SEATTLE — My grandmother and former Seattle resident Fritzi Bryant, 106, lives in an assisted living facility in Yakima. She’s one of Washington state’s oldest residents and one of the few still alive who remembers the flu pandemic of 1918.
“I remember my parents speak about it. I was only four or five years old,” Fritzi said. “It was very serious.”
Like the coronavirus, the Spanish flu was a global pandemic. At least 50 million people died from it between 1918 and 1919.
Americans donned gauze masks to try to prevent the spread. Fritzi’s parents, my great-grandparents Carl and Anne Schassberger, were part of the effort. Carl was a tailor, tasked by the government to make masks instead of clothes.
“They wanted him to make masks, which he did. My mother was helping him too,” Fritzi said.
Fritzi is one of the 2.5 million Americans living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities who are under quarantine and cannot have visitors. My mother Nancy Frame used to visit her every day. Now she’s dropping off items like candy, cards, and flowers at the Landmark Care and Rehabilitation facility’s side entrance.
“At first I was devastated and worried, but I’ve accepted it. They’re taking beautiful care of her, and she’s so positive. The facility is immaculate, and I have a lot of faith in them,” my mom said.
Quarantine isn’t keeping my 106-year-old grandmother down.
“(I’m doing) wonderful," she said. "Just fine. Everything is fine here. Plenty to eat, which is good. You have to look at the sunny side instead of the bad side of things.”
As for the best way to handle the coronavirus, this centenarian said we should soldier on and not take unnecessary chances.
“There’s no sense in playing it down," Fritzi said. "You have to look it square in the face…and do everything you can in your power to make it better.”
It was hard to sign off over Facetime. I told my grandmother I’ll visit her as soon as this is all over. But of course, no one knows when that will be.
“Just know I love you a lot,” my grandma said.
I told her I love her too.