Diane Dean-Epps: Building an arch
I am you. Oh, sure, the package looks a little different. We may not be the same gender, nor are we both card-carrying members of my baby boomer generation, and you do look as though you’re taller than me.
Notwithstanding, as we descend into the yawning maw of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re all the same, emotionally four-wheel driving across the bumpiest healthcare terrain we’ve ever encountered.
Everything is raw: our hands, our nerves and our dawning reality.
There are new terms to learn, like shelter in place, social distancing, and presumptive case, plus significant comparisons to understand, such as pandemic versus epidemic, and self-quarantine versus self-isolation.
Proliferating almost as much as the new terms are the instances of irony. In a time of scarcity we’re experiencing abundance, but in the wrong direction. So much worry. So much fear. So much unknown.
As we watch the COVID-19 scoreboard tallying the human toll, we feel for our communities. Not just the cities in which we reside, but the world in which we’re a citizen.
I applaud our leadership’s efforts to keep us informed, and I’m grateful to have a compassionate, communicative, and intelligent leader in Gov. Newsom. He gets it. He’s real. He’s us (he’s absolutely taller than me).
But I’ve become overinformed, which threatens to stultify me into submission. Before my drive to retain my humanity, assert my individuality, and own my space — albeit my much smaller physical space — disintegrates, I need to take action.
Determining my actions begins by pondering my life as it’s synthesized down to what’s truly important, which makes me think of my grandparents.
In the history of storytelling, baby boomer grandparents hold a particular place of distinction as having the ability to tell us about truly horrifying experiences that we can’t even fathom.
The details are lost to the annals of time, but every so often my grandmother, in a fear-edged voice, would tell the story of being a little girl during the 1918 flu epidemic, and running down the country road from her Woodland farm to get the doctor for her sick mother.
My grandfather survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that wiped out his way of life, which included his hard-earned home. As the city burned, and the sirens screamed he rebuilt the arch in front of his non-existent house because it was the only thing he could do.
My father was a World War II prisoner of war whose B-17 — The Fritz Blitz — was shot down in 1943, and no one was more surprised than he was that he survived. Unfortunately, his quick descent via parachute landed him directly into the hands of the Gestapo who transported him to the infamous Stalag 17-B prison camp, where he would remain for two and a half years.
They were all fighters who experienced and survived the most ghastly catastrophes ever known, teaching me resilience, strength, and that self-determination is always mine to claim.
While I would still agree that, in my family at least, things were tougher for my elders, in recent years I’d say we’re starting to rack up some pretty frightening situations ourselves — uncontainable wildfires, unseasonable floods, and multi-decade wars, just to name a few.
Through the lens of my grandparents’ experiences I’m realizing this shelter in place time is more of an inconvenience, than a hardship. I don’t have to run down a long, dirt road to get emergency care for someone in my family, my house is still standing, and I’m not a prisoner being held in captivity.
What I am is a regular person standing behind you in line at the grocery store, looking to be a good citizen, access my resourcefulness, and stay connected.
So today I made my way outside to build an arch, only my arch consisted of four large barrels filled with plants I bought before the snow and reality hit.
As I worked I felt like myself again; sturdy, productive, and extroverted, greeting neighbors out taking walks. I had to fight a sudden onslaught of emotion when a little boy yelled up to me that he thought my house was pretty.
I wasn’t sure what made me more emotional: the adorable kid, the appreciation of my cute house, or the fact that I could have missed this opportunity to own my own life, and connect. I’ll go with “all of the above.”
After that I was so inspired I traipsed right up to my computer, and ordered something that is in abundance going the right direction: An arch.
And so each day, each week, and each month I’ll go, until we journey over this rough terrain. Then I can park my four-wheel drive metaphorical monster truck, grab my paid-for 2007 sedan, and take a leisurely Sunday drive.
Diane Dean-Epps lives in Grass Valley.
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