Hey papa, what was it like?
Hey, Papa, tell us about that spring! You know, the virus of 2020! What was it like where you lived?
I like to imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when this COVID-19 is gone and our lives are back to normal. Then I bump my imaginings a few years down the road to a day when my three grandchildren — Sadie, James, and little Walter — are in high school, probably writing a paper, and they ask: What was it like back home, Papa?
They did not grow up here. What do I tell them? What will I remember?
A friend told me that his preacher calls his aging members every day just to check on them. Our Bibles became our most-read book.
Grocery store workers kept the food supply going, and service station operators kept us fueled in a different way. We always had water and electricity and telephone and internet, and our trash was always picked up.
When anyone fell ill or had an emergency, stalwart 911 operators answered their calls. And when those fear-spiked calls came in from someone having their darkest day, those same workers dispatched our first responders, those strong men and women who put on gloves and masks and sped, lights and sirens blaring, to the point of need, never knowing what to expect, but prepared for anything.
I’ll remember that brave group of people at DHR, the ones we call when a child or a disabled adult is in need, and there is no one else to call. I saw them cast their fears aside and hold the hand of those left behind after an ambulance whisked their coronavirus-infected loved ones away.
I’ll think of our teachers, who amazed me. When the state closed our schools, it told them to stop on a dime and find a new way to serve home-bound students. And when they realized that their students would not be getting the two daily meals they eat at school, our county superintendent of education put out a call to her already-overworked teachers, and about 80 of them laid their personal needs aside and took food to those who could not get to a pick-up point.
And it goes without saying what our doctors and nurses did.
Hey Papa! So, what was it like?
I’ll tell them that what I remember most is watching our people hunker down, fight through the fear, and take care of each other.
I’ll tell them that I was proud of what I saw.
My grandchildren are not growing up in Chambers County, but I want them to know that their roots run deep to a people whose strength is woven in, and who, when times were tough, were tougher still.