Writers write, right?
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
November in CC Town
The November air pinched my bones as I hurried to the doors at Stonehenge. I hate saying good bye to October. The days become shorter, the red and gold leaves give way and gather underfoot crunching with each step.
I joined Grams in the dining area. I found her sitting alone at the window. I gave her a squeeze from behind as she turned to me with a smile.
“It’s happening isn’t it Angela?”
“What do you mean Grams?” I responded.
“Autumn is waving good-bye. Soon the earth will dressed in its winter ware. Time is drawing short.”
“Grams” I said smiling hoping to shake her melancholy mood. “Let’s talk about something else.
“Okay, Let’s talk about my Max.
“You bet, I miss Gramps.”
I held Grams’ hand as we returned to her room. It seemed so frail and cold. As I settled her in the bed, I felt a spirit of serenity.
I opened to her remembrances and found my favorite photo of Gramps wearing his World War II uniform.
“He was so handsome, Grams!”
“You should have seen him the night we met, “she responded.
I began to read
“He bet his fraternity brother he could kiss me. We traded dances and then went for a walk alongside the Logan River. I think he wagered 50 cents. Of course he lost the bet, (nice girls don’t kiss on the first date) but he definitely won my heart that night- those dazzling blue eyes. Max was a simple farm boy from down in the valley. They said we weren’t a good fit. City girl- Country boy, but we made it work.
It was the 30’s and the depression hit Logan hard, but Max didn’t back down. He walked 32 blocks from his apartment to court me. He had no money, but boy could he dance. We attended all of the fraternity and sorority dances together at USU together.”
I looked up when I heard Grams singing. The melody was familiar,
“Blue Moon, you saw me standin’ alone
Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own,…”
Tears streamed down Grams face as she clutched their engagement photo in her hands.
I couldn’t’ help but think of my Paul as I watched Grams. Theirs was a love story.
Grams turned to me,
“Let me show you something your mother found for me years ago,
She flipped the pages of the folio until she came to a tattered newspaper clipping. It was dated October 23, 1918
“Jennie, didn’t even have an obituary,” Grams said. “It brought so much joy to my heart when your mom found this article in the Ogden Standard. It’s not much, but at least it mentions her name.”
I scanned the article entitled, “One Hundred Eleven New Cases of Influenza, Salt Lake City October 28- One hundred eleven new cases of Spanish Flu were reported to the city board yesterday. Six deaths were reported as a result of the epidemic….Jennie Smith Stoddard, 26 764 Second Street:”
That was it. My great grandmother Jennie- just a name on a list of names- A victim of the flu epidemic of 1918. I had always thought Jennie died in Logan. Grabbing my tablet I quickly googled the Salt Lake address.
I found an image of the home and showed it to Grams.The photo on Google showed it in a dilapidated state. It was built in 1897. This was Grams’ first home. It was hard to imagine what it looked like in 1918.
I imagined how happy she and Edwin were there. Jennie must have been over the moon in joy with two beautiful children and her handsome husband.
Grams looked at the home with longing eyes.
“It seems strange, I know I only lived there until I was nine months old, but everything about itsseems so familiar to me.”
“Grams, what do you remember hearing about the flu epidemic that took your mother?”
“We never talked about it much. It took Jennie so quickly. Your grandfather Max lost two uncles to the flu. Both of them passed in 1918. Mother only talked of it in bits and pieces. I remember her sharing a headline from the local paper. I think I may even have the clipping.”
I reached for her remembrances and she searched quickly and found the page,
“Alcohol banned except for use of flu treatment, local drunkard gets 30 days jail time- shouts,“I was trying to fend off the influenzy.”
“Another clipping said, “Barber refuses to wear gauze mask, is fined $10.”
Grams gave a little chuckle. When we gathered with the Smith family, I would often sneak in the room to hear the adult conversation- hoping I might hear stories about Jennie.
I remember hiding under Grannie Annie’s couch one Sunday afternoon and hearing my uncle David, remark,
“1918 was a hard year. The flu was likened to the Bubonic Plague of the 1400’s. Nearly one fifth of the world’s population suffered. 21 Million died- 675,00 Americans. That is 10 times more than those who died in the horrible ward.
You know, Utah was the third state hardest hit in the nation by deaths.”
Right about then I remembering letting out an “ah choo.” And I was slowly pulled out from under the couch by Grannie Annie and shooed off to play with Lewis and my cousins.
After that, I began asking my teacher at school lots of questions about the flu epidemic. I think my teacher thought I might have an interest in medicine or history. When she mentioned it to my mom, Marie at Parent’s night, Marie responded.
“Ruthie’s mother, my sister died in October 1918. Ruthie was nine months old. She was only nine months old.”
I remember the look of shock on my teacher’s face and the absolute sadness in Marie’s eyes.
I never mentioned 1918 again- to anyone. Uncle David was right, “1918 was a hard year.”