Saturday, February 14, 2009

Growing Older and - Dimmer

Damn! It'll be the Big Six Oh (as in "Oh How Did This Happen - To Me?") this year and, on that account alone, I'm entitled to this Pity Party.

I am a genuine Boomer, the second son of a returned Canadian soldier home from the war in Europe. Dad was a few years older than most going in and I guess he felt that left him with a tad more catching up to do once he got back. That accounts for why the "first" son and I are just 10-1/2 months apart. Then again, three and a half-years overseas separation from his stunningly beautiful, newly-wed wife might have had something to do with it I suppose.

Growing up we didn't have "everything" but I'll be damned if we didn't have an awful lot of most everything. I sometimes think parents back then - the good ones anyway - were both more loving and more indifferent to their kids. They really wanted the best for their kids because they'd spent a lot of their lives with the worst but they weren't afraid to let their kids find the best on their own too.

We made our own way to school, made our own way home too - even elementary school. We were free to play in vacant lots amid the dirt and rusty nails and - gasp - microbes. When we got bikes we received the true gift of mobility and its handmaiden, independence. We hit the streets with full force and rode, separately and together, to wherever whim took us. Moms would say "be home for dinner" and, beyond that, we were free to do pretty much as we pleased.

My kids never got that. Parents drove their kids to school and back home again at the end of the day. Parents didn't let their kids find their own amusements but, instead, enrolled them in this programme or that. For girls, backyard baton twirling gave way to leotards, funny shoes and ballet. For boys it was soccer and such, always under the watchful eye of a parent or coach.

Maybe that made all the difference for, when I was a kid, I was bursting for adventure. Long before I made it to the RCAF Aircrew Selection Centre, all my senses were not merely alive but on fire. I had the eyes of a hawk and the hearing of a rabbit and the reactions of a Swift, Swallow or Purple Martin in high mosquito season.

All of those skills or, perhaps, "gifts" paid off huge returns. In conjunction with the optimally focused training regime (essential disipline I couldn't have bought) they imbued a sense of confidence (neither arrogance nor hubris) uncommon to those my age yet remarkably common in those of the previous generation that had been through the forge. Some pretty unusual things happened, almost by understated force of will.

Maybe it was because so many things came to hand so easily that I became smitten with doing so many things, like a wayward chrome ball on a pinball table. Factory worker (many varieties), bartender, gravedigger, pilot, schoolkeeper, fundraiser, refinery worker, journalist and broadcaster and - for many years - motorcycle wanderer - before it all came to wrack and ruin and I turned into a lawyer.

Today we spend too much time trying to keep our kids safe (as in "isolated") from the perceived perils of the world, real and imagined, and far, far too much time trying to shape shift them into "doctors and lawyers and such." In this we do society and them no service. No good will come of it.

Today's "tweens" face a future far more ominous than either Hitler or Stalin presented in their grandparents' day. The world they'll inherit will be vastly more challenging than the Great Depression/World War calamity met and mastered by my Dad's generation. It will be devoid of the comfortable ease and plenty of my own.

I do not wish I could live another 60-years but I would give anything if my children and their children, each in turn, could somehow live the past 60.

Now before you heap me with your rebuke, remember I'm clearly "past it" and therefore deserving of your quiet indulgence. No matter your age, I hope this gives you something to ponder, something both pleasant and just a tad rewarding.

P.S. I guess this rant is appropriate this year. Late last summer I buried my best friend, my Dad, and tomorrow is my late mother's birthday. They really were pretty neat parents for the "Ozzie & Harriet" thing.

1 comment:

Beijing York said...

I don't think there is anything to rebuke. I thought your post was very thoughtful and honest MoS. In fact, I can definitely relate to much of the childhood freedom you described.

The bicycle was a godsend for me and my friends. I feel sorry for today's children. So many fears and challenges that are a result of bad public policy and societal changes in the past two decades. I had so many opportunities and adventures that I know my nephews will never experience and that is very unfortunate.