My paternal grandmother was born in 1886 and managed to live for 90 years, keeping her faculties until the end. To anyone reading this, you would say that she had a good life – a good innings as is often said.
She saw the invention of electricity, the motor car, antibiotics, man landing on the moon, among other things. However, she also saw tragedies: the Spanish flu, World War I, the Great Depression and then, horror of horrors, World War II and the use of nuclear weapons.
In terms of world history, she experienced some of the most life-changing and momentous events imaginable. I often wonder now how she felt about these moments and how she recalled them. I don’t remember her talking about any of these events and yet perhaps I was at fault. I didn’t think to ask. My excuse was that I was relatively young while she was alive, and the past held little interest for me. I was too focused on my own world and my own needs and my own future. It was a missed opportunity.
Most of us throughout our life remember moments that have left an indelible mark. I remember standing in my dining room hearing on the Bakelite radio that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I was young, yet the sense of horror and disbelief filled me at the time. We saw again and again on the black-and-white television the journey of his cavalcade to that fateful shooting in Dallas.
Sadly, I remember the images of his brother, a few years later, sprawled on the ground after being gunned down – adding to the tragedy of that family. Again, the moment was seared into my brain.
Some of us will remember when our favourite singer died, usually unexpectedly. The loss of Elvis Presley and the tragic shooting of John Lennon come to mind, but of course all of our points of memory are inextricably linked to our level of involvement and passion.
Today, those indelible, seared memories will no longer be based around our passions or our narrow interests. We are all involved in a collective memory whether we like it or not.
Today, we feel as though we are witnesses to history, to a point in time that all of us will look back to and remember how we managed through this pandemic and what the impact was on us. All of us will feel the pain of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown – of not being able to see or hug our children and grandchildren; the pain of losing our jobs and the economic uncertainty that has been foisted on so many; the change of life plans, big and small; the day-to-day anxiety of not knowing what the future holds. It has been a surreal time and will continue to be for a while.
I doubt that any of us will forget or dismiss this as a trivial event. But we must be careful to share those memories with the younger generation as the time arises.
What have been your enduring memories from years past? Are you guilty of not paying enough attention to elderly relatives in times gone by? Asking questions about their lives?
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