Someone near and dear to me marked a significant birthday this week. She wasn’t happy about it and so to cheer her up her friends and I took her to Augusta to spend the day at a winery. This usually works, even if only temporarily.
Now, I get it. Growing old sucks. I’ve spent enough time in nursing homes (although I don’t think they call them that anymore) these past few years to know that for many people old age is not a blessing — not for them, not for their family, not for anyone around them. Some people grow old gracefully and die in their sleep at 94 with all their faculties and that’s great. Many don’t.
The thing is we’re only given one shot at life on Earth. And we have no control over when we’re born, where we’re born, who our parents are, if we’re born rich or poor, if we have great genes or wimpy genes. But regardless of our circumstances, we all start out young and stupid and, if we’re lucky, end up old and wise. Some of us will end up old and not able to remember anything and some of us won’t even make it to old.
So, what can you do? Make the best of it, I suppose. But the one thing I want to impart on my dear, sweet wife as she faces the other side of the hill is this: We were born at the right time.
And timing is everything. Born too early and you miss out on the good stuff still to come. Born too late and you miss out on the good stuff of the past. I’m convinced that we came along at the right time in human history. Well, except for having to change my music collection from album to 8-track to cassette to CD to digital download — that has been a pain in the ass.
First of all, anyone born before electricity, indoor plumbing, antibiotics and refrigeration had it worse off than you do. I go mad if my electricity is out for 24 hours. The richest king of England back in Days of Olde still had to crap in a bucket and have his maids take it away. Is that the life you’d want to live? Did King Louie ever know the joy of a Mexican Villa burrito? No, no he didn’t.
And who would want to live through The Great Depression? Not I. And the Second World War? Again, no. And who wants to grow up in the ’50s when the schools are practicing nuclear war safety drills?
I was born in the early ’60s, along with The Beatles and Marvel Comics. It was a decade of turmoil and change and I was right there in it. In my diapers for the most part, but still, I get to claim being a child of the ’60s and actually mean it while avoiding Vietnam and race riots and assassinations.
I grew up in a world where you could play outside and not have to worry about drive-by shootings or “stranger danger.” We could only watch cartoons on Saturday morning because that’s the only time they were on. We didn’t have video games. We didn’t have phones in our pockets. When we ate dinner we had to look at each other instead of down at our phones. We didn’t take photos of every goddamn moment of our lives and post them on the Internet. You could fly across country without 70 levels of security. The news was delivered in half-hour increments at 5:30 p.m. by Walter Cronkite because that’s the way it was.
The military draft ended in 1973. I was 11 years old. Born at the right time. I’m pretty sure if I had been drafted that I would have died in basic training.
The first time I saw “Star Wars” it was on a movie screen, not a television screen. I heard “The Stranger,” Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Synchronicity” and “The Joshua Tree” when they first came out. I was exposed to that music as it was meant to be heard, not stripped out for some Greatest Hits package.
See, that’s the thing with being born too late. Sure, kids today have all the modern conveniences but is it a better life to be constantly online or easily at someone’s beck and call? Not to me. I look on Facebook and I’m inundated by photos and videos of people’s kids. How narcissistic are these kids going to be as they grow up? And I get the appeal. I can post a clever thought on FB and no one will respond. I post a photo of Andrew and get 50 “likes.”
I have no baby pictures of me. There may be a few in existence but I don’t know where (I was the youngest and apparently parents get tired of baby pics after the first three kids. That or I was a really ugly baby.). I know there’s no video of me. I’m good with that.
And let’s face it, the world is on the downside of the hill as well. We’ve got terrorists everywhere, climate change, staggering debt, deadly viruses and Fox News. Better to clock out early than be here for the apocalypse.
Most important, if I hadn’t been born when I was and where I was I wouldn’t have had the parents I have or the family I have or the friends I have. It really has been a wonderful life.
And it ain’t over just yet.