Writing Out Loud:
Tell us the Story Again, Grandpa

By George Stahl

“Utopia. Dystopia. No versus in between them. We had been given a glimpse of what both of these worlds could look like, but we just saw a hint of both. In the first, Utopia, we were in an imagined place where everything looked perfect. We had perfect lives. We were involved in our church, in our local goings on, and in the various clubs and groups we enjoy.

The world around us? Well, they too were having a good time of things for the most part. Jobs, food, houses, families and school. Everything was seemingly perfect,” the old man stopped and sighed, looking at the children in front of him.

“When we walked down the street, people were friendly, saying hello. Have a nice day. Good to see you.” he continued. “Friends having barbeques, restaurants and bars entertaining customers, and the parks were teaming with young human wildlife.

All was good on the surface, and for the most part, we were happy. Sure, we were still struggling with the everyday things. Bills, the price of most things continuing to rise, and the heartaches of family life managed to distract us from time to time.

None of it seemed life threatening, or so urgent that a day or two of putting thing off wouldn’t make a difference in their outcome. In other words, life was as close to a Utopia as could possibly be, aside from a war or two somewhere in the world,” he looked at the flames in the fireplace, and his tone changed.

“Then, the clouds started rolling in, and the skies grew dark. The wind picked up, and the sharp as knifes, cutting drops of rain began slicing through the air. We began hearing stories of a virus coming from the east, and enveloping the entire planet. Before too long, a matter of days, no one, nowhere was safe.

This monster plague had invaded with such force and surprise that the earth was taken off guard. They called it, COVID 19.

People began falling over dead across the globe. Panic was the feeling of the day, and people reacted to it. The news media spread figures and stats around like they were calling a horse race. Up an up and up, the numbers kept climbing.

Stores, restaurants, schools, and churches were shut down. We had nowhere to go to find answers, or guidance. News conferences, press releases and mouthpieces for the ones in charge took over the television.

We were fed things that even the officials couldn’t prove. We were being taken over, invaded by a virus that made the Andromeda Strain look like the common cold.”

He sat back in his chair and whispered, “People barricaded themselves in their houses, long before the official warnings to self-quarantine went into effect. Families were separated, either because they were taken into hospitals, infected, or because they were being cautions and avoiding person to person contact.

Utopia had suddenly vanished, and Dystopia had taken control of our lives, and contaminated the whole world. I was 27 years old, had a wife, and two children, one of which was your father, the other, she was your aunt. She would have liked you all,” he sat back.

“We were living in a world of great suffering and as a result, lives were turned upside down. Stay in place, wear a mask in public, six-foot separation of social distancing, and surrender immediately to a hospital if you are sick.

These became the battle cries of the day. We were all scared,” the old man said looking past them. The children were on pillows on the floor in front of him. “Grandpa, what did you and grandma do?” one asked. “That’s my favorite part.”

“Yeah, and what about dad? I really like the way you tell that part,” said another one of them, more excitedly.

“Okay, okay. That’s all coming up,” the old man said. He looked at the youngest of the three. She had her head down and was crying. “What’s wrong Vivian?

You never cried when I told the story before,” the old man asked holding out his arms to his granddaughter. She stood up and walked over to him.
“I didn’t understand. I didn’t think it was real. I thought you were making it up, but I’m older now, seven, and I know it was all true. It is very sad,” she said sniffling and climbing into his lap.

He held her tightly and smiled at her and at the other two. “Yep, it’s real, but that’s why you need to be told what happened. You won’t learn this in school, or even in church. People saw to that as time went on. The COVID years were treated like other periods of human history, that some groups of people thought should disappear,” he said.

Vivian looked up at him, and saw a tear on his check. “Look, grandpa’s crying,” she whispered. The other two came close to the old man, and he put his hand out to them.

“Children, it’s important that you know about your past,” he said.
“Why?” “Because, it’s the only way you can save your future,” he smiled, holding back more tears. “Go on grandpa, tell us the rest of the story, please.”

The two on the floor sat back towards the fire, and Vivian held grandpa tighter. “It’ll be okay, grandpa. You’ll see,” she said putting her head on his chest.

The old man cleared his throat, and smiled down at them. He continued the story, and would, as the days went on, tell them other stories, about many, many other things. Things that were not talked about in a very long time.