While it is true that people over the age of 60, particularly over the age of 70 and even more so over 80 are especially prone to fatalities from the coronavirus, we also have a great deal of wisdom that we need to share with those around us who are much younger. I grew up with several important family stories which taught me from an early age that life is unpredictable, that events far away can have a huge impact on our lives, and that the stock market doesn’t guarantee financial security. I believe that while I am greatly distressed by the present pandemic, I don’t experience it as something no generation before me has had to endure.
Above is my grandfather who was called into service in World War 1 for a conflict which took place across the Atlantic Ocean. He had no fervent desire to go fight, but he had no choice. The government drafted him. My generation knows that the government can draft its citizens. Many of my generation had to go across the Pacific Ocean to fight in a war that they opposed. They went.
When he returned home, my grandfather contracted the Spanish Flu. He nearly died, but my grandmother nursed him through it. Despite our cavalier approach to that flu–“we know so much more now”–we are actually in the same situation they were. The flu killed left and right. It wasn’t fair. It didn’t discriminate. But as the older generations repeatedly told us “life isn’t fair.”
My father’s mother invested the life insurance money from her husband’s death in the stock market and lost it all. My father never trusted financial predictions of endless prosperity. “What goes up always comes down” could have been his motto.
My mother was in high school when her family tuned into the radio to hear that Hitler had just invaded Poland. She told us about that moment from time to time. “Our whole world changed in a minute.” The world is like that.
When I think about helicopter parents who have steadfastly tried to shield their children from challenges, I reflect on my own upbringing. I learned that my family had known hard times. It makes me realize I can deal with them too.