WISDOM OF THE AGED PRESERVED

I was sixteen years old in the 1980s, I am in my fifties now.  Fifty looked so far away when I was sixteen.  But then I was sixteen when it was fashionable to be stupid.  (I was fashionable.)  Fifty, back then, was so old.  But the older I get, ironically, the less old that seems.

There is a lot of factors that go into that.  I am not trying to analyze them here, but time, maturity, crisis, comfort, and other things all make this happen.

It turns out, I just learned last week, the United States suffered a deadly outbreak of the Spanish Flu in 1918, a disease that wiped out thousands in major cities across the country.  It turns out the cities with foresight enough to cancel big public celebrations (to reduce the crowds) managed a lot better than those who ignored such precautions.

Wow!  This is not our first time to learn these life lessons!

No one who survived that and learned those lessons are alive today.  In fact, my grandparents were born just after that, and so they had no personal memory of that epidemic.  But my grandparents all lived through the Great Depression and the second world war.  They spent sixteen enduring hardships of societal proportions and then spent their fifties shaking their heads at me when I was young.

Did I learn any of the wisdom they tried to preserve for me?  Today feels like a pop quiz I did not study for.

Very, precious few of my grandparents’ generation are left alive among us today, and sadly you would do them a disservice to run to their bedside or breakfast nook to ask for a refresher on the kinds of wisdom they have to offer.  Most of us, if you are like me, remember that they did talk; they did tell us, but their words in my brain jumble around like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  But if I could sit with Grandpa, Grandma, with Mammaw and Pappaw for a cup of coffee this morning, surely I would take much comfort in their words.

Well, their kids, to a large degree, are still with us.  They are the old ones now, but they also got the first run of all those lectures and speeches we might take comfort in today.  They spent most of their lives hearing the stories.  (Of course plenty of them resisted listening too, but perhaps some of it got through?)

I remember when I was young – very young – the TV show with John-Boy and The Waltons.  I thought it was the most boring thing on TV, and I saw an episode a few years ago and have yet to change my mind.  But if you are my age or older, you know what it means to say, “Good night, John-Boy.”  I realize now how that program was a comfort to the old ones watching TV when I was a kid.  A celebration of their youth and memories of good times – except they were hard times.

Ironic, I know.

This is that mystical part of actually being in my fifties which makes it seem not as old to me now as it did when I was sixteen.  I can see now that my grandparents were so young then.  They were getting their wisdom from people who had enjoyed the Roaring Twenties only to see it all come crashing down.  Those must have been some deeply sad and disturbed people.  I wonder if they spoke, in my grandparents ears, like Charlie Brown’s teacher does in mine.

Why am I writing this?

Good question.

I saw a picture going viral yesterday.   A photo taken by a local nurse who also is a photographer.  She chose to capture the image in black-n-white, and even though it is so thoroughly contemporary, it calls up the ghosts of yesteryear too.

Here, have a look:

Suddenly the life I live today, and so many of the concerns, anxieties, and fears yapping at my heals just now are captured in this picture which could almost jump off the page of an old newspaper or a history book, and could very well wind up in future history books!  Perhaps in the future, a professor will lecture on our times today and show this picture to a class of young people who only hear Charlie Brown’s teacher droning on and on and on.

For me, though, I can almost hear the teacher’s voice clearing up in my ears.  I see the wisdom of those who brought me into this life, and I can almost feel the comfort they provided when I thought they knew it all, which is ironic because at the time I thought I did.  But I was in community with the old ones, and that was everything!

In this post, I am hoping for your feedback.  Let me be in community with you and with the old ones you remember too.  Let us share what we can of their wisdom, and be a resource to one another.

What stories, what jokes and good humor, what proverbs and tidbits of wisdom, can you remember being passed down to you?  Share a bit of that with us here today.  Maybe I can attract a few readers who can help the teacher’s voice move from mumbles and jumbles (I should have been listening and attending to more carefully) to clear words of wisdom and comfort.  And maybe some of my readers here (your readers too, should you make offerings) can also find wisdom and comfort as we dig into those old experiences of the ones who shaped us.

(Total recall and perfect accuracy not required.)

I will offer some too, in the comments below.

 

9 comments

  1. Agent X · April 4

    I will open this up with a bit of humor. Maybe you will laugh, maybe not. But…

    When I was young, my older cousin taught me about the Great Depression and the old ones. He told me that everyone was dirt poor and hungry. But Pappaw’s family was better off than Mammaw’s family was.

    He said that when Pappaw was a boy, Great grandad would gather all 14 kids around the dinner table, bless the food, and distribute one bean to each person to eat. That is how poor they were! I should be grateful and eat my beans and stop my sniveling.

    But Mammaw’s family had it far worse yet. He said her daddy sat all twelve kids down to eat, blessed the food, and then cut one bean up 14 ways and passed the bits around telling those kids to be THANKFUL!

    My cousin was probably high when he told me this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tim McGee · April 4

    Both my parents were born during the Great Depression. The stories of my grandparents, more specifically my grandfathers, do not coincide well with the timing of history, but are good stories nonetheless. My maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant (though born in Brazil). He was a minor league baseball player for the Yankees in the 1910s. In the Depression, he was a city parks employee and sold papers on the street corner. His primary income, however, for the bulk of his life, came from gambling. He was the “house” on Friday nights at the Sons of Italy. He didn’t lose. He was a wise and faithful man. He would always say, “Am I right or am I right. If I was wrong, would I be telling you this?” There is no logical response to refute that statement!
    My paternal grandfather worked odd jobs with the American Locomotive Company and, during prohibition, drove what was purported to be a milk truck. There is little doubt that milk was not the primary cargo he delivered, though most have said he did so unwittingly. He was a gentle, simple man who loved hard candy, “sucking candy” is what he called it He would play a musical instrument while my dad, a young boy, danced on the street corners to help make enough money to feed the family.
    They did what they needed to do to feed their families. Family was (and is today for me) the top priority for these men.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agent X · April 4

      Thanx for sharing this. I love details like “sucking candy” and so forth.

      I grew up looking at old photographs of ancestors who posed like the dead. No smile, eyes straight forward. Not all the posing we have today, and certainly not all selfie. And the old ones would recite the names of these long dead ancestors. And they seemed so looooooooooooong dead to me as a kid. Now I know most of them had died within twenty years of my being born. I barely missed meeting a lot of them. They were treasured by my grandparents, but I just did not know them or appreciate them.

      Then this last week, I have read articles, blogs, emails and watched programs which feature much of the Great Depression and those who survived it. Someone said their mother saved everything and had two uses for everything.

      Here is a link to an article which has me rearranging a bit of mental furniture right now:
      https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/wounds-heal-scars-last/

      It is on account of these kinds of things along with the big virus experience that has me wanting to connect here like this today. I been thinking on this post for several days, and then this picture came out yesterday which really pushed me.

      I don’t know of any of my direct relatives living though the Dust Bowl Days, but I am aware of my dad talking about it a lot as I was young, and then a few years ago Ken Burns put out a fantastic documentary on it. Those folx up in Guyman and the Texas Panhandle were in the epicenter of it, and it seemed like it would never end, seemed like they would never be able to stop it.

      That was a particularly weird event. The dirt in the air would kick up and overwhelm you and kill you if you were caught out in it. And of course, when a storm of it would kick up, there would always be some family member to go rescue, which meant someone had to risk their lives in the blinding dirt to go search, and then the next day you might have two dead. And they might be buried by the barn or in the fence row when you found them.

      They recalled the sound of dirt in the rafters of the attic sounding like it was full of snakes. That must have been terrifying all night long. You had to wear a mask even in the house and couldn’t see across the room! And this lasted forever it seemed.

      Burns tells us a cloud of this dirt even crossed the Atlantic, and even the Europeans got a taste of it.

      Funny how that time is all but forgotten now, and many of the lessons from it too. But people learned to cope and that strong character that made America Great the first time was forged in that. So, if you think about it, coronavirus might be making America great again.

      Put that on a bumper sticker.

      Anyway, thanx so much for participating here, and please come back with more as it strikes your fancy.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Lisa Fenwick · April 4

    Wow that was a great post. I think we can learn a lot from the past. My grandparents were great people. They had there moments that were not they greatest. But they loved God. I remember working with my grandpa in his work shed and building things. All I wanted to do was go inside and watch tv or play video games. But he said you really need to be doing something and helping and bonding with my grandpa. Now that I’m older I cherish those time’s. My grandpa and grandma were very instrumental in helping me know Jesus. They would take me to church when I was 15 and when I was 18 I went on a mission trip with them to Guiana south America. My grandam pass about 6 months later. She didn’t tell anyone about her cancer because she wanted to go tell others about Jesus. After we got back she told us. She was a very gentle and loving lady. My grandpa kept going on telling people about Jesus until he got dementia and then passed 4 years later. He passed 5 years ago. I’m thankful for there influence in my life.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agent X · April 4

      I knew your grandparents too. And I know what you mean about them.

      However, you failed to mention that your grandpa was Santa Claus.

      I remember the first time I met him. I think it was in September of that year, greeting people at the door of the worship assembly in a bright red dress jacket, and I knew immediately, this guy is Santa! And he was! And he brought Christmas cheer to sick children in local hospitals every Christmas!

      A sweet man of God that influenced me too.

      And your grandmother too. A special lady I remember with great fondness.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Lisa Fenwick · April 6

        Yes you are right! He was santa! And he made children everywhere happy and filled with joy!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Debi · April 5

    Thank you so much for this. It warms my heart to hear these stories.

    My dad was born in 1929, the year of the stock market crash. At some point during the depression, his father had to go on “relief.” There were programs to put people to work who couldn’t otherwise find jobs. My grandfather worked pruning trees during that time. He fell to his death from the top of a tree when my dad was eight years old. My grandmother remarried, and my step-grandfather (who was always “Grandpa” to me because I never knew my real granddad) was also on relief.

    At the age of about 11, Dad began working to help support the family. He was the oldest of six, one of whom died of pneumonia at the age of three. By the time he was in his later high school years, Dad had his own car. He used to tell us that he always took his books home from school, and Mom would say “yeah, and they stayed in the back seat of his car.” Lol.

    My father pulled himself up out of poverty through sheer will, hard work, and dedication. He joined the military and learned how to fix almost anything. When he was yet a teenager and stationed in Panama, he bought a box of motorcycle parts for $25 and put the thing together and rode it around the base. Among his many other pursuits, he became a lightplane pilot and taught flying. When he was no longer able to fly due to medical issues, he took up investing and learned it well. After he died in July 2018, I learned from a friend of his that he had sworn that his kids would never want for anything as he had during his childhood. By that time, of course, we were all grown and had kids of our own, but the money he earned from investing, he left to us. He never spent any of it on himself no matter how much we tried to talk him into it.

    He wore his shirts until they were threadbare, drove his cars until they fell apart, then fixed them and drove them for many more years and miles…

    Well, obviously I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I am so grateful for the time I had with him before he died, but I wish I had recorded all the stories he told. Unfortunately, most of that history was buried with him. ♥

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agent X · April 5

      I watched the CBS Sunday Morning News show – with my dad (him at his place, me at mine) and saw where Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks were giving us advice about how to get through tough times like WWII and the depression. It was great. Just the KIND of thing I am talking about here, except they are celebs and I was thinking of family.

      I took to heart the advice. They tell us we can and will get through it, but we must learn to DO OUR PART… because we are all in this together and everyone has a part to play. Find your part, and get to it.

      Hmmm… and they said it with a smile. Very optimistic, yet they have been there done that. In this case, they been there and done what almost none of the rest of us ever have.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Agent X · April 15

    I’ve been meaning to get back on here after recalling recently that my grandpa used to talk about getting a box of chocolates (like Forrest Gump), that his Mama would only allow the kids to take one piece of chocolate per day. The box would last less than a week. But the treat was so sweet, so special, that she would set the box on a little table in the parlor. A special place where everyone would see it, and see it was highly valued. But after all the chocolates were gone, my grandpa explained, the smell of the chocolates remained, and so they would keep the empty box for more than a week, and every now and then, someone would open the box to sniff it and remember how good the treat was!

    Man… THAT’s livin! That is valuing the special treat, like I have never known.

    Like

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