The Deep, Generational Impact of the Pandemic

Josh Rose
6 min readMar 10
My Grandpa Sydney in Toronto, 18 years old. 1922.

On the outside, I appear as a product of my parents, but inside — deep down — I think I may be turning into my great grandparents.

By the time the Spanish Flu had begun its brutal devastation on the world, all four of my grandparents had been born. But they were young, ranging in age from 3 to 14 years old. Which means it was their parents — people who went by names like Fanny, Fay, Jacob and Joseph — who bore the brunt of its worry. Was that the motivation to move west? Did some instinct, born of a pandemic that killed 5% of the world’s population, change the trajectory of our family? It not only seems plausible, it feels plausible.

When I look at this photograph of my grandfather, at 18 years old, today, what I feel is no longer for him, but for his parents — who I never knew. Three years on from the outset of the Spanish Flu, I’m acutely aware of the relief my great grandparents must have felt at his mere survival. I picture the empty-nesters, perhaps toasting a glass of illegal homemade gin, shakily.

March 10, 2023, three years on from the pandemic.

I’m no longer deeply fearful of the pandemic of 2020, though I’m not blind to its continued existence. Two weeks ago, my neighbor’s brother and his fiancée, flew in from Cambodia, got married and tested positive the next day. I was their photographer. But four vaccines in now, the hospital beds and help lines are open and available, if we need them. We didn’t. They recovered and I never came down with it. I’m no longer deeply fearful, but something inside of me is definitely shook. Like a home foundation that has survived an earthquake. There may be cracks, definitely cracks somewhere, I just don’t know how fragile it all is anymore.

As we enter the third anniversary of the start of the pandemic, I’m reminded how much of it has seeped into my being. How much we dealt with, how much we went through. But also how the things we experience shape who we are and bond us across generations.

My parents’ generation deals with mortality, too — every generation does — but differently. For them, everyone is healthy, until they aren’t. My mother was a youthful, fun-loving, wine-drinking 68-year old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She died three months later. My father and…

Josh Rose

Filmmaker, photographer, artist and writer. Writing about creator life and observations on culture. Tips very very much appreciated: