“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” Arthur Miller
As I write this, it is the week before our presidential election. I decided to write this week’s Blog BEFORE the election because I wanted to be clear minded and not influenced by events of the week. And I have no regrets about writing it BEFORE.
During this fall, since I’m stuck home for the most part, we are having major remodeling done. In the last few months, I’ve gone through boxes of books and my spouse is finally organizing his HUGE collection of LPs, CDs, Laser Discs and miscellany. In preparation for the work to be done, we’ve found many things we’ve put off using or forgot we had. I’ve found items from both of my grandmothers, from dishes to furniture. I inherited end tables and one occasional chair from my mother’s mother and decided to use them. That meant getting the chair reupholstered and am so happy I did!
Grandma’s chair is now in our bedroom and is more comfortable than I remembered it to be. I am making a habit of sitting in her chair for at least five minutes once a day and thinking about her. It helps calms me during these turbulent times. The first several times I sat in the chair, I thought about how much I loved her, and how she loved me, and that love washed over me like a cozy blanket. I also began to think about some of the conversations we had about her life, her girlhood, and the early part of her marriage to my grandfather. I do have one regret about something we did not discuss: the Spanish Flu.
Grandma was born in 1899, so she would have been around twenty and in college during the time of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919. In fact, Grandma had been a piano major at a conservatory in Kansas at the time. We did speak of Grandpa’s military service during the Great War in France and how he was gassed in the trenches. We spoke at length of the early years of her marriage before Mom and my Uncle were born and how she took a secretarial course during those years. And we spoke of her accompanying for choruses, especially after I was in college and a choral conducting major. But we never spoke of the Spanish Flu or how it affected her and her family. It seems like a hole in our conversations. We spoke of many things BEFORE that time and many things AFTER but never things which happened during. And I regret not asking her.
Before February or March of this year, I had never thought about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919. Other than learning about it in very general terms in a high school US History class, I knew no details. I always believed many advances in medicine were made since that time, so it seemed fanciful to think. It was never an interest to me because I couldn’t imagine anything like that happening again. Of course, I was wrong.
I did speak of the Spanish Flu with my other Grandma. Her sister, my Great-Aunt, lost her fiancé in the Pandemic and never married. Aunt Rena wore his engagement ring on a chain around her neck for the rest of her life. Grandma explained WHY she wore her beautiful ring that way and not on her finger, but my young mind couldn’t understand how so many people could DIE from the same disease. Our family would have been much different if Rena’s Jim had lived.
Oddly, 1919 was the year my grandparents eloped. I never understood why they didn’t have a big wedding because Grandma LOVED weddings and dressing up. They were young but not that young for the time. But trying to have a nice wedding during a Pandemic perhaps answers my question. Neither one of them ever spoke of the Spanish Flu or how it affected their lives, other than talking about Rena’s fiancé. I regret not asking about it.
I have vowed, after we get through COVID-19, to share my experiences with my loved ones. My future grandchildren will hear about it and how it affected my profession. I will ask colleagues, past, present, and future, how they managed and share their experiences as well. We cannot forget the lessons we’ve learned during this time for the sake of our families as well as our Choral Profession. And I’ll have no regrets doing so.
Until next week, be well and be safe!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Please join me there this morning! https://www.facebook.com/themidwestmotetsociety/