(by Bex O'Brian)
We are in the thick of it now, deep into the horrors and realities of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. No life is untouched. Everyone is scared, and people want answers—though blowing up 5G towers seems a bit of a stretch. Or thinking that Bill Gates released the virus into the air so he could make money. Even he acknowledges that he has quite enough to live on, thank you.
Seemingly overnight, our lives are now constrained, our movements restricted. And when we do get out to shop, the bounty that three generations expected as their God-given right is suddenly looking a little threadbare. My market often has only a few sprouting potatoes moldering at the bottom of the bin. Fresh herbs are becoming scarce. Getting organic eggs is hit-and-miss. And there are signs up everywhere warning that we’re only allowed one packet of chicken thighs or frozen peas. Rationing!
Naturally, there are comparisons with those who survive the Blitz (I have noticed that there are no comparisons to more nefarious wars, the ones that don’t have the universal appeal of the good fight), although others seem to think it’s ridiculous to equate the two. The bombs that rained down on the heads of hapless Londoners, several of which were members of my family, were entirely man-created. Covid-19 is an unseen menace; you can’t send out the troops to repel the attack. Valid point.
I was Zooming (all these new expressions: sheltering, zooming, social distancing) with my aunt the other day. When the pandemic broke out, she was vacationing in Mexico. It took her weeks to get a flight back to Canada, and now she was in the second week of her self-quarantine. She was sitting back in her chair, a little slumped. “This,” she said, “so reminds me of the war.”
“The rationing?” I asked.
“That, but mostly the lack of control. For the first time in my adult life, I have the same feeling I had in the war. I control nothing.” Anne leaned forward, propelled by the still vivid memory. “I was a little young during the Blitz, not like your mother, who was in the heart of it. But by 1944 and the doodlebugs, I was very aware.”
Doodlebugs, or buzz bombs, officially known as the V-1 bombs, were the Nazis’ late entry into the war, designed to terrorize the citizens of London. They were self-guided, and when the engine cut, you knew it was curtains.
“You lived listening,” my aunt said. “Listening, praying it would keep going, that you wouldn’t hear the engine stop. But when it did, there was nothing you could do, just wait, give up all sense that there was some safety, someplace you could run to, just wait and….” Anne shook her head. “The house two doors down—direct hit.”
As I sat, peering into my computer, trying to ignore my own image up in the corner (Why do we need to see ourselves? It’s unnerving), I realized that in many ways Covid-19 could be compared to the terror of the Doodlebug. The randomness. Why the house two doors down? Why do some of us get very sick while some of us have only slight symptoms? Yes, the state of overall health plays a significant part, but every day I read about perfectly healthy people dying as the virus rampages through their bodies, overwhelm