Tuesday as I got my flu shot at the local Safeway (ahem, the higher dose for those old enough to be at higher risk) I could't help but reflect on the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, which killed 20-40 million people world wide. My arm is only slightly tender now, very slightly, and I can't decide if the lethargy I feel this week is my imagination or not. Ever since I visited a genuine replication of a WW1 trench in Belgium with Jac on a French Escapade trip a few years ago I've been obsessed with what it must have been like for those soldiers thus housed, sometimes for over a year. No wonder we had a pandemic.
Yesterday was session 5 of my Lifelong Learning Class on the Great War and next week we are to bring personal mementos of it, if we have any. I'm bringing for display Aunt Celia's journal of her year in France as an army nurse. Although I've had it in my possession for many years I didn't sit down to read the entries until yesterday afternoon.
The family story goes that she fell in love with a soldier patient who died, and therefore never married. I'm not sure if it is true or a myth. She lived to 97. I should have asked her before she died which wasn't that long ago, but we always had a bit of a strained relationship, partly my fault, for I resented that her baby brother, my father, died so young, and that I was left with a dependent and
critical old aunt instead of a beloved father.
But back to the flu. My mother was 13 when the flu hit Canada. My grandfather having fought with the Princess Pat regiment and been wounded and hit with mustard gas, was still in a hospital in France. I remember her stories, which were frequently exaggerated, of course. Apparently the only hospital in Moosejaw, Sask., was overflowing, like hospitals everywhere. I think her mother ran a kind of rooming house. She told of coming home from school and finding the hall lined with cots of flu patients. My mother said that everyone in town with a little space was expected to do this. Hard to imagine. The horse-drawn hearse which would collect bodies daily had a hard time keeping up with the task. Most of the victims were between 20-40 years of age, and death came very quickly.
So here we are this week frantic to stop the spread of another virus, the ebola, a virus far more lethal.
Lets hope we have better luck this time around.