Senior Stories

For These I Pine at Seventy-Nine

“I miss a lot of things that have faded from the American scene.”

Don’t get me wrong, now. If I had my pick of any fourscore years in which to live, I’d be hard put to find a better run than those since September 1926, when I first saw the bright lights and sucked in the antiseptic air of a delivery room in rural Pennsylvania.

Too old for Korea and too young for all but a brief hitch in the Marine Corps during World War II, I was born into an historical hiatus in warfare. Thus was I spared the horrifics which might have left today’s birthday candles unlit.

Neither do I sigh about the passing of an era characterized by major inconveniences like the then-fatal diseases which have since been trumped by the pills, potions and practices of modern medicine.

And I have few twinges of nostalgia about the “good old days” when baths were customarily once a week, underwear changes seldom more frequent, laundry and dishes done by hand, home furnaces fueled by coal and banked by night and city streets festooned with horse poop.

I miss, though, a lot of things that have faded from the American scene, not likely to stage a comeback if present trends persist.

Among them, I wistfully recall the safe streets on which we kids could play “until the lights came on” without triggering Amber alerts or causing panic attacks at home – where, by the way, the doors were almost never locked.

I mourn the loss of childhood innocence, stolen away by libertine decency guidelines (where any exist at all) in the entertainment, broadcast and print media – products of a less kind and more genital age.

This sea change (sewer shift?) in public morality has been justified by interpretations of the Constitution that must have its authors spinning in their graves with Sasha Cohen-like velocity.

Aside: As this was being written, some nitwit judge in California has just ruled that recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public school is unconstitutional. (Say WHA’ ?) I am NOT, I protest, among the “elder flatulents” (we strive here for delicacy, as regular readers know) who totally blame today’s youth for behavior that would have shunted we ‘uns directly to the woodshed in days of yore.

Truth to tell, if the occasions of sin had been as accessible then as it is now, we would probably have been participants with no less enthusiasm.

It’s more than a little sad, though, that every nook and cranny of the fleshpots is about as mysterious to today’s children as the function of their fingers, toes and Nintendos. I’m sorry, too, that unashamed patriotism has become an object of derision and disrespect for the flag a passionately defended “right.”

Speaking of R’s, I deplore the deportation of the three R’s from our classrooms and I get a gut cramp when, with increasing frequency, I encounter the results on the air, in print and at the checkout counter (what would those cashiers do if the computers crapped out?)

Vulgar Noises Pollute the Airwaves

My ears are offended by what used to be called popular (which it still is) music (which it surely isn’t), because it was melodic, pleasant-sounding and usually included inoffensive lyrics, as opposed to the strident, cacophonic and vulgar noises that pollute the airwaves and threaten to deafen our descendants. I am saddened by the sometime demotion of marriage to an anticlimactic ritual, too often preceded by what used to be called “shacking up” and too frequently regarded as an interim lifestyle with easily accessible exit routes.

On the plus side, I shamble into my eightieth year with an undiminished appreciation of life, love and relatively good health. My days are busy, my enthusiasm usually high and, with Firstwife doubling as Bestfriend, my life is a dream of which I wouldn’t have dared dream in my youth and middle age. Still, I can’t shake the shadow of sadness over what we Americans may have lost along the way.

Although the progress has been spectacular, I wish we of the geezer set could honestly say that we’ll leave behind a better world than the one our parents left to us. Somebody once observed that “these days, like all days, are very good days, would we but know what to do with them.”

Can’t remember who said it; might have been me some years back. (That’s another thing about being seventy-nine.) Oh, did I say I was NOT one of those old you-know-whats?

I’ll let you make that call.

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