Sixty-four years ago I was a graduate student collecting ecological data from the Welder Wildife Refuge on the Texas gulf. A refuge employee drove up with a telegram that said my maternal grandfather Hasty was near death. Grandad was asking for me, his oldest grandchild. I stopped work, picked up Jenny and a wounded purple gallinule chick she was nursing. We drove non-stop to the Burnet hospital. George Lonzo Hasty had died. At 83 years of age, he was the oldest male in my genealogy line.
He had been removing weeds from his garden at five in the morning when he got tangled in a melon vine, fell and broke his right hip. Granny called the ambulance. When the medics arrived, Grandad insisted they load up several watermelons for the people who worked at the hospital. To my knowledge, he had never been treated by a doctor or a dentist. He had never owned a toothbrush and had all his teeth when he died.
Twenty-two years ago, in 1995, my father Dee Box died in my home. He was 90 years old. His death and the succeeding years made me the longest-lived male in my direct line going back prior to the American revolution.
My semi-annual health examinations suggest I am healthy for my age. But I will have to adjust to being captive to a little hand-held gismo some people call a telephone. All one has to do is ask Alexa and a woman’s voice gives you a detailed answer.
I’m afraid that if get friendly with Alexa I will have to stop doing stupid “old man” things. About three weeks ago I stepped outside my front door to collect mail the postlady left. There was about three inches of snow on the lawn, but the sun had melted most of the snow off the road and sidewalks the day before.
Neighbors across the street were standing on their walkways enjoying the sun. We exchanged greetings and chatted a while before each returned to his house. I saw a bit of trash a few yards down my sidewalk and started toward it. My eyes were on the trash, not the thin, clear sheet of ice where I placed my right foot.
I don’t remember the fall or how long I lay on the sidewalk. My first memory after the fall was a headache and blood in my hair. My hips and lower back hurt, but I was able to get up and walk into the house without saying a single cuss word. Jenny was at her weekly literary gathering, and our nurse daughter Mary was volunteering to give COVID-preventing injections.
Jenny came home to find me staring in space from my favorite rocking chair. She called Mary. Mary called our family doctor. He said to get me down to his office so he could have a look at me. I drove down, he gave me a thorough exam and sent me to have several different kinds of pictures made of my hip for him and specialists to examine. Fortunately, except for some bruises and some tearing, the experts found nothing life threatening or crippling if I have sense enough to listen to them and follow their instructions. I’m trying.
I’ve been knocked around a fair bit in my time — football, riding a horse through brush, not ducking when I go through a door shorther than I am, nutty things in the military, my dummy list goes on. But I had never before lost contact with what was going on around me. But my failure to look where I was stepping had left me completely unconscious. Old age ain’t for sissies, but it also ain’t for people who get in trouble for not looking where they’re stepping.
Now is an especially critical time for us to look where we step next. For a little over a year COVID-19 has ruled our life. Controlling it has been our major duty. Now the time has come to rebuild our lives to fit the new world. Go stand in front of your house and look at your neighborhood. Walk past your school and your church. Drive past your favorite restaurant. None of these will ever again be like they were a year ago.
Stop and think about how many professors, teachers, lawyers and other people now work from their home instead of “the office.” Note the delivery trucks bringing food and fun to the homes in your neighborhood. Think about the number of ZOOM meetings that have brought friends, church and business encounters into your house.
Be aware of where you get your information, your “news.” If most folks don’t like what they hear, they change the channel. Is that the kind of community you want? Think what you want your children and grandchildren to learn and the problems of making it happen.
Accept the fact that things will never be the same. If we the people do not participate in the remaking of our new world, we will end up with ... who knows what it will be. But you can be assured that unless we know the kind of life we want for our grandchildren and work hard to make it happen, Cache Valley will not be the valley we know.