On the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation.Photo: Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President

Tim Giago: Will things ever be the same?

Notes from Indian Country
Will things ever be the same?

Former television newscaster Tom Brokaw called the generation that survived the Great Depression and World War II, “The Greatest Generation.”

Those of us from that generation were witnesses to, or even participants in, the bloody wars of Korea, Vietnam and of the ongoing wars in the Middle East. As this bit of history passes before our eyes we have moved into those peaceful days of rest and retirement perhaps looking back on the years behind us with nostalgia.

Native American journalist Chuck Trimble wrote about those “Golden Years” with a bit of that nostalgia and with a bit of apprehension surrounding the infirmities that often accompany those years.

Some of us discover that “aha” moment of old age in surprising ways. For me and my wife it happened one day at the zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had gone there on a business trip when we received an invitation to a happening at the zoo, a happening that also included an outdoor picnic. We got our food, spread a blanket on the grass, and sat down to enjoy our lunch. And then, “aha” it was time to leave and we discovered that trying to get back on our feet from the picnic blanket was not an easy chore. The ability to bounce back up was suddenly gone. And so we accepted this small indignity and set about trying to make the rest of the day, and the rest of our lives, tolerable and gentle.

Tim Giago. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

My wife didn’t quite make the cutoff to the “Greatest Generation,” but instead ended up as a “Boomer.” But that didn’t stop her from joining me as a respected elder. It seems that social security is now in trouble because so many thousands of “Boomers” have now become retirees.

And so like many other members of the “Greatest Generation” and of the “Baby Boomers,” we are quietly living out the last days of our lives enjoying simple things like watching a beautiful sunset over the Western Black Hills, or sitting on our deck with a glass of good wine and listening to the music of the 40s, 50s and 60s, once again hearing the songs of our youth, or watching an old Bogart and Bacall movie in black and white on the television. And this is the way all of us from these back to back generations wished to enjoy our remaining time on this earth.

Never, in our worst nightmare, did we expect a deadly virus to come along, a coronavirus that is particularly lethal to members of the Greatest and Boomer generations. We expected to live out our final days in peace and not in fear.

There has been nothing like this since the flu epidemic of 1918 that claimed the life of my wife’s grandfather and the twin brother of my grandfather.

We can no longer go to a relaxing concert out of fear nor can we go to the grocery store without wearing a mask and surgical gloves. All of the things we once took for granted have been taken away from us. There is particular fear on many Indian reservations because the ancestors of the people living there were decimated by the pandemics of small pox and other diseases to which the Native people had no immunity.

Perhaps those “Golden Years” Chuck Trimble wrote about will never be the same and the things we looked forward to will be lost and gone forever. If so it brings about an abrupt change to our “Golden Years” and to the things that were to be a part and parcel of our final days. It is an evil way for Mother Nature to close out our final chapter. But then again, those of the Greatest Generation and of the Baby Boomers have always been optimists.

Tim Giago is the Publisher of Native Sun News Today. He is a former Nieman Fellow with the Class of 1991 and the recipient of many journalism awards including the H. L. Mencken Award. He can be reached at najournalist1@gmail.com.

Note: Content copyright © Tim Giago

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