy because the situation is made worse by people determined to act like they don’t notice a wave crashing around them, even as they drown.

I’m not going to say “Wear a mask! Socially distance! Get vaccinated!” even though I think anybody sensible should. I want this pandemic to end so I can eat out, visit my mom in the nursing home, play with my great-nephews and great-niece, go to church, and not worry so much about my two cancer patient sisters dying from something besides their cancer. I want to go to movie theaters, take a cruise, go to Disneyland. I want to go to science fiction conventions again.

I’m not living in fear. People who say that are idiots (and I use the word deliberately) because it shows they have no instinct for survival, which is basic to human life. It is not fear that causes us to mask, to distance, to vaccinate. It is the determination to stay alive, to stay as healthy as possible, to endure until better times come. I want to keep as many people as possible around me alive, to keep me company when better times come.

I just want people to ponder a few things. Are we being sensible, or foolish? Are we listening to strangers selling snake oil, or the scientists telling us to take cover as fireballs rain from the sky? Are we going to survive?

It’s a Family Thing

“It’s the family joke,” my 88 year old uncle told me over breakfast at our favorite pancake spot.  “My brothers and sisters used to tell it all the time.  Lucky for them I think it’s funny, too.”

“It’s like this,” he explained, staring at his coffee as he concentrated on remembering the exact wording.  “It all started when I married my sister’s niece.”  He scowled at my expression.  “Not MY niece. HER niece.  There’s a difference, you know.”  Then he paused.  “You should write this down,” he suggested.  “So you get it right.”

I thought that was a good idea, so I pulled out a notepad and pen.  He proceeded with the explanation.  “You see, when I married your aunt, I became my wife’s uncle, my sister’s nephew, a first cousin to my nieces and nephews, and finally, my own uncle.”  I thought about it later, and realized he hadn’t mentioned he and his wife were also first cousins to their own children and to each other.  Huh.  I’ll have to point that out to him.  He’ll probably get a laugh out of that, too.

Relationships interest me.  I’m one of five sisters.  People often ask us if we have any brothers.  It’s our family joke that we used to, but we got rid of them.  I wonder why they always look like they’re not sure whether to believe us or not…

I live with one sister.  The others all  live alone.  If my sister and I could afford it, we’d probably live alone, too.  We’re all happy hermits, with our own preferences and habits.  Even the two of us who share a house can spend hours in silence, cheerfully ignoring each other.  One sister did get married and stayed that way for thirty years till she became a widow and raised two lovely daughters, but now she lives alone and enjoys it.  We’re close, though, when trouble looms, like when we all wound up with various forms of cancer, or somebody needs some transportation, or a hand moving something around.

Facebook has been a real boon to us, because now we can keep in touch with each others’ lives without getting on each others’ nerves, which was always a problem before.  Keeping in close contact can create friction and heat, just like with brakes.  I’ve found it’s the same way with friendships.  I’m a whole lot closer to people now that I don’t have to look at them all day, like my coworkers.  It works for us.

Because of my interest in relationships, I’ve been checking into genealogy and asking a lot of questions of my relatives.  If it weren’t for my preference for tact and manners, I’d ask lots of rude questions about their marriages, and family lives, and what are their children doing running around with that crowd?  Oh, the things I’d like to know, but know it’s rude to ask, and some questions might get me arrested for stalking…  So I stick to the relatives that aren’t around any longer.

My father and uncle’s mother told her children when they asked about him that her daddy was hung for a horse thief and that’s all she would say about it so never ask again or else!  They took her seriously.  She was the kind of woman you took seriously.  I knew her for a short while, and I totally understood.  My mom told me when I asked that as far as she knew, during the Civil War her forefathers had spent the war raiding the farms of those whose menfolk had gone away to fight.  Sheesh! Outlaws on both sides?  But a few years after that, she was listening to a history program on the radio and heard some names she recognized from her family’s lineage, and found she might have some relatives who were Union generals commanding prisoner of war camps.  My uncle and father’s paternal grandfather was a doctor in the Confederacy for all of three months.

I decided to spend some time on Ancestry.com and see what I could find.  It’s been very interesting.  My dad’s maternal grandfather’s death certificate said he died of heart disease in 1918.  Either she was wrong (or couldn’t stand her dad – apparently he was abusive) or the doctor was trying to be polite.  It also listed his father, but his mother was unknown, at least by the informant, who had his last name but an illegible first initial.  Handwriting, people!  It’s important!  Someday some genealogist will be trying to read yours! His wife died six years later of exhaustion as a result of senile dementia.  She was 62.

The Confederate doctor spent his time in the military hiding in a tent.  No, he wasn’t a coward; he had asthma, and the dust raised by all the soldiers was killing him.  But the soldiers discovered he was a doctor and formed long lines at his tent every day, because even without battles going on, you could easily get injured.  When the army was preparing to move, his commanding officers told him to go home before he got worse and just take care of the folks at home.  He obeyed, and rode horseback in a three county circuit to provide medical care for the citizenry. He had lost a young wife after a ten year marriage and seven children, and had joined the cavalry to try to get over not being able to save his own wife and child.  It was time to get back to his remaining six children.

But his three months in service was enough to score his second wife and widow a pension from the state after his death and a bed in a Confederate widow’s home in Austin until her death.  I have a copy of her application for the pension and her death certificate.  She died of ‘cancer of the heart’.  Studying her life history, I realized she had at 22 married a man old enough to be her father and started her married life with six children.  Then she got to run the homestead and his children while he doctored the public.  Tough lady, she lasted until she was 84.

I’m still working on my mom’s side.  She’s great for remembering names and I now have several pages of names and families and locations to look up.  Both she and my late father come from very prolific families and the men seem to have outlived more than one wife and had kids by all of them, so there is a lot to look up.  It’s very interesting, though, and I keep running into unexpected side trips, like the book of oaths I found from Georgia that all the men over 21 had to sign and swear they would not rise up against the United States after the end of the Civil War.  I love history, but I am so glad I didn’t live through it.

My uncle brought over the family Bible he found in a back room some years after his wife died.  I photocopied the list of births and deaths such old family Bibles always had and thumbed through the rest of it, because I’m always interested to see if the owners ever made notes in the margins like some people (read, me) do.  To my surprise, a tightly folded thin piece of paper fell from between the pages.  Opening it carefully, I discovered it was a letter written by my father’s and my uncle’s father, a farmer and carpenter, that was never sent.  It was a ‘day in the life’ kind of letter, that people used to mail to each other instead of putting it on Facebook in bits and pieces.  At the very end he mentions that his stomach is bothering him and he would take a shot of medicinal whiskey to see if it would settle.  I glanced up at the date at the top and realized in shock it was the day before he died of a burst appendix.  My uncle and I just stared at each other.  Talk about hearing ghosts of the past.

I am eager to see what else I find about my family history and any interesting little side trips.  I know my family has traveled far and wide.  A few years back, we held a Perry family reunion in a recently discovered rural cemetery.  No, we’re not weird; most cemeteries in the country were next to churches, and we are used to big celebrations involving food and faith surrounded by gravestones.  We saw several very small cars pull up next to the big pickup trucks and SUVs most of my relatives drove.  A flood of Japanese tourists, complete with collections of cameras around their necks, came up to our group as we paused over our barbecue, potato salad, watermelon, and chocolate cake.  We figured they had managed to get thoroughly lost, because this tiny Civil War era graveyard was waaaaaaay out in the sticks.  Instead, their spokesperson grinned widely, pointed at the banner somebody had hung among the trees and said “Perry?”  When we nodded, fascinated, he pointed at himself and the rest of his group and announced, “Perrys!”  We now have a large family photo of short Japanese folk surrounded by tall gangly Texan cowboys, all grinning proudly.  I can hardly wait to see who else I might be related to.

Almost forgot to add this:  To complete the family circle, I just met the newest member of our large family.  (I’m pretty sure she’s the newest at only a few weeks old.)  The family on all sides makes adorable babies and boy, do we love to take pictures.  One of the projects I’d love to do is fix a baby book with the several generations of baby photos we have, and maybe throw in the oldest photos we have.  Family should be a thing to celebrate, and if you’d rather not associate with yours, start your own.  Family is not alway made of blood connections.  Go hug someone today, and tell them a joke.