I’m sure many readers of this magazine can share in my experience. Perhaps you’re experiencing it now or you will as the years pass. In June 2011 my mother reached her 79th birthday. In August of 2011 my father celebrated his 85th birthday. On February, 24th of 2011 my mother and father achieved a milestone together; their 60th wedding anniversary. They lived on 53rd avenue in Elmhurst, Queens for forty years, until they retired to Florida in 1992. They continue to watch out and care for one another and have been blessed with 20 years, and counting, of retirement. I’ve watched as they’ve aged, the way they’ve changed, and I’m sure they see the same changes in me and my sister Lynn.
A famous song titled, ‘Nick of Time,’ explains a lot…
“I see my folks are
getting on and I watch their bodies change.
I know they see the same in me and it makes us both feel strange.
No matter how you tell yourself it’s what we all go through.
Those lines are pretty hard to take when they’re staring back at you.
Scared to run out of time. When did the choices get so hard with so much more at stake?
Life gets kind of precious when there’s less of it to waste.
Scared to run out of time.”
My father was born in 1926, my mother in 1932. They went from radios, books and their imaginations to high definition televisions. From party phone lines, when they could eavesdrop on a neighbor’s call on a rotary phone, to the cell phones of today that can be carried in our pockets. Years ago they used the phone book, encyclopedias and walked to the library to find an answer to a question. Then they were introduced to computers, the internet, and a mind boggling display of information. They day-dreamed about flying to far off places with the invention of commercial airplane flights. Then they watched the moon landings, space travel. They’ve seen such a vast array of changes.
It’s my belief that their generation is the last great one the United States of America will see for a very, very, long time; if at all. The people of this time period went through the Great Depression. In 1941, when their country called for them to fight for freedom, no one hesitated. World War II gave the United States two powerful enemies; Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. My father served in WW II, the Philippines, his neighbor, Paul Roderick, served in Europe. Mr. Roderick was a B-17 fighter pilot. He flew bombing missions as a young man. I’m sure he was scared to death; I’m sure he felt overwhelmed and yet he survived, he made it back home. He and my father did their jobs; they followed orders. A few months ago Paul Roderick celebrated his 90th birthday.
Men and woman from all walks of life took arms, stood side by side and defended their nation, their beliefs, and their way of life. They were proud of the red, white and blue of the American flag. They were proud to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and include the words UNDER GOD; they placed their hand over their hearts. Famous baseball players like Bob Feller and Ted Williams put away their uniforms, their high salaries by the day’s standards, and joined the fight. It’s said that good will always triumph over evil; in 1945 this was never truer.
When the people of this generation were married they respected their wedding vows. They weren’t perfect but they seemed to try harder at it than we all do right now. They sacrificed, worked from sun up to sun down and saved for all that they had; all that they needed. Phrases like ‘In sickness and health,’ ‘Til death do us part,’ hold great meaning. The magical words ‘I Do’ were spoken with sincere love, trust and respect. They went through good times and bad and they did it together, hand in hand. Did they get mad at each other? Sure! At times did they drive each other crazy? You bet! Did they work through these issues? Absolutely! Unfortunately the same convictions can’t be said for the latest generations, one of which is mine.
The divorce rate has hit an all time high. Some years ago we entered into the ME generation. When the going gets tough the couples of the baby boom generation and their children turn and run into the arms of someone else. We all too often turn into spoiled brats who are told that nothing is ever our fault. Have you ever ventured into a book store and looked around? Try it someday and you’ll be shocked to see the largest section isn’t the one with the works of the great writers of history; Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway, Twain, Steinbeck, Dickinson, Faulkner. No, the largest section belongs to Self-Help books. We have Chicken Soup for the Soul, a ‘literary pat on the back, a warm hug, comforting thoughts!’
Do you know someone who has a drinking problem, smokes too much, eats too much? Do they use drugs? Spend more money then they earn? Do they want things just for the sake of wanting them? Well if you do there’s a book out there, everywhere and anywhere, that will tell them they’re not to blame. It’s not their fault. It never is! It never was! Nothing is ever anyone’s fault; that’s the beliefs of the 19th and 20th century; old ways. Don’t you know it’s the 21st century, a new way of thinking?
Look at our political leaders. They’re out of control; self absorbed, ‘Entitlement Maniacs.’ They feel they’re held to a different standard than you and me. Let’s face it; they think they’re better then we are and they deserve whatever their hearts so desire. They take anything and everything just because they want it. They’ve forgotten they work for us; they’re civil servants paid by our tax dollars.
Doctors have jumped into the fray and let their voice be heard. Do you have an ailment? Any kind of problem? Well your doctor most assuredly has a pill for you to take. Follow the instructions on the bottle. Problem solved. We even have commercials for prescription drugs, something unheard of years ago. It could never happen; yet now we can shop for the latest drug while waiting for our favorite T.V. show to come back on.
So the 21st century moves on and people everywhere and at every moment are talking on their cell phones, text messaging, writing in a new language, shorthanded codes, letters substituted for words. The pace is non stop, all too often senseless, a mindless frenzy. Who are you always talking to? Why can’t anything ever wait? What’s the rush?
It is my hope that we may take a moment; let’s bring it all to a standstill! It’s time to pause and reflect on the love our parents, our families have given us, the lessons they tried to teach us. I don’t mean to stray from my original topic; I don’t mean to be pessimistic or sarcastic. I’m not placing the blame on everyone, I don’t want to offend anyone, but the point needs to be made. The ME generation has to become the US generation. We’re living this life together.
We can still learn from our parents, so can our children and their children. We can all change. There is always hope. We need to respect and hold dear the same values are parents did, our grandparents did. We need to be more conscious of the decisions we make and how they will affect ourselves and future generations; to care for one another as much as we care for ourselves.
I’m sure you’re all thinking that times have changed. Life has become more hectic, more complicated. Yes; that’s true and yet strong, solid values never change. They never will.
As the people who care for us get on in years let us show them how much we care about them. Let’s try and live our lives in a way that will make them proud. That will make them smile much like the way they did when we all used crayons to paint a picture in our classrooms, so many years ago, and watched as our parents so proudly displayed it on the refrigerator. Do you remember?
We’ll always be their children; we’ll always feel their love. Let us show them how much we love them by turning back the clock and changing ourselves, our lives, and the world, for the better. It’s never too late. The bright lights may fade, we all lose our loved ones, and yet there is always a glimmer, a flicker of hope for a better relationship between all people, everywhere, because the one thing each and everyone of us share in our hearts and minds, is a mother and a father, who love us now, who loved us then, and love each other until death do them part.