I want everything to last forever.
When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.
“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”
“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”
“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”
It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.
The only things I buy more or less on schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope — because I know I need them.
On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once and then you never have to worry about them again?
I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t as permanent an investment as I thought it was … and the ants keep coming back.
Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.
How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.
The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.
Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. Personally, I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligation only by choice.
Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free, until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.
I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.
We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the down side. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.
We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.
Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it twice. Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living a longer life?
Someone complained. “How come people aren’t up in arms about Scrotus and his attack on the press? Why aren’t people crazy about this?”
I think maybe I got just a little bit crazy hearing that. What exactly are we supposed to be doing that we aren’t already doing? There I was thinking we were doing more than a little bit to keep our bit of resistance happening. Then I hear we don’t care enough because … what? Are we supposed to be building battlements in the roads?
It’s February 2017. There are going to be at least four years of Scrotus or one of his lackeys up there in The Big Office. He isn’t going to “go away.” If, by some small miracle, he does go away — and I would not count on it — one of his people will take over for him. There won’t be a victory in our immediate future, no matter how much objecting we do. If we blow ourselves up now, where will we be in another year? Two years? Three years?
We’ve got elections coming in 2018. I recommend you people who are so eager for us to be climbing the battlements get busy finding candidates to run for office. As of today, we’re a bunch of angry, frustrated people who hate what’s happening. If we want to be more, we need a party. We need people. We need candidates. We need to be able to show we are better.
Right now, we can’t do that.
This is going to be a long run and what’s going on now is merely the beginning. It will be difficult. Expect to be frustrated as we watch newspapers and television stations try to do what they were better at 50 years ago. You’ve ignored newspapers and other news for years. Now, you want them to stand up and be Walter Cronkite? It can happen, but it’s going to take a while. By the way, are you subscribing to a newspaper? No? Have you considered it? You want news to be powerful? Buy a newspaper. Also, read it. Just saying.
As a side note, am I the only one noticing that Trump is getting old really fast? Even with all the makeup, he looks exhausted. We may wonder how we’ll survive him, but I wonder if he will survive us. The man looks like he is going to explode.
Are we upset? Are you kidding? Seriously?
Of course we’re upset. Garry didn’t work more than 50 years in news to see this. But that being said, we all have personal lives. We have kids, friends, and dogs. We have blogs. We make art. Write stories. Many of us have health problems and some of us are just plain cranky and getting old.
I plan to live through the next few years and come out the other side. Alive. Able to get out and vote.
Garry and his friends all worked for a lot of years in news. All of them are retired. They can do a lot of stuff including being funny. Writing. Talking. Reasoning. Arguing. Contending. Discussing. What they won’t be is out there. On the streets. Marching. Other people are going to have to do that.
TIME FOR KIDS TO STOP BEING KIDS
This is fair, isn’t it?
It’s a young world and these are terrible, but exciting times. If youth wants this to be their time, they’ll have to make it so. The world goes around and comes around. All the kids who’ve been complaining how we had all the good times, all those marches and all that excitement? Welcome to the exciting world. Go out and fight. Your time has come.
Go forth young ones. Be bold. Fearless. It’s won’t be easy. If you don’t get what you want quickly, you’ll have to get it other way. The long, slow way. There’s a lot of work to do.
I have faith in you.
I keep hearing that “age is just a number.” If that’s true, then youth is also just a number.
The whole “number” part of aging applies only to the years you’ve (so far) survived. The remainder of the equation has to do with how your body is doing. Whether you still have mostly original equipment or have had to install after-market replacements. Those whose DNA or good luck have allowed them to feel young tend to ascribe their well-being to a positive attitude. It’s easy to believe that when all the parts are in good working order.
After that, life isn’t about your attitude. It’s about what works, what doesn’t. And what you do about it.
I had a great attitude when I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. A positive approach was not going to make the cancer vanish. I figured it would be pretty clear sailing after that, but much to my surprised (dismayed) chagrin, a few years later I discovered I had a failing heart. Which I’d dismissed as “something else.” Maybe psychological.
Reality crashed in and I had to face it or I would die. A positive attitude wasn’t nearly enough. I wanted so badly for it to be untrue. A medical error. How could I be that sick?
I learned a positive attitude works best in conjunction with good doctors, appropriate care, and commonsense. Sometimes, you have to let your body take the lead. If you want to live, that is.
Mind-over-matter and “age is just a number” are overused platitudes. Being cheerful won’t fix a non-working heart valve, remove cancer, or replace your knees or hips. People who believe a bright smile and a positive attitude are the same as youth and good health are in for a rude awakening. Sooner or later, it comes to all.
On the day when reality crashes in, that is when you need to be positive. Life doesn’t begin and end with youth. Accepting the real limitations life imposes requires guts, determination, and an ability to roll with the punches. Courage is accepting that you can’t do all the stuff you used to do while finding stuff to do you never considered. Or figure out how to do old things in a new way.
It doesn’t take much courage to face the day if you feel great and your body works. If fate decrees otherwise, you need plan B. That’s when you find out what you’re made of.
Unless you die early, youth ends. For everyone. During most of life, we aren’t young. That’s okay. If youth were the only thing worth having, we’d all be dead before 30.
There is life after youth. I think that’s when the real fun begins.
The Class of South Pacific, by Rich Paschall
It seems like an odd thing to say to high school or college graduates, and yet we say it all the time. Students are probably listening to graduation speeches in wonder, perhaps even shock at this notion. There it is, however, an oft-repeated idea that older folks are selling to the young.
“These are the best years of your life,” some may exclaim. Others may narrow it down to tell students, “You will look back on this as the best year of your life.” The best year?
It was a long time ago, and I can not recall specifically what I heard at my various graduations, but I am pretty sure the idea was sold to me somewhere. “How can this be?” graduates may ask themselves. “What about the next 60 years? You mean to say, ‘this is it’?”
Are these youthful years the best years of our lives? Is this where we had the best times, best friends, best dances and concerts and music and well, everything? The answer is a surprising yes, and no.
When I was in third year of high school I learned that DePaul Academy would be closing and we would all be shipped off to another area high school. To be perfectly honest, I did not like this a bit. Despite the tough discipline of my school and the fear of 4th year Latin, I wanted to go to a similar environment. However, the school where I applied to go to for 4th year would not take any incoming seniors. So off I went where they sent me, bound to make the best of it.
There were a few familiar faces at the new school, some were transfers, some I knew from grade school. There were also dances and plays. They had a fine arts department (something lacking at the all boys academy) and teachers who seemed to care about you as well as your studies. I took drama, not fourth year Latin. I came, I saw, I took something else.
The social activities meant more opportunities to make friends. The interaction was an education itself. Soon there was a group of us that hung together a lot, and some of us still do.
The most remarkable part of this transition was the “Senior Class Play.” Yes, so many students wanted to take part, it was just for seniors, as in 17 and 18-year-old students. I got the nerve to audition. I have no idea what I sang. Everybody was in the show so it did not matter that a hundred of us showed up. We were going to do South Pacific. I was rather unaware of it.
Aside from learning the art of theater (Project, Enunciate, Articulate, Stand up straight), I learned about the classic story of war, hate, prejudice and, of course, love. Learning to play our parts was important. We were commanded to be professional in everything. We also learned a story that held a dramatic lesson in life.
When the movie starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rosanno Brazzi and Ray Waltson was re-released, we ran off to see it. In subsequent years, we saw several community theater productions as well as professional versions of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical. We grew to love the theater and the lessons that such musicals could bring to us. We learned why fine arts were so important in the schools.
So we were fortunate. We had a positive experience and a good education. We learned our lessons in the halls as well as the classroom, in the gym which was also our auditorium. We signed one another’s yearbooks and held on to them like they were made of gold. But was it the best year of my life? If so, what about all the intervening years?
It is an interesting paradox that you can not adequately explain to an 18-year-old graduate. Yes, it was the best year up to that point, and it will always remain so. Nothing can ever take away those memories, so hopefully they are all positive. Those lessons of love and life will influence everything from that point on.
While you are busy making new memories, a career, a family perhaps, and new friends, they will all be measured against “the best year of your life,” whether it is 18 or 21. Some friends may be better, some lessons may be better, some experiences may be better, but they will all be measured against those moments in youth when you discovered who you were and where you were going. The quality of future friendships must stand up to those already at hand.
If you have a South Pacific in your memory bank, you will tell people all across the (hopefully) many generations that come through your life how this was a great experience. You may say it was best time ever. If your younger friend looks sorry that your best times were so far back, remind them to enjoy what they have because it will be the springboard to everything else. It will be their touchstone.
Every spring, without fail for these many decades, the change of seasons hits me like some great coming of age story. My imagination calls up images of Bali Hai and I hear echoes of “There Is Nothing Like A Dame” in the distance. I once again feel “Younger Than Springtime” and every night is “Some Enchanted Evening.” Whenever I look back to the Class of South Pacific, I can also look forward with a lot of “Happy Talk” for everyone who will listen.
Once again, WordPress is kindly offering to let me partake of a magical moment … in fact, magic itself. A drink from the very Fountain of Youth itself! What senior citizen could turn down such a great offer?
I’m a little suspicious. I know I’ve gotten more than a bit cynical over the years, but offers like this … isn’t there some fine print I need to read? Isn’t this the kind of contract you make with a dark stranger at a crossroad in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night?
“Bwahaha,” laughs old Scratch as he scurries away, paperwork in hand. “Snagged another old fool.”
If I’m to be forever young, able to drink from the frothy waters of that famed fountain, does it mean I have to also be forever stupid? I would have no objection to a young, resilient body. A back that bends, good skin, hair that stays on my head where it belongs. All these youthful things are, as we said in my real youth, groovy.
A brain came with that package. Oy vay. Such a brain. It was filled with certitude based on books I’d read and some late night conversations with other undergrads. Mind you, I’m sure that’s how we have to be when we’re young. Otherwise, we would never have the courage to face our lives.
A certain brashness and belief that we can triumph no matter what is a prerequisite for getting on with life. I get that. I just don’t want to have to live in that head for even a little while, much less all eternity.
Actually, all eternity is a pretty daunting prospect and I’m not sure how I feel about it … but perhaps that’s another post for another Sunday morning.
So if they are giving away drinks from the fountain of youth, I will accept my slurp — IF I get to keep my current brain with all its experience, cynicism, and hard-won lessons. And I want a codicil specifying that while I get to feel young for as long as I live, I don’t think I want to live forever.
Long, maybe, but forever? To watch all the world I know disappear and who knows what to follow? I think not.
If you think getting old today is a bummer, imagine when really old was 45, and 50 was ancient. Rulers of kingdoms acted like spoiled teenagers because they were spoiled teenagers.
During the 14th century (1300s) — the worst of the Black Plague years — many of the warring monarchs were not yet out of their teens. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year-old kings waging war. Hormonal tyrants, the anointed of God, doing whatever they wanted (unless they got so far out of hand that their own family did them in).
So, my friends, gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Time is still a-flying.
Robert Herrick was a 17th-century English poet and cleric, best known for his poem To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time, generally know by its first line Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.