I was too young for Vietnam and too old for everything else. I guess the closest thing to my generation’s war was Grenada; that was one heck of a weekend. Though I have long reconciled myself to the irony that I never had to register for the Selective Service but my sons did, I can now lay some claim as being a veteran of some sort during the great pandemic war of 2020.
There really are a lot of war-like elements to this current crisis. First, like real war, it is a crisis. That is not hyperbole. There is a threat of death. There are also long-term confinements with people you may or may not get along with. For the record I get along fine with everyone living under my roof — most of the time.
And like the worst aspects of war, if we aren’t careful, we may run the risk of coming away from this thing with a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome. I don’t think that is an exaggeration either, as this is such an unprecedented and global event. Like wartime home fronts of the past, people are also starting to plant “victory gardens,” more out of a need to combat boredom rather than rickets, I suspect.
When my now 18-month-old grandson asks me in four or five years (God willing) what I did during the great Pandemic of 2020, I think I will have a lot to say to him. First, I will be able to tell him I was able to teach him (he and his mom are staying with us as his dad is luxuriating in Iraq with the United States Army) two very important things: First, I have taught him how a monkey acts. He is really getting the hang of it, though his monkey squawking needs a little work.
Second, I taught him, in his own verbally challenged way, how to make the sign of the cross and pray before dinner. This is a small achievement, and it is no guarantee he will grow up to be the next Archbishop Fulton Sheen or Bishop of Fresno. It is a little victory, but a sweet one.
Now, as we gather around our table to eat, my little grandson puts his hands together and smiles in anticipation as I still help him make his sign of the cross. But whereas at the beginning I was doing all the heavy lifting, now, when I guide his hands, I can feel he is using his own mind and motor skills to direct movements of his arms. Though every time we sit and tell him it’s time for saying grace, he immediately starts acting like a monkey. We’ll get that timing straight, I hope.
Yes, a small victory, but if it shaves a couple centuries off of purgatory for me, I’ll take it. My little grandson isn’t the only one learning things during this crisis. I have learned a lot of other things during this pandemic that my grandson won’t understand.
I learned that abortion is a “life-saving” medical necessity during these locked down times, per the reasoning of the governor of Michigan.
I learned that the mayor of New York believes he has the power to shutter a church “permanently” if the church displeases him during this current crisis.
I learned that the government can make a lot of people behave a certain way if the situation is ripe enough, and with our addictions to social media and electronic entertainment, there is enough bread and circuses to keep people in line for an extended amount of time.
And I learned that many people who thought they were living secure lives with good jobs can have it all ripped away from them, not by fire, flood, seismic eruption, or the crazy whim of a crazy boss, but by the tiniest of microbes and the biggest of government responses to them.
Those are a lot of lessons for a guy who was never as good at school as he should have been.
When he is older and I may be here or not, I hope my grandson learns something that is so clear to me now during this time of uncertainty. I hope he learns that Jesus promised to never leave us, no matter how bad things may seem. I hope he learns to love Jesus, his Church and his earthly mother. If my little monkey-imitating grandson had that seed planted in him now, that is a war record I would wear like the medal of honor.