There are many reasons I don’t take the predicted “second wave” of the Covid-10 Pandemic lightly. Among them is the fact that the devastation caused by the second wave of the 1918 Pandemic resonated in my mom’s life and, hence, in mine.
In early May of 1913, my mom, Angeline Dvorak, was born. The daughter of Czech and Croatian immigrants, mom was the third child and first girl born in her family. In rapid succession, her parents had three more children — two more girls and another boy.
Mom was just five years old in 1918, when the so-called “Spanish Flu,” swept the planet. The Dvorak family lived in a tight-knit Slavic community outside Chicago, and my grandmother tended the ill and dying and helped care for those they left behind. She survived the first wave.
Then came the fall and the even more deadly second wave. Mary Dvorak was one of the last to fall ill. In early November of 2018, she was struck and died, one of an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims worldwide. She left behind a devastated husband who was ill-prepared to care for his young brood.
The pain of Mary’s sudden and terrible passing haunted her children all the days of their lives. Mary was much more than a statistic. She was a young wife, a loving mother, a flesh-and-blood member of a connected community where she had nursed the ill and given all she had to help others.
Every time I see the face of a doctor or nurse, a paramedic or ambulance driver or one of the many other care-givers who has died of Covid-10, I think of my grandmother, and I pray for their survivors.
A recent survey showed that only one in eight of our fellow citizens knows someone who has died of Covid-19. For most of us, the thought of dying from — or losing a loved one to — the virus remains a remote possibility. We may have been troubled to learn that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had tested positive — and we may have been heartbroken to learn that John Prine had died from the infection, but such news of prominent people is still steps removed from our daily lives.
And maybe, with luck, the first wave will spare the great majority of us from any immediate loss. But Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us that a second wave is “inevitable.” If history repeats itself, the second wave may well be much worse than the first.
Like many, I often think of my departed parents and wonder how they would respond to the issues of the day. On my mom’s birthday, I found myself asking what she would want me to write about. I feel certain she would want me to tell this part of her story. It is, without doubt, a cautionary tale.