A death in the family necessitated a road trip through the Delta down to old home territory in Louisiana last week.
I felt duty-bound to go even though the deceased, Lydia Tierney, wasn't a blood relative. A New Orleans native, like my mother, she was married to Mother's second cousin. So was she my third cousin-in-law?
I won't quibble with that first, second or third cousin twice removed stuff and such. I find it esoteric. It was more than sufficient that Lydia was a relative who always took a specific interest in me and my siblings at family events when the city-folk side of the family crossed the wide lake and the long bridge to visit us country cousins for picnics on wooded riverbanks or for barbecue chicken painstakingly prepared in Daddy's converted 55-gallon drum grill in the backyard.
The last among my parents' contemporaries in the family, Lydia died less than three weeks shy of reaching 100.
I think about that particular generation in my family and that of the entire nation when we get all stirred up about current events. The Henny-Penny media, especially cable channels, agitate us with falling sky bulletins and "this just in" alerts.
Indeed we have issues. Naming just one, the covid-19 pandemic death toll is nearing 250,000 American lives with over 10 million cases. Clearly not a minor issue. Yet in spite of the tragedy, it has yet to near the mortality of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic when 675,000 U.S. citizens perished.
Then again, this is not a morbid contest. Any level of pain and death is regretful and sorrow-filled. And such a high death count occurred over 100 years ago when medical technology was primitive compared to today.
Still we should remember that so-called Greatest Generation members were born right after that epidemic and as World War I ended. Children during the paucity of the Great Depression, they were victorious adults in World War II.
In the waning days of that last world war my mother and cousin Lydia were both with child. Mother had left her parents' farm to stay in New Orleans during the last weeks of her pregnancy to live with her grandmother. My older sister Carolyn would be delivered in a big city hospital mere blocks from Mama Brink's house.
Meanwhile, and unknown to both women, Cousin Lydia was admitted to the same hospital soon to give birth to her first child. Lydia's husband Carl, who grew up at the other end of the block from the Brink house, was in the Navy in the Pacific. My father was in the Army in Europe.
My sister Carolyn and cousin Carole were born within days of one another in 1944. There was a mix-up. A nurse brought what was supposed to be the Tierney baby to Lydia's room for mother-infant time. Wrist labels on babies "Carole Tierney" and "Carolyn Talley" were easily confused, one supposes. Thank goodness my sister had inherited our father's flaming red hair, otherwise my cousin may have become my sister!
My father first saw Carolyn a year later; Carl held Carole for the first time two years later.
That generation rose to strife-filled occasions repeatedly at home and abroad. Though world events offered reason enough, they didn't run in panic over falling skies. They shot for the moon instead.
Current day, there's no end to the fear-fostering of falling skies aimed at that Henny Penny nature inside us. In the ancient children's tale all the animals, save for Henny herself, were consumed by canny Foxy Loxey. Modern day we are consumed by the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, the major three broadcast networks and talk radio as well. We -- or better said, our eyes and ears -- are considered by those organizations more as products of their work as opposed to audiences served.
In recent chatter on the Fox News program "Outnumbered," business commentator Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, aka "Kennedy," laid it out, saying networks should "be terrified how boring a Biden administration can be." A revelation in plain words: When our collective blood pressure and anxiety levels are elevated, so are Nielsen ratings.
When those near and dear to me become overwrought from consuming tales of doom from media's talking heads and from politicians' bobbing heads and flailing arms, I remind them that my parents' country of yesteryear is the same one as ours today. We've been through worse, and like Henny Penny, we can escape Foxy Loxey's lair of doom.
We will survive again. Been there, done that, whether or not we get a participation T-shirt.
Ted Talley is a resident of Bentonville who has lived in the Ozarks more than 25 years. His email is [email protected]