This is the essay I wrote in the writer's group meeting the afternoon of May 9, 2014. Make of it what you will!! GMW
Those of us who came into this life in the middle of the twentieth century were blessed—or condemned—to live on a bridge between “the old days” and today. In 1940 something or the early 1950s, we thought ourselves very modern and fortunate to live in the wonderful twentieth century.
As small kids we might not yet have had television in our homes, but we had a radio that brought us the magic of words, news, wonderful and varied music and drama from the vast world. We had electric lights and refrigerators and automobiles that were getting faster and more luxurious every year. And there was even air travel as well as trains and busses. What a life!
Then as we began to grow up, the days of TV sitcoms with the perfect family, parents who slept in twin beds, the picket fence, two-point-five kids and a spotty dog morphed into the turbulent 1960s. It was the time of hippies, protests,
Black Panthers, women’s lib and acid rock. By now TV was everywhere, in color
even, and our cars got faster and higher powered each year. Zero to sixty five
in… And our music became louder, more strident and very much tied to
electronics. We had crossed the first bridge in our coming of age.
Then more decades came and went, bringing more changes. We put satellites into orbit, a man on the moon, more and faster communications. The
wall came down and Cosmopolitan magazine had nude male centerfolds! Cuss words became a feature in movies and song
lyrics. We watched our kids begin to grow up, much more wild and rebellious
than we ever were, of course. No one chanted, “First comes love, then comes
marriage, then comes Susie with the baby carriage,” any more. That order was
often transposed. Some were shocked and others said, “high time.”
Finally we burst through into a new century, surviving Y2K only to be jolted hard by 9-11. There seems an odd irony in the fact those same three digits are also the near-universal code to seek help in an emergency. Just dial 9-1-1. That day it would not have helped much.
In a couple of decades we went from “computers” which filled a warehouse sized space to an equivalent amount of power and capability in the palm of our hands. We came through talking on cell phones and doing email to texting, tweeting and twerking—no, wait; that is some kind of a dance but I guess communicating in a way, too.
So here we are, aging “baby boomers” who have lived our lives on a bridge between “ancient history” and the future. Changes came in increasing numbers, sometimes in almost the blink of an eye. Change and progress—yes, progress requires change but I assert that all change is not progress—sweep past at a geometrically accelerating pace. Where do we go from here?
Do you sometimes feel you’ve been left behind in this mad dash? Maybe I am the only one but I suspect there are more of us. My maternal grandfather, who was born in the late 1800s and passed away in the late 1900s, had gone from horse and buggy to space ships, telegraph along the railroads to wireless phones. He coped as every generation must, but it seems each new group of us has to witness more change and faster change.
Perhaps I am almost ready to step off the bridge and let the rush go on without me. I am not sure how much more and new I can comprehend and adapt to. In my case, growing up in a rural part of the southwest US, I saw the tail end of the ‘old west’ in then elderly men who had been cowboys, gunfighters, mountain men, cavalry who fought Indians or like my late father–in-law commanded a troop of Buffalo Soldiers along the Mexican border during World War I. I only experienced their lives vicariously but it still seemed real and vital, not remote bookish history.
The only way to keep their stories was to write them down or use a big, cumbersome tape recorder so my recollections are not perfect. Even my own early days seem so distant now, veiled in shadowy almost-dream-like vagueness, back at the start of this bridge.
The years pass so quickly as we become mired in the daily trivia of living so that we lose so much, even while we are still here and semi-sane. It feels as if the cord of our rosary has broken and beads have slipped off and fallen away without our notice. You can’t go home again, they say. Anymore not even in memory. That tends to make me sad.
The next bridge or span will be perhaps the scariest or most marvelous yet. I am more curious than fearful and in many ways I am eager to talk again to those who have crossed ahead of me. Maybe their recollections will now be crystalline and perfect. Maybe mine will be too, once I join them. But then perhaps from that new viewpoint we will no longer feel the need or desire to look back.
Someone once said that heaven and hell might be no more than watching a ‘video’ of your life play out on a sort of screen where you must watch it, over and over…. There might be a kind of poetic justice in seeing your highs and lows, your good deeds and the harm you caused and perhaps the most cruel, having to realize how mediocre most of us really are. Already I am wishing I might have another chance to relive my three score and some, fix some of my worst boo-boos and undo some damage… But life has no rewind button, no go back arrow or delete key. It is what it is. Time only moves in one direction and we have no choice but to go along on a strange rolling walkway until it is time to step off this bridge….