One of the biggest tragedies in life happens all the time. I was guilty of it, as is most every person in our culture. It is keeping the barrier between the generations going. I only had fleeting glimpses of this thing, and looking back I should have known better. I don’t know if it maintains the generation boundary or sets up the barrier. Hard for me to tell.
I worked alongside innumerable people of the generation older than me. Why didn’t I grasp the idea that all those old-shits had a lot of things to offer, even interest, me? Hell, what am I saying? Those sons-of-bitches would’ve been flipping fascinating had I only taken the damn time to ask, and, or listen to them.
My clues to this Siddhartha type illumination were quite ordinary as I look back on it. At the times they happened they were eye-opening as hell.
The first time was when I was in college. I was visiting my grandmother, and my uncle was there. Up until then, my uncle was a person who’d always been stern, responsible, an average person of the greatest generation –stuffy and intent on having me behave correctly. This particular day the two of us drove across Oklahoma City and he told me a dirty joke. It wasn’t exceptionally dirty except he laid the “F” bomb on me. Now I had heard that word several times a day while in college. But this … he was a choir director at his church. Holy shit!
Another uncle, I should have known about, came to me when I lived in Hawaii. He and my aunt were visiting me, with my parents. The visit was about average, but after they’d taken a tour of the other islands and we waited in the airport for them to depart to the mainland he talked to me. He told me about his favorite island, Kauai. In particular, he talked about visiting Jim Nabors’ Macadamia nut farm on Kauai. He said the farm let them all have some macadamia nuts to snack on at the end of the tour. He had a problem with that, and couldn’t enjoy them at all because the whole time he munched on them, one thought never stopped reverberating through his head. “I can’t get over the fact that I’m eating Jim Nabors’ nuts.”
I cracked up. As did my Dad (a lifelong pastor). My uncle turned toward him and said, deadpan, “What are you laughing about? You ate them too.”
Now, none of that conversation would have taken place in my younger days. This was a much different side of my elders than I’d ever seen. It was refreshing.
My own father. I never really knew him when I was a child. I was the middle child and he paid more attention to the other two than me. I never got to know him until the last two years of his life when I lived near him so I could look after him after my mother passed. On his lucid days, he was quick-witted and clever. I’d never realized. I knew he was a brilliant man, but I didn’t have a gut feeling like I should have while I grew up. Then he was gone.
As far as other elders were concerned. I worked alongside many of them when I was a roughneck in the oilfields of Oklahoma. They treated me like one of them. Those bastards were funny as hell. I just didn’t equate them with my own elders. I remember one particular joke where this guy walks into a bar with a frog on his head …
Maybe I should tell that at another time.
Why do the different generations think they are the only generation that can tell a joke? Or fight in the armed services? Or have anything relevant to say? How about knowing anything about sex?
That last question is particularly pertinent. Most people in one generation don’t want to even think about the older generation lithe and entwined in passion. Actually, that was a way I raised morale when I worked as a front of the house manager in restaurants. I would pick a charming couple of an older generation and ask all of the hosts and servers to imagine the couple naked and getting it on. There were inevitable looks of horror followed by gigantic smiles. The older the couple was, the bigger the reaction.
For some reason, each generation forgets that without sex their own existence would not have happened.
The same thing is true about the armed services. The generation older than me had World War II. My generation had the Viet Nam war. Those younger than me have the Iraqi wars. But here’s what each younger generation forgets. The men and women they know from the older generations ARE SURVIVORS of the wars associated with them. Every one of those older people may not have fought, that’s true. However, for some reason, they found a way to survive. Some of them had to be mean as a badger dancing on a hot stove to make it through, and we can’t even envision that. because they are old, saggy, and wrinkly. How the hell?
While I’m at it. All of the famous gunslingers were much older than the greatest generation. We listen to historical figures and forget they were actual people. They still had their problems and behaved themselves like anyone today would.
So now, today, I’m saying everyone older is someone we all need to understand and get to know. Who knows? A lot of them might just be engrossing. I know I’m fascinating, actually, I’m intriguing too. Some of you young whippersnappers (how’s that for an older generation word?) might find a good time if you listened to us. What do you think?
Hell’s fires I’m one colorful sack of shit. What do you think? It’s worth a try.
Speaking of fascinating and intriguing The Sigma Factor (my book currently on sale where good books are available) will soon be joined by The Great Zero Sum Balance. The exact date of publication is not set yet. Check it out.
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