“Don’t say it,” we often say to each other, warning against a pending pronouncement of judgment. “Don’t say what?” we might reply a little haughtily, temporarily having the higher ground. “Don’t say I told you so.”
I spent some time with my mother last week as she recovered from a hospital stay. As I puttered around her house, even as she slept I could hear her repeated warnings uttered in my youth about not going barefoot, about getting germs eating a potato chip I’d just dropped on the floor, about not leaving the house without a sweater even in summer’s heat. She was a good mother, not terribly overbearing, but maybe a tad overprotective. She taught me how to avoid many things, some of which I had to unlearn in order to take on my life.
Her warnings still speak inside my head, however, as I walk barefoot to the clothesline or the compost pile, as I spend precious seconds deciding to leave my sweater at home before leaving the house. And when I pick up a thorn or my arms get chilled, I hear her say “Don’t say I didn’t tell you.”
I know I’m not the only child raised that way or the only adult past retirement age still hearing parental warnings. It’s possibly how I managed to get past retirement age. So I know I’m not the only person who had those words we’re not supposed to say ringing in our ears when the news came that our president had contracted the disease he flagrantly dismissed, the disease that has killed more Americans in half a year than died in Vietnam over the whole war.
So I’m not going to say it. I wish I could be like my more Christian friends who wouldn’t wish harm on anyone. But the latent Mother in me still is having a field day. The handwriting was on the wall. How many times have I told you not to leave home without a coat? Or put on some shoes?
Maybe our president didn’t have that kind of mother. Maybe there’s no one in those fancy boarding schools warning about the germs on the floor or the likelihood of getting pneumonia from going outside without a coat. Maybe he had no exposure to people who died from accidents at work or children who didn’t get taken to the doctor in time—maybe he just didn’t get to experience those things second-hand growing up, those experiences that back up the parental warnings meant to assist in our survival. I don’t know. I should feel sorry for him I guess.
Another approach might be gratitude. I should feel grateful he got the virus, not in the vindictive sense, but for the grace of expanding his mindset. We might get the presidential leadership we need on the pandemic now. He might come to appreciate the expertise of the doctors and scientists who bring him, hopefully, back from the brink and who have something to offer the health of the nation. He might learn how to play well with others.
And my fondest wish? That the bully in him will be sent packing, having encountered the world of real human vulnerability first-hand.
Trudy Wischemann is a thriving 70-year-old who almost died of pneumonia at 5. You can send her your survival stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
– This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.