Young and Old

Hey Seniors, if you ever get a chance to spend some quality time with young people I would recommend that you do so. Most of us elders forget what it was like when we were in our teens and twenties. We think we remember, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t. We remember the essence of being young, but not the specifics and the particularity. Our imaginations remember better than what it is in reality.

I was a teenager in the mid-50’s. The time of James Dean, the actor not the singer. The time of Elvis, hotrods, fallout shelters, Yankees dominating the American League pennant race, Black Jack gum, Howdy Dowdy, Glass soda pop bottles, fifty-cent movies. Captain Video, I love Lucy and cigarette ads all over the television, magazines, and newspapers, Ed Sullivan on Sunday night TV and Edward R. Murrow on CBS.

We had our wars too. Korea was prominent, but the death and dying of American troops were not. It was just as tragic as today and numerous, but we didn’t know about it for weeks or months. The media’s technology had not yet developed enough to share instantaneous information.

Today’s teens know who their entertainment and social heroes are, and they are environmentally aware, and most young diligently recycle. Their cognitive powers are far more advanced than mine was as a teenager.

They are conscious of their sugar intake, and they have heaps of information from computers and iPods available to them to augment their interests, amplify their studies and their hopes and wishes.

Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, recommended that the old and the young spend time together. She posited that time together encourages each to acknowledge the other in themselves. She concluded it forms a new agreement between generations.

A Touch of Sunshine

I had a profound awareness the other morning as I sat in a chair next to an Easterly window. The sun rose without morning cloudiness to obscure or dilute its light. I was reading a book while the early morning light bathed my shoulders with its warmth through double glazed windows.

I paused in my reading and thought of my old friend, singer, entertainer, actor, activist and environmentalist John Denver and his song, “Sunshine On My Shoulders.”

I replayed in my mind his many gifts to the world.

John was a poet, a singer of songs, a friend to many, an idol of millions the world over. He died in a plane crash in October 1997.  We continue to honor our friend with personal memories of his laughter and his profound intellect.

We remember his public gifts of song and self, his harmonies of love and nature, his vision for a sustainable future and all of the joys of life he shared through an extraordinary ability to entertain.  His songs would take us to places where troubles couldn’t reach, at least for a while. His lyrics encouraged us to seek a higher ground, a metaphor for a better way. His hugs were special for they were given without condition and his smile personified his spirit and his love of life and humankind.

I think now we celebrate his life without the salt of sadness, and that’s right, but we still miss him. We all come into this world, make choices, make sacrifices, laugh a little, love a little, cry a little and learn through experience that the real importance of life is to share our gifts, to be true to ourselves and to make the world a bit better place to live.

I hope I have more sunshine on my shoulders soon. I like the memories it engenders.

Turning 80! Oh! Not me , yet

As I write this, I am listening to “A Te, O Cara,” from the opera “I Puritani” by Bellini. It is one of my favorite selections of all Operas, with the possible exception of Puccini’s “O Soave Fanciulla” in La Boheme.

Having said that and the fact that this post has nothing to do with the music I am listening to, but everything to do with the generation of comfort, I suppose they are minutely and mystically connected.

I recently returned from a gathering of elders and almost elders celebrating the 80th birthday of a mutual friend.

I looked around the long table of aging friends and felt privileged being in their company for they are all successful and accomplished gentlemen either active or retired in their chosen professions.

It mattered not that we were all friends from previous outings and experiences. At the moment of dining and libation, we were all equal colleagues and acquaintances joyfully celebrating a singular and unique moment in another’s life.

My mind moved to what some mystics call “the sacred moment of being,” and I rejoiced at the moment, the feeling of freedom, the wonder of expectation and the knowing that connection is instantaneous and fleeting in this density and time, but eternal elsewhere.

I will see these souls again here, if that is given to me to experience and if not here somewhere else in the eternity of being. Trying to fathom that moment in a restaurant bar with glasses clanking and dishes rattling, and ambient laughter is at best awkward, but possible if one genuinely lives in the moment.

History

You know that famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware? It’s inaccurate. He crossed the Delaware, but the painting is of the Rhine River. The painting by 19th century American Painter, German-born Emanuel Leutze was painted in Dusseldorf, Germany and the Rhine River was used as a model.

Even allowing for an artistic license, the painting has its share of errors. The American flag in the painting shows thirteen stars and stripes. George crossed the Delaware the day after Christmas in 1776. The flag design was not adopted until 1777.

Leutze’s painting also shows Washington in a rather small boat. Actually, Durham boats were used. They were 40 to 60-foot long flat bottom boats used to transport freight on America’s Northeast rivers.

The painting could not show what George did after he crosses the river. The enemy was encamped at Trenton. The Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall was snug in his headquarters. Christmas was celebrated with cheer and some card playing.

Colonel Rall told his aides – no interruptions. When a loyalist spy rushed into camp with word that Washington had crossed the Delaware, the aides made him write it down on a piece of paper. A porter brought it to the Colonel. He stuffed it into his pocket and went back to his cards.

Hours later Washington’s forces open fire on the surprised enemy camp. The battle was short. The entire Hessian army encampment surrendered. Colonel Rall was mortally wounded. The note still stuffed in his pocket.