Gary Tetz

This really happened. Yesterday, as I hopped in my car and turned on the radio hoping to escape reality with a little mindless pop music drivel, here’s what I heard: 

“… But February made me shiver

With every paper I’d deliver

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn’t take one more step …”

I don’t know what came next, because I’d already swatted it off like it was a wasp buzzing toward my pupils. The music didn’t actually die, but I certainly muted it quickly. Of all the possible song lyrics that have ever been written in the history of the world, that’s what the universe chose for me at that moment? Cruel, it seemed to me. 

For years, I’ve been under the false understanding that the Don McLean song “American Pie” was written about the plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. How naïve. Obviously, it’s about COVID-19, and the way the virus is decimating American life as we know it.

Within our long-term care settings, though, the critical work goes on, stoically and selflessly, even heroically many times, and I really don’t detect a lot of visible panic. Compared to shoppers tearing apart a pallet of toilet paper, our facility staff have been Buddhas in scrubs. 

But there’s another very important group of people who seem to be showing particularly inspiring calm — our residents. For many of them, this crisis probably barely registers against others they’ve already faced. There’s nothing like having lived through the Great Depression or the bloodshed of World War II, to keep things in perspective.

I’m reminded of a 93-year-old veteran I met on our Journey of Heroes trip to Washington, D.C. several years back. His name was Fernald, one of the wisest and most adorable humans I’ve ever known, and since it was a cold day as we walked the memorials, I asked if he needed his coat.

“I was in the Battle of the Bulge,” he replied, almost offended. “This isn’t cold.”

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.