I’m not dead yet. In fact, I am far from it. I am not frail, helpless or elderly. I am, young people, older than you. This does not mean I cannot do the things you do. This means I have done the things you are currently doing, and I did them before you were born and I did them well enough to survive them. You don’t know everything. While some of the things you are able to do now are more efficient, they are not necessarily better. Instant does not mean good. Put a cup of instant coffee next to one brewed in a percolator and you will see what I mean.
We are not ready to be put out to pasture. We are your parents’ generation and we still can do what we did when we were your age and we can do it better, with patience and precision. We are not bumbling geriatrics. Our minds are as sharp as yours, with the benefits of life experience that you do not yet possess. We are not boring, stodgy or dull. We are settled. We have had our wildness and, believe me, yours does not compare to ours.
I am not “the old guy.” There was a time when we looked to those who were older than we to provide insight we did not yet have. We wanted to hear things from the perspective from those who had “been there and back and got the T-shirt”. Nowadays, the young folks know everything and push us aside as if we don’t know a thing. Yeah, I know, every generation thinks this about the one before them. I get that. I probably thought that when I was younger, too. Let me tell you something, kids.
You want us older people to treat you with respect and treat you like adults. I get that, too. I wanted that when I would get an older person talking down to me. It burned me up when an older person would talk to me as if I were a little child when I was clearly a twenty-something. I understand when an older person does not take you seriously. I was young once and it happened to me more times than I care to remember. Respect goes both ways. Act like an adult and you will get treated like an adult.
I don’t dislike young people. There are plenty of young folks doing great and admirable things. There are some living in their parents’ basements with more Playstation games than ambition. Going through life without any exposure to sunlight and covered in Cheeto dust might be good for you after all. What do I know? I’m old.
You might say this is the rant of a grouchy old man. I assure you, I am not going to stop writing the column to yell at some kid to get off my lawn. I’m not there just yet. What the future holds, I don’t know.
My generation held our elders in high regard. This current generation seems to think we are the punchline to a joke. Twenty-somethings write off we forty- and fifty-somethings as if we are two short steps from the grave. My health might not be as good as it was when I was twenty six, but at forty-six I come to work (or play) with aches and pains, squeaks and creaks, and still hold my own with the rest of you. I have had my drink and my smoke and allnighters. The sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll generation was that of my parents. Think about that. My parents lived harder than your parents. Chew on that when you look at us old folks. That old guy you are complaining about in Target may have been a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
My words for the younger generation: You don’t know everything. You know a lot, but you don’t know everything. You think you can do everything by yourself and do it better than we did. That’s okay. We thought so, too. Do what you want. We did. Get it out of your system. The rest of us will be over here on the sidelines with a hearty “I told you so” afterward.
It doesn’t get easier, kids. Really. It gets harder. You’re twenty-something now, but before you know it, thirty years have passed and you are fifty-something. You’ll be a little slower. You’ll know your limits. There will be a twenty-year-old kid letting you know every day how slow you are. You’ll remind him you were young once and he will laugh. He’ll tell you about how he and his buddies were out the night before and got to sleep some time around five a.m. and you will laugh.
Your laugh won’t register with him. Your laugh comes from a memory from deep within. Your memory comes from a time long ago when you were a little more carefree and reckless. Amusement turns to nostalgia and for a brief moment, you are young again. It’s bittersweet.
Life is cyclical. I’m sure there was an older person complaining about how I was acting when I was young. The generations after mine will be complaining about the young folks of theirs.
I am not in the autumn of my years yet. I guess I could say I am in mid-summer. Those who are just starting their days of spring take heed. Enjoy each and every day. Share a worthy moment with someone a little older.
A year goes by awfully fast.
Contributing columnist and Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.