In my last column I mentioned that many of my good friends are now in their eighties. I might not have mentioned that they are in their late eighties. The other day I asked one of the old boys how he was doing, and he said, “Well, I’m still on the right side of the grass.”
To which another old boy said, “Green grass in the spring is one of the things in this world can count on as being good.”
Be grateful for small things.
Many of us are fortunate to know folks who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They have perspective on life’s actual hard spots that those of us who grew up in the second half of the Twentieth Century can only appreciate from stories and listening. If you think about it, in another ten years or so, most of the people who were old enough to really understand what was going on during the Great Depression will be “on the other side of the grass.” So I’ve been doing a lot listening lately to my good friends who are in their late eighties.
In the next few columns, I will relate some of the opinions these octogenarians have of the world that we now live in. I think it is fair to say that this aging generation does not have the high expectations that are common today to “Be all you can be,” or to “Chase your unquenchable dreams,” or “Expect that you can do anything,” and other, similar personal promotions. Most people in their eighties are grateful for a roof over their heads and a dinner table rich with food and family. And green grass in the spring.
This is not to suggest that all the technologies and advancements of the past fifty-sixty years are leading us in the wrong direction. It’s simply to note that there is a difference.
Another old fellow used the example of media.
“It used to be that we had to gather around the big box radio to listen to music, or a ball game or a drama. We had no TV. Most of the time mom or dad made such important decisions as to what we could listen to on the radio, and we kids were glad just for a chance to listen to something, anything. Only once in a while did we kids get to decide what music or station to listen to. Nowadays, every kid has his or her own music on a little old thing that’s about half the size of a candy bar. Not that I’m saying this wrong, but the kids who have this kind of personalized preferencing tend to think of themselves as special. They can’t help it. And they are special, as long as they remember that there are other people in the world.”
The part about “remembering that there are other people in the world” is something worth emphasizing. So much of the new technology is personal, resulting in an odd irony when the effect of personal networking technology is to isolate us from each other.
The generation that came out of the Depression and World War II wanted to make life better for their children, and then those children — the baby boomers — wanted to make it better for their children, Gen X, and they wanted to make it better still for their kids, the millenials. This resulted in a generation that has received the benefits of three prior generations dedicated to not just maintaining, but improving, their well-being. No wonder the millenials have high expectations.
As one of my old friends said, “If every generation makes it easier for the next generation, sooner or later you have a generation that lack lack vigor. There’s a lot of things you have go through yourself. Nobody can make all your necessary mistakes for you.”
But one of his friends gave him a little bit of a side-elbow for that one, saying, “H-E-DOUBLE TOOTHPICKS, man, don’t you realize the world will always have enough problems for everybody for all times!? That’s the one thing we can count on! Every generation looks at their successors and can’t help but feel that they have lost their way for lack of common sense.”
“Yessir,” nodded another old boy in the group, though he was younger, a mere pup at 68 years of age. He drew his forefinger across his jaw and added, “but just the other day, fellers, my teenage boy said to me when I asked for repayment of a small loan I’d made to him, ‘Well, dad, you can charge it to dust and let the rain settle it.’ I asked the boy where he’d picked up that sassy talk and he said, ‘From Grandpa.’” ❖