Troubled Times

By Alan Whitehorn

People kindly ask if we are doing OK amidst this novel pandemic of 2020. Actually, as seniors in our seventies, we are quite used to being at home, mostly reading and resting. At my age, several colleagues have recently died from the normal old-age related causes, so I have an increased sense of both my mentors and some of my peers passing on.

Actually the year 2015 was much harder for us when I was so close to not surviving, as I struggled with four serious infections picked up overseas in my travels. During the long period of recovery back home in Canada, each day for several years was quite difficult and painful. I was prescribed a lot of medications with strong side effects. So this pandemic, while globally grave, seems in some ways much easier personally in comparison. It does, however, make you reflect on what it is you really want to do in life. I think this self-isolation is harder for young adults who are used to being very active. Kids are also quite active, even exuberant as any parent knows, but children seem to adapt swiftly, although, I suspect, they will forever remember this time, perhaps in pivotal, life-altering ways.

During challenging times, I often think of my Armenian grandmother who survived seeing her entire family killed during the Armenian Genocide of 1915, then endured ten difficult years of grim survival as an orphan-refugee, first in Ottoman Turkey and later in Greece. She bravely overcame the trauma of the suicide of her first husband, while also struggling to carry on her pregnancy. She witnessed the economic turmoil and hardships of the 1930s global Great Depression and lived through the enormous destructive conflict and death of World War II. Then in a post-war world, she emigrated from the Middle East to soviet Armenia but had to endure the hardships and terror of the Stalinist repression of the 1940s Soviet Union. Years later, she undertook yet another Diasporan immigration to a new country and continent, now as a senior citizen. All the while, she retained, even embraced, the joy of life. So today we shall endure our self-isolation knowing that, if need be, we can survive far worse. Take care dear friends and comrades. We will prevail. The human spirit has remarkable resilience.

Alan Whitehorn is an Armenian-Canadian poet and professor emeritus of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada. He is also an Aurora Forum Goodwill Ambassador.