--My mom and I had a very special telephone conversation last Sunday. It was special because we talked about things we never had talked about before. Family members, incidents that either happened or didn’t happen years ago, nothing you’d be interested in, just family stuff. I bring it up here because during the conversation it occurred to both of us that usually we talk about immediate and important things, but this time we just chatted like never before for an hour about ‘nothings’. And it was wonderful.
In that conversation I learned the real names of some of my ancient relatives, one of the lies my now late sister told mom about me (she said my grandmother taught me how to smoke when I was a kid but that never happened and I never smoked) and mom learned about the time I took my first drink. She also learned about the night I could have but didn’t.
It is remarkable as we get along in life the things which are important to us. The years and major experiences reorder our priorities as we go. I can recall a time some 40 years ago when a conversation like the one I shared with my mother just wouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t important enough for either of us to spend our time on “chatting”, then. There was always some immediately important thing to discuss.
It is really nice, sometimes, how priorities do tend to get re-ordered over time. I remember how I found ‘visiting the relatives’ to be an interruption in my day. Boring. Just sitting around and talking. I think I’d like to do that now.
Last Saturday I had the chance to speak with a friend of mine who has been battling lung cancer since last Thanksgiving and, thank God, has been winning over it. You talk about events that will change your priorities, a diagnosis of stage four cancer will do it for you. It was so good just to see her and say hello and share a hug!
None of these things would have meant the same to us years ago as they do today. And their relative importance will likely be different for us in the future, too. This single observation makes me wonder about a young person who decides to run for political office, so full of energy and ideas. Then they are elected and their priorities change. They help a few constituents, they help to get a law passed, they make a difference. They also make a few mistakes. The mistakes get fewer the longer they are in office because they learn the consequences of their mistakes. They learn it is much easier to critique someone else’s decisions than it is to make the perfect decision in the first place. When we are young we often reject the lessons of our elders. When we get older we are wise enough to know the value of experience and the value of youthful energy and how to balance them. We play a song on the radio, a spoken word piece by Orson Welles in which he says, “I remember what it was like to be young; but you can’t remember what it is like to be old.” The song sort of responds to the claims of youth that their elders are “in the way” of progress. Of course, both of these ideas are from their own perspective and I think the truth is where it usually is. Somewhere in the middle. The young are pushing on the accelerator and the older people are riding the brake. So long as neither side totally prevails things are in balance and the world moves forward at a deliberate pace.
Those of us who’ve been around for a while are wise enough to respect the recklessness of youth with the quiet knowledge that at our age we are no longer built to withstand the rigors of raising families or risking our health and wealth on an idea. And we know that for the world to progress, somebody has to raise the babies and go wildly off, risking all on a concept. And our job as elders is to watch them and pray for them and counsel them if they will accept it. And to enable them to blaze the trail. Yes, the truly important things in this world are still where they ought to be, I think. I heard a young friend recently say to his wife, “what do you want to bring kids into a world like this for?” I informed him that the same was said when I was born during the McCarthy hearings, the Cold War days of ‘duck and cover’, and racial segregation. “I survived and adapted and prospered, and so will your kids”, I said.
No doubt the world is unfolding as it should.
--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332. Thanks for reading.