Thursday, March 16, 2006
Bonding with Dad
In a post early yesterday, I described my teenage kids amusement at my bird flu preparations and my secret research and stockpiling. Last night after I found the third half eaten, open jar of peanut butter, I figured I should remove my stockpile to a place far from the hungry eyes of my fifteen year old, two hundred pound son. My eighty-five year old dad lives in an apartment below our main house. He has a large storage area and an empty cabinet that I consider for seizure. Unfortunately, this would mean that I would have to divulge my plans to him. I eventually decide that I am willing to risk the ridicule for the benefit of the greater good. I enter his place with two overflowing bags of groceries and try to quickly explain that I need to store a few extra groceries in his store room (I end up making five trips to move all of the food). Normally, it takes three attempts to communicate anything to my father. It isn't that he is confused, he actually is quite sharp and physically fit, but he invariably either doesn't have his hearing aid in, or the radio is too loud or he is in the middle of creating something out of wood and a power saw is running. Not tonight. He sees me with the bags and immediately comes to my rescue, listens to my lame excuse about the food and then helps me to get it all down to his place. When we have finally hauled it all down and I am considering what items I am missing, dad decides to show me his stash. How could I not have figured that my dad, the man who tells stories about the Great Depression like it occurred only last year, would be prepared for any sort of disaster. He has food, he has a small propane stove, oil lamps and arms. This man is not just ready for the flu, he is ready for Armageddon. And he doesn't find my stockpiling amusing. We are bonding over disaster preparedness. Dad tells me how he cried while watching coverage of Hurricane Katrina, how disappointed he was with the US Government response. He remembers World War II and the calm efficiency of war production. He remembers the food, the most he had in his whole life, provided by the US Government to that young soldier. He is proud of my industry and makes me prepare a written list of missing items. We discuss the value of Tamiflu and I explain the science behind bird flu, recombinant viruses, and birds as sentinels. He tells me about George Bush's latest lousy appointments in key roles that may affect the outcome of any disaster (dad listens to the news 24 hrs. A day). Then he tells me about his Uncle Enzo, who in 1918 was the pride of the DeLuca clan. The DeLuca's are small people, my dad is barely five feet tall and weighs less than 120 pounds. Enzo was tallest, strongest and most handsome of his father's brothers, newly immigrated to the United States. He was newly married and working his trade (carpenter) when in the fall of 1918, influenza swept through Philadelphia. Within days Enzo was dead. My father's mother would see two infant children die in the next two years, both attributed to "Influenza". My dad was fortunate, he wasn't born until 1922 and by then the virulence of the flu had decreased. Lucky to have spent his formative years struggling through the depression and his years as a young adult sleeping with a rifle under his arm under the English sky. Stockpiling food is not a joke to him, it is sound domestic policy, like having cash in your pocket at all times, gas in your car and the ability to defend your family and home. When we finish packing away our supplies, he tells me not to worry, that old guys like him aren't afraid of dying from avian flu. I tell him that avian flu prefers well fed fifteen year olds, a lot like Uncle Enzo. He pretends not to hear that part.