You cannot step twice into the same river – Heraclitus 540-480 B.C.
Heraclitus says that we can’t ever step in the river twice; between footsteps the river changes – banks are washed away, new sandbars are formed, now more and later less water flows in from tributaries. But probably more profound is that we are not the same. Our bodies change, our minds change, we are transformed. Experience changes us; time changes us; we know more today than we did yesterday, or at least we hope so.
Anyway, you must define ‘normal’.
Epidemics of all sorts are ‘normal’.
I missed most of the polio scare of the 1940’s and 50’s, but I can remember my mother telling me one hot summer day that we were not going to go to the community swimming pool because there were ‘germs’. Turns out that my parents and their generation were terrified of polio – and with good reason. It was a long wait for a vaccine.
Going back, I had an uncle who died as an infant in 1935 because there were no antibiotics when he got sick. Just a few years later, with penicillin and sulfa drugs he might have survived.
Further back, four of my great uncles/aunts died in a measles epidemic in 1907. My grandfather just barely escaped that epidemic; fortunate for me that he lived and carried on the family. My great-grandmother died in 1917 during the Spanish Flu epidemic, but we don’t know if that was the cause. The family tree is full of large families, often 8, 10, 12 kids; seldom did all of them survive to adulthood.
Vivid in my memory when I was about 7, going to the High School cafeteria where everybody – kids and grownups alike – were given a sugar cube in a paper cup to take. It was the Sabin vaccine against Poliomyelitis.
Not long afterwards, on a visit to the family doctor, the nurse scraped a spot on my shoulder – there is still a small round scar there: smallpox vaccine.
As a child I had measles, mumps, chicken pox – now they tell me to get the shingles vaccine. Oh my.
In 1976, all of us at college lined up in the basketball gym to get the swine flu vaccine. It was supposed to be very deadly to young adults.
To see my grandchildren when they were little, I had to get more vaccinations to ensure I didn’t carry anything into their nursery. To travel overseas I had to get more vaccinations, written down somewhere. That and don’t drink the water.
On a family vacation my daughter hooked me with her fishing line, and I had to get a tetanus booster. That was about 15 years ago, and they tell me its time to get another one, just because.
I’m not to think that my immunity from smallpox is still active after all these decades.
Modern science and modern medicine. Wonder if I would have lived this long without it?
A friend of mine recently quoted me to me: ‘One day you realize there is more runway behind you than ahead and your perspective on everything changes.’
For the record, I hate when people to do that. Quote me to me.
But there is that perspective. My mind is filled with ghosts; people and places that no longer exist. Last fall I returned to the town where I grew up. The elementary school I attended has been razed and a beautiful new state of the art facility has been built in its place. Very necessary, the school was not new when I attended. But jarring to my psyche.
I passed by the place where we used to get burgers and fries, it’s not there anymore. I drove by the houses of my teenage friends; they are no longer living there.
I’ve watched the facilities that were so much a part of my professional career get wiped away since the end of the shuttle program. So many more places only exist in my memory.
Even worse, so many people are gone from us even though I can see and hear them in my memory like they are still here. On that trip home I visited my mother’s grave and it was interesting to walk down the row of monuments and find all her friends there along side her. Small town. Brings back memories of Mom hosting bridge parties, church women’s society meetings, book and civic clubs. All her friends are with her now and forever.
In the last few days, I received word that a high school classmate of mine passed away. He was not the first; classmates have succumbed to so many scourges: accidents, AIDS, drugs, cancer. Jarring to look at the class picture and count those who are gone. Reminders that days are short and if there is work to be accomplished it should not be postponed.
With every day, the world has changed. Some days for the better, but always changing.
So, to the question: will things go back to the way they were?
Of course not.
The better question is, what kind of world will we make? This, too, will pass.
What will we do with our time? Because we too will pass.
It’s just a question of perspective.