Sunday, October 18, 2009

Remember the first time you read this title?

Roughly speaking, my childhood is as long ago now as the Second World War had been when I was a child. That means that the Second World War is roughly as long ago now as the First World War had been when I was a kid.

That means that the First World War is practically as long ago to children now as the Civil War had been to me when I was a child.

The kicker? It all just keeps getting further away.

Once you go that far back before your birth things start to take on an almost mythological quality. You have no living link to that time. To me, the people who fought in the Civil War are just as lost to history as people who fought in the Crusades.

The people who fought in the First World War, however, are still very real to me. Even though they are all just as dead and buried. I was born to older parents who were themselves born to older parents. People in my family on both sides seem to carry some kind of mutant giant tortoise gene. We take a long time to die.

I knew lots of people who were alive during the First World War when I was a kid. My grandfather was one of those dumb young kids who, filled with the patriotic flush of suicidal courage, lied about their age to enlist. His thumb rests in peace somewhere in Somme.

He was picking shrapnel out of the stump until the day he died. It was an elegant digital ballet when he hand rolled his cigarettes.

I'm sure he knew people who were alive during the Civil War. That era was as real and personal to him as he was to me.

Hm. Yeah. Hm? Sorry? Was I supposed to have a point?


Old people are pretty cool, and it would appear as though I'm definitely going to become one someday - whether I feel qualified to be one or not.


Fire Byrd said...

There is something so rewarding just listening to the older generation. When I sat for several hours in hospital last week I just chatted to the old lady beside me. She got to feel good as someone took time with her and I hoped that someday someone will do the same for me.

Krimmyk said...

Heck most the "older" generation is far more interesting than many in my generation! I worked with Sr's at the YMCA a bit ago, and I like them better than the parents of the children I teach to swim. Morals, manners, and rich stories vs pettiness what can you do for me mentality.

tattytiara said...

You guys rock, Fire Byrd and Krimmyk. Society as a whole could only improve if more people spent time with and learned from our elders.

And I really need to put more money where my mouth is on that point.

Lexa Levine said...

i loved listening to the stories my grandfather would tell me when i was little. people need to listen more. there's so much to learn about the time before you were born.

tattytiara said...

So true. Once that first hand perspective is gone, it's lost forever. I've found in my own life that it often isn't until you've lost the opportunity to ask questions that you realize how many questions you still had.

Lonesome Road Studio said...

The amount of information that slips away with each passing generation is amazing.... and it always feels weird to me when I hear a younger person say something like "Who was Fonzie?" LOL.

cabin + cub said...

i agree, the older generation always have so much wisdom that , i think the younger generations could pick up on.

T @ Poppy Place said...

You are so right! I am trying to be the family story collector. Every generation eventually wants to know about its past! :) Great blog post :)

Regards, T.

tattytiara said...

That's awesome, T. My mother's cousin did a lot of genealogical research for the family, and of course shared it with everybody. What a wonderful gift she gave us all. Truly priceless.

trousers said...

I can identify with your musings here, and whilst I go through uncertainties at times then I also enjoy being the age I am now, it's so different in many ways to childhood and youth. Yet with a common thread too.

I spent a little while in the company of my one surviving grandmother at the weekend, she's a month shy of 94, and that just amazes me.

BeckyKay said...

What a thought provoking post. It is fascinating to think that someday, we'll be part of that long ago history.

Chris said...

I think about this -- and I'm sure annoy my wife with it -- all the time. My grandfather was in the First World War, my father barely missed the Second. That all seemed ancient history to me as a kid, but I remember watching Vietnam on the news like it was yesterday.

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