When I hear the elders talk about the past the picture above is what I envision.
When I think about those who lived through the Great Depression, World II, Korean War, Poverty of 1960’s, The Civil Rights Movements, Vietnam War, the political turmoils of the past forty years. And are now witnessing a repeat of many things they tried to eradicate. You can’t help but wonder what are they thinking?
Occasionally, if you take note, they aren’t sleeping during our heated debates. They hear us just fine. I think they’re closing their eyes and letting us sort out our own messes.
Gee! Thinking back on all they’ve lived through, now, I know why they look at us, their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and some of us are their great-great grandchildren as if we are getting on their nerves with all of our talk about current events.
I can just see them mentally rolling their aged eyes when we’re talking about the mental toll the shut- ins and shut-downs are having on us. I can see them cocking their grayed heads, frowning and asking, “Is anyone bombing you? ”
“No, but they’re bombing me with malarkey.”
“That don’t count. They’re idiots. You can’t do anything about that. Don’t listen to fools.”
I can almost hear them mentally groaning when we, the younger, start complaining about lack of essentials, isolation, and being confined. I can see them turning their aged faces to look at us. Ancient sharp eyes scanning us from a weathered face. Line etched in it by real life.
“Try doing without many essentials for twenty one years; from 1929-1950 and then come back and tell me how rough the unbleached, unprocessed toilet paper feels to your behind. Hell! Balled up newspapers felt softer. ”
You opened your mouth to protest their vulgarity. They quickly shut you down. “Try finding out just how hard the dried block of cheese is and how horrible dried milk taste. Only military brats had it good back then.”
You sulked, feeling they’re insensitive and do not care about your mental distress.
“Try living this way for four years while there are nutjobs bombing like bombing is going outta style. You don’t know if you your relatives will come home at all.”
You soften your demeanor and listen.
“Try walking ten miles to the store with your rational coupons only to discover the shelves are empty. there’s been another cut back for your area.”
No, I can’t imagine walking that far for anything. I’m not training for a Marathon. I will pass out on the side walk.
“Sidewalk?!” they curiously asked you. “Who said anything about you walking on a sidewalk? Your ass will pass out fall over in a ditch where no one will find you until they come looking for ya.”
You then fall into silence and listen.
“Try looking out your window one night and seeing evil white-sheeted men with guns and ropes wanting to kill you for no sensible reason.”
We have them today just by different names.
The elder nods, affirming you aren’t a total spoiled, clueless idiot.
“Try traveling from state to state with all your worldly goods in a broke down, always breaking down car or truck, if you’re lucky— just to be told there’s no work once you reach your designation. Mind you, there were no traveler’s assistance agencies back then. If you weren’t an orphaned child, homeless shelters were unheard of. You found a local shantytown and hurdled down or took to the woods. That’s why I don’t like stories about no dagnit forests to this day.
By now, you’re hoping for a story about the past. Hoping they’ll entertain you.
“Why do you young people think we invented all these things and programs you all enjoy? We wanted better for you all than we had. That’s our love to you all. We ain’t gonna be telling y’all all the time that we love y’all. Talk is cheap. We showed y’all we loved you. Not flapping our gums all the time telling you all we love you. Folks who ain’t had a damn thing to do are the only folks who could afford to sat and talk about love. We had to work hard to feed, shelter and clothe y’all’s parents, grandparents, etc. But, baby, life doesn’t get easier. There’s too many mean spirited folks for that. You just get tougher. Now, take your toughen-up tushie to another room, don’t forget my juice and I don’t care how much you pout. How much you bitch and cry about being inside. Don’t you dare go out that door. There’s shit out there that will kill ya. Go on, now, get my juice and leave me alone.
In the end you got a gift. A gift called love and encouragement.