|Nameless, faceless death totals in California. (L.A.Times)|
"The already critical situation in Los Angeles County hospitals is expected to worsen in the coming weeks as patients sickened during the Christmas holiday need treatment, leaving officials desperate for ways to increase capacity and triage care to focus on the sickest patients." (LA Times, January 4, 2021, "L.A. hospitals race to discharge patients to make room for COVID victims but can’t keep up")
The tragedy that our country is facing is happening one person at a time. So hearing of the death from Covid of my distant cousin Chuck, who died last month in Los Angeles, represents a personal tragedy and also one death of many in Los Angeles where the pandemic is raging more than almost anywhere in our country. Although I was not close to Chuck, his death is emblematic of the big picture of loss and sadness everywhere.
Chuck, whose health had been declining in recent months, contracted Covid in a nursing home at the time when the disease was spreading uncontrollably in California. I've seen Chuck only once since we were children, and that occasion was the only time I ever met his wife, who died a few years ago. We enjoyed a very nice dinner in a deli in Los Angeles where they lived and where we were visiting. So I'm sad to hear that he is gone. And overall, I'm very sad for us all, living through this very tough time.
|University City, Mo. The Loop, 1950s.|
I have no photos of Chuck, either as a child or as an adult, but here's a photo that connects us; it's a photo of our home town, University City, MO. He and I both grew up in this suburb of St. Louis, where our grandparents/parents had settled after immigrating, and where our families lived throughout much of the twentieth century. In 2006, I included this archive photo in a blog post; Chuck was searching for images of St. Louis streetcars, and found my post. He realized that I was the author, and he wrote to me: our first contact since we were both kids. We stayed in touch a little bit ever since then, including our one meeting. Some mutual cousins were kind enough to let me know of his passing.
When we were young, our families occasionally got together on Sunday afternoon or some other time, always informally. Chuck's parents, along with him and his sister, would just "drop in" to see our family: a way of socializing that doesn't seem to happen any more in my adult life. Chuck's parents would bring us a bag of White Castle hamburgers, which they particularly liked (and which my parents didn't particularly approve of). Or my mother would just offer them supper, improvising on whatever we were going to eat that night. Eggs? Sandwiches? I can't remember what she would come up with. By the time we were in high school, we didn't participate in our parents' spontaneous family gatherings so much any more. Chuck's family wasn't as close to us by then, though my sister remembers talking to him at a later date. My memories are distant, but I just was thinking of them.
As I say, a global tragedy is happening one life at a time.