Saturday, February 28, 2009

Of grace and acceptance


"
When I look at the younger generation, I despair of the future of civilisation." -- Aristotle, 300 BC

Not exactly an original thought, is it? Who among us over forty-something hasn't worried about the future because we just don't understand kids today? And if you're like me, as I suspect, you are also annoyed that over the years you have apparently turned into your own father.

He was a good, strong man in every way; a loving dad and a good provider. He could make me think, make me smile and he hugged me when I needed courage. But at some point he just stopped going along with all the nonsense.

My dad used to rail against the collapse of American values, the corruption in American politics and the loss of American jobs (to China, mainly.) He figured all the problems in this country started in millions of homes at empty dinner tables while moms as well as dads conducted their own lives outside of the house. Kids were left to raise themselves, he'd say. Parents, feeling a certain amount of guilt -- though, not enough to stay home and mind the store -- would allow the kids freedoms they weren't ready to enjoy responsibly.

Life, my dad thought, had gone down the crapper. As he put it to me more than once, "I like people individually but as a species we're not worth a damn."

Sometimes I think that way, too. It annoys me, not because I'm channeling my dad but because it feels like a sign of giving up. I'm edging closer to the rocking chair and I don't want to go there.

Yesterday the Rocky Mountain News published its last edition. Newspapers across the country are losing their grip on the Information Age. There is just too much competition from electronic gadgets and cyber sources. Nobody wants to read anymore. "News" is gleaned from sound bites on television and YouTube. Nobody wants to talk anymore. Our kids would rather text and twitter than actually talk with their friends on the phone and I suspect it has to do with convenience. Oh sure, talking is easier than texting but it lacks the convenience of not having to listen.

As I watch the world evolve beyond my personal comfort zone I have come to understand why each succeeding generation eventually reaches a point where it can't or won't keep up. We all fall victim to the inevitable grip of nostalgia and wistful expressions of "Back in the good old days..." We long for a simpler time that probably wasn't really simpler, we were just younger.

We just get tired, I think. That's okay but when we do that we have to accept a very hard truth: time is passing us by and our culture won't stop to wait for us to catch up.

Whether that is aging gracefully or giving up, you'll have to decide for yourself.

#30#

Bonus blog: My buddy Chuck Woodbury is about my age and has spent most of his adult life doing what the rest of us just dream of: traveling. He has seen this country every which way from west to east and outside in. He's a Charles Kuralt of print and has logged as many words as he has miles, writing in his beloved Out West newspaper and he is now the owner and editor of RVTravel.com

Chuck's personal blog is a constant delight of heart and simplicity. He's a "stop and smell the coffee" kinda guy. Check it out here. You'll love it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"There, but for the grace of God..."

I always thought that seemed a smug presumption.

You know the rest of it: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." It presumes that the poor bastard you're referring to did not have (and by implication must not have deserved) the grace of God and you are therefore thankful to God that it was somebody else and not you who was dropped into life's dunk tank.

A couple of weeks ago I got a note from a special friend telling me that he had just attended his son's 32nd birthday party. It was a joyous affair with many friends and members from both sides of the young man's family in attendance. The birthday boy's own daughter was there. You can just imagine.

Then, my friend told me that a couple of days later his son, his pride and joy, had been killed in a car crash while going to the mountains for a day of snowboarding with a friend.

I reject the smug presumption and yet, I can't stop thinking it.

My own son's 32nd birthday was two days ago, barely a week after my friend lost his. We went to dinner, gave him gifts, sang to him, lit candles, cut the cake and when the evening was over I hugged him tighter than usual and told him this story.

"You're not supposed to bury your kids," I told my son as he held his own son in his arms. "When you were born I made a deal with God. I promised to raise you and give you all the things you would need to make a wonderful, happy life for yourself. In exchange I simply asked that he not let me bury you."

I hugged him again. I hugged my grandson and my friend, though he wasn't there.

And I gave silent thanks to God in the form of a seemingly smug presumption. But now I realize it isn't like that.

It's just the natural confluence of relief and faith.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nothing special

This morning I took my almost-four-years-old grandson to school.

His parents are out of town and though he spent the night with his maternal grandparents they both leave for work very early. So, I had the pleasure of driving to their home at 4:30AM and being on hand when Tyler awoke around 7:00.

He was very pleased to see me.

"Oh, yeah!"

Still wiping the sleep from his eyes he suddenly remembered that I would be here for him this morning. He flashed a drowsy grin and ran to me, bare feet slapping the wood floor, his favorite soft baby blanket slung over one arm. His arms went up as mine went down and I lifted him high over my head. We hugged and smiled as is our habit and standard greeting.

I guess he thinks I'm sort of special and for that great honor I know he is right.

At first I just sat on the couch and held him on my lap, allowing him to wake up gently.

I don't like brisk, lively beginnings to a day. I like slow, quiet starts and I think Tyler does, too. At least this morning he did. I held him in my big, bear-like grandpa arms and spoke to him softly.

"Did you sleep good?"

"Yeah."

"Are you ready for a great day?"

"Yeah!"

We talked like that for maybe ten minutes, me asking leading questions designed to put him in a happy frame of mind, him responding affirmatively and with increasing animation. Finally, we decided it was time to get dressed and off to school with a stop at McDonalds for breakfast.

And that's the way my day began. No big deal and yet quite remarkable.

As I look back on nearly sixty years of life I am always amazed at how little of it I remember with any degree of detail or certainty. I remember the big things but not much of the ordinary and that just makes sense, really.

On a cold, dazzling-bright February morning Tyler and I ate eggs and sausage at McDonalds surrounded by old men in ballcaps sipping coffee and solving the world's problems.

He's not going to remember this.

I will never forget it.

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