Upside Down

This year, weighted down by the perilousness of COVID-19, I’ve thought about my late father even more than normal, the hardships he faced as a soldier during World War II and the similarities between the two crises.

My father grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in a remote fishing village along the North Carolina coast. Even though the economy was in the tank for many of those years, he enjoyed a fairly carefree childhood along the shore. After he graduated from high school in 1940, he worked at the Norfolk Naval Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, until Uncle Sam invited him to join the U.S. Armed Forces in 1942. He was 19. Nineteen. (When I was 19, I couldn’t get out of my own way.) After basic training, he fought in the European theater, where he marched from France to Berlin during one of the coldest European winters on record. After combat, he was stationed in the U.S. quarter of Berlin as part of the occupation forces. He returned home in February 1946.

Like many veterans of the war, my father suffered from what was then called shell shock, haunted by the adversities he endured and the carnage he witnessed. But determined and hopeful in spirit, he graduated from college, began a 30-year teaching career, married my mother and raised five children.

It’s hard to overstate the impact the war made on my father; likewise, it’s impossible to exaggerate the effect the novel coronavirus is having —and will have — on the world. It’s already evident in hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide, staggering unemployment and crippling shortages of medical supplies. As in World War II, the bedding industry has responded to the crisis swiftly by shifting manufacturing from consumer bedding products to personal protection equipment, toppers, medical mattresses and more. In addition, many bedding companies have made generous donations to help relief efforts. By producing much-needed supplies, companies have kept factories open and employees at work. BedTimes has covered many of these efforts and applauds the industry for its diligence and generosity.

As I write this column, the world has begun to cautiously lift stay-at-home orders, retail stores and restaurants have opened, and conversations have turned toward repairing the economic devastation the virus has caused. I am confident we all hope these trends will continue.

When I was a little girl, my father taught me a few of the lessons he learned when his world turned upside down: Sometimes the events in your life seem too great to bear, but somehow you will endure; weather life’s agonies with dignity; and don’t underestimate the resilience of the human spirit. His wisdom has served me well lately.

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