Mark’s Covid Diary… May 19, 2020

I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily giving up on the idea of posting longer pieces about specific, god-awful things that are happening in the news. Knowing myself, I think it’s likely that, in the very near future, something will happen that will cause me to go back to my old ways, and spend an entire night doing research into something completely insane, like, let’s say, the President of the United States threatening to cut funding for the World Health Organization during a pandemic. Until that happens, though, I think I’m going to just keep writing about things going on here, in my own home. Not only do I think it’ll be better for my rapidly deteriorating mental health, but, I suspect, when all is said and done, it’ll be of far more interest to future generations than whatever I might have to say about the outrage of the day.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I know very little about how my own family weathered the flu of 1918, the last really deadly pandemic to sweep across the globe. Given that an estimated 50 million people died as a result of that particular flu, you’d think that there would be more written down, but, at least in my family, there’s very little. Out of the four branches of my family represented by my great grandparents, I only have stories from one. I know from my father that my great grandmother, Minnie Wise Florian, used to say that my great grandfather, Curtis Florian, survived the epidemic by staying drunk and working around the clock to tend to the crops of their neighbors in Kentucky. And I know from the writings of Minnie’s cousin, Mattie Belle Wise, the circumstances surrounding the death of my great grandmother’s brother, Grover Cleveland “Cleve” Wise, who died from the flu in 1918. But that’s really all I have to work with… Here, if you missed my earlier post, is what Mattie Belle Wise wrote about the flu coming to Franklin County, Kentucky in 1918.

Things went along pretty well until 1918 and the flu broke out in Franklin County. It was a really bad one. Sunday morning, there at Woodlake, there were seven houses with corpses laying in them. Cleve Wise died one Sunday morning, and their three year old boy died the next Sunday. Cleve went over to his sister’s, Minnie Florian, as they had all had the flu and lived through it. He thought, if he went over there, his family would not (get) it. Carrie was down at mother’s when Cleve was taken sick. She had taken the two babies and went home. In a few days, I went up to stay with her babies so she could go and stay with Cleve. It wasn’t but a few days until Pa brought her home with a temperature of 104. Then, the following Sunday, Cleve died with pneumonia. I went to Carrie’s in November and stayed until March. Then they moved back to Minor Branch. Carrie had a hard time keeping a home and raising seven children. Cleve had his life insured for $1,000, which helped her out a lot.

I rode a horse back and forth to school a lot of the time, and I had to go through Carrie’s farm one morning.I stoped by Carrie’s house. She had such a sick headache that she could not (sit) up. All the children had gone to school (except for) Edna (who) was just six months old. I just fixed her two or three bottles, wrapped her up in a baby quilt, and (took) her to school with me. In going, I had to lay down a rail fence for the horse to get over. I could not get off the horse with her, so I just told my horse he was going to have to jump the fence. I pulled up on my bridal and gave him a little kick, and he jumped the fence like he had too. When I got to school, I put her quilt under my desk and gave her her bottle. Never had one bit of trouble with her all day, and, going home in the afternoon, I made the horse jump the fence again. Then, that winter, the flu broke out down where we lived. No one died, but sometime the whole family would all be down at the same time. One family that lived on the hill above us had all five children and the mother and father all down with it. My mother killed a lot of hens that winter. I would take a bucket of soup and go feed a family, comb the women’s hair, fix up their beds, carry in enough wood to do them until I could get back the next day, then I would go back home, get another bucket of soup, and visit another family. Sometimes I would not get home until 2:00 in the morning. My mother said my dad never went to bed until he could hear the horse’s feet on the pike coming home. I kept that up all winter, and never as much as had a cold. That was the winter of 1918. When I stayed with Carrie, I wore a mask over my mouth and nose at all times. The Red Cross furnished the mask and the doctor brought them out to me. The flu was much worse in the winter of 1918. No undertaker would go in the house. When Estel died, Mattie Lee Wise was with me that night. The undertaker brought the casket and set it on the porch. We washed and dressed Estel, (took) him out, put him in the casket, and the undertaker came got him for burial. He died in the same room with his mother. When she came to enough to tell that his bed was made, she just said, “the little fellow is gone,” and then she lapsed into unconsciousness again. It was several days before she really realized he was gone.

That’s all I have from my ancestors. That’s absolutely everything I know about my family’s fight to stay alive during the last pandemic. So, given that, I thought that maybe I’d start recording a little of the minutia of day-to-day life, the kind of stuff that someone like me might appreciate in another hundred years.

And, with that, I’ll start the clock and just ramble for a while.

I went on a walk through Riverside Park with Arlo today. We’d been wondering how high the water might be, given all of the recent rain, and we were excited to find that a good portion of the park had been flooded. So we found ourselves a spot from which to watch all of the fish that had made their way out of the river, and into the park, in order to feast on the tiny creatures that, up until yesterday, had been living their best lives in the super-long grass along the banks of the mighty Huron. [I’m assuming the city stopped mowing because of COVID-19.] After noting how happy the fish seemed, thrashing around in the shallow water that now fills the park, feasting on newly drowned bugs, we started discussing how, in a day or two, once the water had started to recede, how much differently they’d feel, realizing that there was no way back to the river, and that their deaths were imminent. I didn’t want to put the idea into Arlo’s heard, but it occurred to me that there was probably a parallel to be drawn with those who now choose to spend sunny days on crowded beaches, without consideration of the public health warnings. Arlo did, however, draw a parallel to his own life, noting that the fish, right now, were acting like he was a few days ago, when we bought him a subscription to an online math game about wizards who, to the best of my understanding, compete against one another in the field of animal husbandry. At first, he was just in an absolute frenzy, but then things kind of turned to shit for him, in that we had to intercede, take the iPad from him, and put rules in place. Granted, it wasn’t as bad as being left in a quickly drying pool to die, but I can see his point, in that he experienced an incredibly abrupt change in fortune, first getting the game that he’d been begging for, and then having it taken away… Here, in case you’re interested, is what Riverside Park looks like today. By the end of the week, the smell of dead fish will be heavy in the air.

Speaking of Arlo, we watched the 1924 Buster Keaton silent film Sherlock Jr. this evening. I’m sure, at some point, he’ll no longer want to watch the old classics with me, but it’s nice while it lasts.

Oh, Alro also said something today at the park that I thought was worth sharing. We saw this strange golden bug flying around. It wasn’t like anything we’d ever seen before, so we followed it. And eventually we caught up to it. Arlo said that it looked like two small dragonflies attached by the tails, the way dragonflies often are. And this led to yet another conversation about how insects and animals reproduce. Well, at some point in the conversation, he shared the following observation about dragonflies, and I found it to be super beautiful. “Their butts kiss until an egg comes out,” he said.

I should end there, but I’ve got one more thing to say… Linette told me several weeks ago that I did not have the authorization to grow a mustache. A beard, she said, would be acceptable, but she didn’t want for me to grow a mustache. So I grew a beard. And, over the course of the last week or so, I’ve been slowly trimming back everything but the part above my upper lip. And, now, I pretty much have a mustache. She hasn’t caught on yet, but I’ve had it for a few days days now, right in the middle of my damn face…. For what it’s worth, I think that she might be right. Maybe my face is better suited for something like a chin curtain.

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  1. Donald Harrison
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    I popped over to your site, Mark, to see what you’d written about the latest beyond-belief insanity of the ‘administration’ and found this lovely diary instead. Thanks.
    (though I still can’t work out the whole hydroxychloroquine storyline, except his backers must be making serious money from it and if he keels over in front of our very eyes, makes for great TV…)

  2. wobblie
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Aloha, Linette probably won’t say anything about the upper lip growth. Woman usually decide they like them. My wife and daughter gave me nothing but grieve the one time I shaved mine off–this was a long time ago, they said I looked like Engler and they didn’t want me in the house. Started growing it back the next day.

  3. Posted May 20, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    You and Arlo should act as avatars for people online who want to tour the Ypsi area.

    They’re doing it in the Faroe Islands.

  4. Tracy
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I’m telling Linette.

  5. John Brown
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Dealing with flood and drought is hardwired into fish DNA. Most of the fish will make it back to the channel after the feast, but yes, some will die. Darwinian selection in action. There’s probably an analogies here between common carp and agent orange and his supporters.

  6. PocketBeaver
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    My great-grandmother was quarantined and later died of Spanish Flu and my grandfather had to watch it all through a window. Now I guess families are watching their loved ones die via video chat. Depressing.

  7. John Brown
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I don’t want to comment excessively, but now is not the time to take your foot off the gas on calling out agent orange’s treason. With him photo-oping in Ypsi while simultaneously extorting the entire state of Michigan for his election benefit, and ignoring what’s going to be a toxic nightmare at Dow Midland, his depravity knows no bounds.

  8. John Brown
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    And of course the dam owner is a belligerent ruskie stooge supporter Lee Mueller. Seen here in his camo maggot hat.

  9. Lynne
    Posted May 20, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes. The park fish! I learned never to take a dog there, after the waters receded and the fish died, after one of mine just plopped down and rolled in ’em. PU

    You know way more about your family’s experience with the Spanish flu. All I know is that my great grandfather died from it. I asked my grandmother about it but she was only 4 and didn’t really know her future father-in-law well. My grandfather and my grandparents on the other side were already dead by then so I couldn’t ask them. I sure wish I could now!

  10. Posted May 20, 2020 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    “Mark, I don’t want to comment excessively, but now is not the time to take your foot off the gas on calling out agent orange’s treason. With him photo-oping in Ypsi while simultaneously extorting the entire state of Michigan for his election benefit…”

    Don’t worry, John. I didn’t last too long. I just posted about this very thing.

  11. Posted May 20, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I went back to the park today. A lot of the fish are already cut off, with no way back to the river. I didn’t see that any had died yet, but I suspect it’ll be gross by the weekend. So, Lynne, you’d better keep the dogs away.

  12. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Aloha Lynne, my dog Max loved to roll around in dead fish. A walk along the banks of Riverside Park put him right into paradise. He did not think the world was right unless he carried around that sweet putrid smell with him. Petting him was always a risk

  13. Lynne
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    LOL. I can assure you guys, the dog isn’t going anywhere near the park for a time! She found something dead in the backyard though. I have to go out there with a shovel to find it before I let her out again. Ugh! I have a friend who just can’t understand why Americans keep dogs since they are so disgusting and I am like, “I have no argument. They are REALLY disgusting. But they are cute!”

One Trackback

  1. By Mark’s Covid Diary… May 25, 2020 on May 26, 2020 at 8:19 am

    […] it took about a week, but I think all of the carp that left the river when Riverside Park flooded, are now dead. You can just see a few in the foreground of this last photo, but there were about a […]

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