The Greatest Generation and Why It’s Not Mine

A few months ago, my son had a brain scan to attempt to discover the reason for his migraines (By the way, it was inconclusive. But in this case, no news is good news!). The procedure took about ninety minutes and I spent that time in the waiting room. I had brought a book and my phone. With these distractions plus the televisions (Who doesn’t enjoy an hour of The 700 Club?) and various magazines, the time should’ve flown by. Instead, I found myself fascinated by the other family members and friends of patients in the room. I was reading their expressions and, in some cases, listening to every word of their conversations.
I realized three things: 1) Some people cannotwhisper. They are genetically predisposed to have a speaking volume that is always adequate for a lecture hall. 2) Murfreesboro has a transgender community. Hmm…Go figure. 3) People over seventy are awesome at waiting.
There was an older lady sitting near me with what I finally decided was her husband and daughter. Eventually, her son-in-law also joined them. They were there because a young woman in their family (Granddaughter? Great granddaughter?) was having some kind of minor surgery. The older woman brought the newspaper and used the majority of the time I was there to read aloud every ad and half of every article. She was thrilled to find out that Subway often sells foot-long sandwiches for $5! She was dismayed by the article about a groom who made his own wedding cake (Lemon curd filling? That just didn’t sound right.). She handled a potentially stressful situation—waiting to hear bad news about a loved one—with the calmness of an air traffic controller. She patted her daughter’s knee several times and kept the conversations light. Her son-in-law left at least twice to smoke in the parking lot, but she never broke a sweat.
I was in awe of her, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Where I am the generation of the Video Game and the Music Video and my kids are the generation of On-Demand and Text Messaging, she is the generation of the War Department Telegram and Ration Cards. Her family survived the Depression and polio outbreaks.  She knows how to wait. Her generation has perfected it.
So now I wonder: Can I exceed the standards of my generation? Can I appreciate the wonders of this Age without demanding them as a God-given right? Can I be content with the ability to fast-forward commercials in the shows that I DVR-ed without complaining that I can only record two shows at one time instead of three?

I watched a documentary about the Dust Bowl on PBS last night. They interviewed dozens of people who were children living in Oklahoma, Kansas, and other states affected by the crop devastation of the “Dirty Thirties.” These people spoke about the extreme hardships they faced and the small victories they won. One of the stories that stuck with me was when the flour companies began making their flour bags out of floral printed fabric because they knew the farmer’s wives were sewing their children’s clothes from the empty sacks. This was a group of people whose identities were forged by fire. 

I personally don’t want to suffer. Never liked it–never will. But I can see the effects of the lack of struggles and it’s not pleasant. My prayer is that God will strengthen my faith and reorganize my priorities to reflect His plan for me. And if that means I have to wear a dress made of flour sack, so be it.

Getting Old

If you’ve ever wondered if age is relative, ask a kindergartener how old he thinks you are. This is hilarious fun. If he’s a meditative five-year old, he may look you up and down before answering. Hmm, he will think. I know she’s older than me but she doesn’t ride a motorized scooter like great-granny. After a moment, he will guess that you are anywhere from seven to 100-years old.
Of course, when that happens you aren’t offended. What does a child know of the merciless onslaught of old age? The only wrinkles he sees are the ones on his Garanimals t-shirt after naptime. To him, tooth loss equals cash money under his pillow.
Although I turned a youthful thirty-six this year, I’m starting to feel old. Here are a few ways I know it’s coming:

  1. A package was delivered to the house the other day. I was so excited to see it sitting by the back door when we got home from school. “What is it?” my kids asked. I answered: “Oh! I hope it is…could it be? Yes! It’s the part to the washing machine! I’ll be washing clothes tonight! Uh-huh! Oh yeah!” (That’s me doing a victory dance.) My kids were completely mystified by my rejoicing in the street (The woman in Jesus’ parable about the lost coin probably got the same reaction from her kids.).
  2. I was looking at the apps on my phone and I realized that the one I most frequently use is the Weather Channel app. You know you’re getting old when the weather becomes supremely important and interesting. I suppose the next step is to feel “a storm a-brewin’ in my joints.”
  3. At the dermatologist’s office, I stared intently at a poster hanging in the examination room extolling the virtues of Botox. As I glanced at myself in the mirror over the sink, I saw the same lines in between my eyebrows as the one in the “before” picture of the poster. I tried to keep my eyebrows raised for the rest of the visit. It was exhausting.
  4. I had a thirty-minute conversation with a friend recently about insoles for shoes. We decided that comfort is essential when choosing athletic shoes. I tried to explain this to my ten-year old daughter when she accompanied me to the shoe store today. She actually said she would “die” if I bought those “ugly” running shoes. She also told me to stop calling them “tennies.” Which, of course, had the adverse effect because I started adding “-ies” to all shoe names after she stated this preference (We got her some “Bob-ies” because I’m too cheap to buy “Tom-ies.” I refused to buy her any “boot-ies” but I did buy her sister a six-pack of “sock-ies.” I’m such a fun mom!).

I realize that age is a very flexible concept. When I’m racing my son down the driveway after rolling the garbage can out to the street, I feel young and full of energy as I beat him in the house. Then there are other days when I feel too exhausted to stay awake past 9:00 p.m.

In a few weeks, Murfreesboro will host a four-mile run on Thanksgiving Day. There will be all kinds of runners stretching at the starting line that morning. Serious runners and people dressed like turkeys. Teens, families with strollers, and every other demographic you could name. And you can bet that several of these runners will be pushing 70 and well beyond. I love to see that. It makes me think that age isn’t something to hide from or fret over. These men and women are doing what they love in spite of their age. And when my son can eventually beat me in foot races I will keep in mind that these 75-year old runners probably can too.