The current pandemic, compelling every American to give up personal desires and enjoyments and demanding personal sacrifices have exposed some interesting human behaviors, challenging us to look at ourselves as human beings and as Americans. I’d like to share some personal thoughts, recollections and observations.
Looking back to when I was 15 years old, life was pretty simple. My dad was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. We lived on the Fort Hood army base in military housing. As I recall, his monthly pay was about $98 plus the housing. I recently found the family checking account records, which mom kept meticulous records of every penny. The largest check she wrote during 1955 was for $25 – it was the only one for this amount – and their typical average checking account balance was about $50 – once the balance dipped to $13.08 but she never had a check bounce. During the last quarter in 1955, they spent a total of $28.75 for gasoline – compare that to today, when one tank fill up is over $30. We didn’t have TV all day. I think it came on at 4 PM with Mothers Delight, which included Howdy Dowdy. I remember eating lots of ground beef casseroles. Mom could stretch a pound of ground beef into three different meals, like stuffed green peppers, cabbage rolls and macaroni casserole with tomato sauce. About once a month, we had pot roast on a Sunday, following church and I never knew what a rare steak was. Our vacations were always a three days drive to Iowa, where my dad was from, spending couple of days with the in-laws, then three days back. And remember, in those days, cars had no air conditioning, or we use to call them Four – Sixty A/C – roll all four windows down and go 60 miles per hour! We rarely stayed in a motel – couldn’t afford them. Instead, Mom and Dad would take turns driving, all night. We would stop by a roadside stand for maybe a two-hour sleep, then move on. There was no Interstate and we travelled at 50 miles per hour. They had to plan carefully, as not to run out of gas – there were no 24-hour gas stations, plus mom was very adamant on clean rest rooms. As I recall, Texaco was the only gas stations that always boasted clean rest rooms. We looked for roadside parks and picnic tables, where dad broke out the portable Coleman stove and mom would make a simple meal. Fast foods like Mac Donald’s hadn’t been invented (not nationwide) yet. Even if they had been available, we probably couldn’t have afforded them. But as I said, life was simple and we were very happy as a family. We appreciated the many blessings in life, like a steady job for dad, the military housing and the time we could spend with dad’s family – he was the oldest in a family of thirteen siblings. We didn’t know anything about the digital life we enjoy today with instant everything and convenience, everywhere.
I can fully appreciate the frustrations and anxieties being displayed nation wide that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us. I miss them too – the nightly MLB games on TV, going out to my favorite restaurant and the unused symphony tickets of last season. I don’t know which is more frustrating – those who once lived a life without those enjoyments but dearly miss them or those who never knew a life without them. But for those, refusing to make some personal sacrifices and defying the admonitions of medical experts and local authorities, I would ask that you study the facts and consequences. Being the nation to lead in new cases and death toils is not the kind of leadership role we want of need. Regardless, we are where we are. And as Americans, it’s critical that we all come together to make the personal sacrifices that providence has dealt us, and as past history have proven, this too can and shall pass when we come together as a nation, rolling up our sleeves and do the right thing for the right reason.