My grandmother, bless her heart, used to tell me about the 'old days' when things were harder than I knew, harder than I could imagine.
One of the things she told me--my mother's mother, Lina Manona Sadler Jones--was about what she called "Pneumonia Winter". What she meant was the few warm days, late in winter, that were promises of days to come but were ephemeral, passing, and the cold would return. In February or March there would be almost a week of spring like weather and the old folks would think it was real and stop dressing warmly and generally act foolish and spring-like. And a few of them would catch pneumonia and die, back there in her childhood when antibiotics were not yet a reality.
Pneumonia, she would tell me, was God's way of culling the herd, of taking away the weakest and least fit and sending them home so when Spring really came, only those truly able to embrace it would be around to lean into the warmth.
One might think that a Grandmother shouldn't put such thoughts in a young boy's mind. Young boys, people might think, should be sheltered from the world and reality and have everything given to them sanitized and soft. But that wasn't Grammaw's way. "Reality", to 'Nonie', which is what people who weren't related called her, was simply that: reality and a young boy should learn about the world he lived in with open eyes.
I'm in my 60's. My grandmother was probably nearly that when she told me about 'pneumonia winter'. So, that's going back a century or so, to her girlhood in a time harsher than I have known or could imagine. To her--a Christian woman of the first order--Nature had it's ways to clear away the excess and make way for the New. People simply got sick and died from Pneumonia in those long ago days. It was natural and, in Nature's way, simply right.
Earlier this month there was almost a week of warm weather in March. I was delighted! The winter had grown old on me and I longed to lean into Spring. So, I didn't dress warmly those few days and generally acted foolish about the false Spring.
So, yesterday, I learned I have pneumonia. What used to be called 'walking pneumonia' since I don't need to take to my bed but walking up a flight of stairs reminds me to breathe. Unlike the old folks of my grandmother's childhood, their are antibiotics aplenty (perhaps too many) in my day, so I won't be culled from the herd. I'll be better each day until I'm well again.
But it reminded me of her. It really did. She is so long ago in my life that I don't do her the honor of memory enough. But 'pneumonia winter' brought her back near to me. I can almost hear her laugh and feel her arms around me, telling me 'it will be alright....'
So, for me, in pneumonia winter I will get the stuff together for our taxes and take it to the woman who puts it all together and sends it in.
One other thing my Mammaw used to say is this, "God will slow you down when you need to be slowed down."
Not bad wisdom. So, I'll rest up, take the antibiotic and get my taxes together....
Thanks, Mammaw. In spite of the impetus, being with you in my memory the last few days has meant the world to me. You were the best. I couldn't have asked for more....
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