The other day, I came across a great narrative about a person’s age, which I have tailored to my own life story. Hopefully, my innocuous plagiarism is going to be kindly forgiven for the price of the fun I have managed to cook and serve to my wonderful reader, having slightly doctored my fellow old man’s storyline.
I love to talk to kids and share some of my life experiences with them. They are real pests, with a million funny questions that are not always a piece of cake to answer. What they normally want to hear from me is how it was back in the “good old days”. For instance, how we managed without a cell phone or computer; how people fell in or out of love; or how I react today to events that were unthinkable in my youth.
To justify my tale and make it sound more believable, I am usually compelled to resort to reassertion of facts that actually took place, starting from my salad years up until present. For instance: I was in my fourth year at primary school when I first watched TV, and in the tenth grade when I first saw with wide-open mouth and eyes a copying machine, throwing out copies of my classmate’s textbook for me. It was in my infancy that my mom exposed my tender skin to the newly-introduced anti-infection shots. At the age of ten, I got my first sight of a refrigerator, where my mother kept food for later use. Contact lenses came later, but credit cards arrived when I was already quite a man. When I first pulled out a ballpoint pen from my pocket in fifth grade, there was almost a classroom upheaval in front of the infuriated teacher (who also wanted to see the miracle). I was already a solid man when I got my first cold from an air conditioner. A dishwasher came into my life long after my first child’s birth, and it took me quite a while to get used to its services. Until I was a little over fifty, I had never considered buying a clothes dryer. The fresh laundry, hanging on the rope with wooden clips and propped up with a long two-ended stick, swaying back and forth, is an image of my childhood that is still firmly stuck in my mind.
I am an old-timer of a time when men and women lived together only after they had gotten officially married. I also remember that we kids and youngsters would jump to our feet when a grown-up entered the room. Not only had we never seen pride parades, we didn’t even have any idea that we were supposed to consider and honor people of differing views and models of behavior.
Ours was a time when people met without the help of online match-makers. Who would think of shrinks then?! Our only compass in life used to be what our parents and grandparents instilled in our young brains, often based on biblical precepts and conventional wisdom. As my fellow curmudgeon would put it, “we were before gay-rights, computer-dating, dual careers, daycare centers, and group therapy, our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment and common sense, and serving your country was a privilege. We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent, having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your parents, siblings and cousins, draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started, time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends, we’d never heard of FM radios, electric typewriters or guys wearing earrings. In our day, pizza, McDonald’s, and instant coffee were unheard of, gasoline was peanuts, grass was mowed, coke was a cold drink, pot was something your mother cooked in, and rock music was your grandmother’s lullaby, aids were helpers in the principal’s office, chip meant a piece of wood, hardware was found in a hardware store, and software wasn’t even a word, and we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby. No wonder people call us old and confused, and say there is a generation gap.” And that’s how old I am.