In 1966, the Arno River flooded Florence, killing 101 people and destroying millions of masterpieces. It was also a disaster for my Uncle Leon. He had a sweater import business; his inventory was stored in Florence. The sweaters were ruined and, through no fault of his own, so was Uncle Leon. For his family--his grown children just starting out on their own--the flood became a before and after point of reference. A legacy of sorts.
I think about that now because I wonder about this pandemic and its effect on us--not just our health, but our squirreled-away retirement funds and our children and their future. Will this be a touchstone for many families who established themselves firmly in the middle class only to find the coronavirus swept that away. Not because we became ill from it--though that is still unknown--but because the economy didn't recover in time to keep us in the place we were.
After the scramble to make sure we would never be a burden to our children, we now have to worry that the financial markets might have eaten away our best laid plans. We have to worry about the businesses our children are in. If they work for a big company--a Delta Airlines or a Marriott, as children of friends of ours do--will the furloughs they are currently on lead to rehiring or permanent layoffs. If our children started a business that's had to curtail its business, how will they (for how long can they) meet their payroll; if they work for a small business, are they out of work and trying to collect unemployment insurance? (Good luck with that; it's very difficult to get through even online.) And how widespread is this virus anyway--we have no widespread testing that would let us know. We have no idea who and how many among us are infected.
The majority of us with grown children have lived more than sixty years. We've been told to stay home and isolate ourselves--even if we don't have underlying conditions. We have to cut ourselves off from our children, our grandchildren, our friends--life as we know it. And we can't even get a test to know if that's necessary.
We are falling behind and behinder. Is this the legacy we're leaving our children--the turning point my Uncle Leon suffered half a century ago.