Who is this stranger with age in his eyes
whose mirror reflection confirms that time flies?
Where is the young man I once used to be
and how did just birthdays do so much to me?
Time is a thief that sneaks up on us from behind and takes our youth, with no chance of any appeals for mercy changing the wrinkled, weary outcome.
Vanity products promising younger appearance or a return to former energy levels won’t work, beyond a certain point that arrives distressingly soon. We just get old. That’s it. Acceptance is our best response.
Like many others from the initial years of the Boomer generation, I find myself recollecting, fondly or otherwise, what went down while we were growing up.
Dwight Eisenhower’s picture had been on the walls of my elementary school classrooms for as long as I could remember, and I wondered if we’d ever get a different president.
I recall the opening of Disneyland, plus the rise into orbit of Sputnik, which didn’t shock me as much as it did others, since I’d previously read a Reader’s Digest article about the Russians being quite advanced in science.
Then came the ’60s, which were as unconventional and rebellious as the ’50s had been staid and stultifying.
The kick-out-the-jams youth movement of that period was split into two distinct groups, albeit with considerable, blended overlap.
One side was comprised of “freak freely” hedonists who very definitely were into sex, drugs and rock and roll.
The other consisted of intensely politicized New Leftists—plus young members of the Old Left—to whom militant street protests for peace and against injustice were virtually weekly occurrences.
I was from the latter faction, but most of my friends were stereotypical hippies.
I once asked them to help me leaflet a Memorial Day parade with anti-war material—chiefly former Marine Corps Commandant Smedley Butler’s “War Is a Racket” list of damning revelations—but none of them showed up as planned.
Attribute that to the all-too-mellowing consequence of late-night doobies.
Contemplating all this, together with bittersweet remembrances of romantic relationships that went sadly awry, those of us from that era wonder about our role in life, as well as life’s essential meaning.
Philosophers have made that meaning needlessly abstruse. It’s actually simple. You’re born, you mow the lawn and shovel snow, and then you tip over, to become worm food beneath cemetery sod.
The only immortality we’ll ever attain depends on if we mowed and shoveled with lastingly memorable expertise and prowess.
To cite a few progressives who did (until the very end): labor chronicler Studs Terkel, perpetually active veterans of the Spanish Civil War’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade, New Hampshire’s Granny D, people’s historian Howard Zinn, and the wonderfully inspirational Pete Seeger.
While most of us aren’t in their category, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue agitating for a better world, even if it takes a cane and artificial knees to get it done.
Maybe we’re unable to make those long, strong strides forward like back in the day.
But the shining future we know can exist isn’t here quite yet.
So, my aging brothers and sisters, keep on keepin’ on.
We may not last long enough to see our dream realized . . . but, hey, we’ve got grandkids!
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has written progressive commentary with a Heartland perspective for various outlets since the ’60s.