In case no one noticed, the folks from the “Greatest Generation” are going over the top and fading into history.
As one who picked up the habit of reading the obituaries every day from my late grandmother, now ginned up by the fact of knowing so many people due to years in politics and government, the numbers are adding up. I can tell by the ages and by the little American flags next to the names, these are the folks who were a few years younger than my parents, who are already gone.
It would seem, too, that I am attending more wakes and funerals lately, and the majority are not young people. As the saying goes, children should not precede their parents in death, and for the most part they are not.
What I hear from them is an alert that I need make a visit to their parents who are diagnosed with one of the usual maladies of old age which is guaranteed to take them out. Most people did not die of those things in the past. But then, most people did not live as long either so as to contract them.
In my previous life as a newspaper reporter, I was one of the few who liked doing obit writing. Why? Because one could tell a story about a life, a life which, no matter how simple, changed the course of history, each in his or her own way.
After all, everyone has a story, and there is no better time to talk about it than when the final chapter has played out. Sadly, most obits, especially in suburban newspapers, are small, concise items which follow a standard form. We don’t pick up on the nuances of what made this person special to someone or to many.
I like to read into them how this person, a mom or dad, took time with their jobs, their families, their children, their pets. I like to find out what made them tick, and how their life translated into a better place for all of us.
Some, one might argue, not only did not contribute much, they probably took more from the system than they gave. After all, it takes all kinds to make up this crazy world.
As an only child, I always had my parents friends as my friends, because my folks were kind enough to include me in their circle. And so, the obits continue to have an impact, each reminding me of my family and my late parents and recalling the times we shared together.
Yes, they were a special bunch and, maybe, entitled to be called the Greatest Generation. Not only did they fight and beat the scourge of fascism and free countries and people all over the world, they were joiners, perpetual volunteers, giving of their time and resources.
Young people today have so many other alternatives and complexities in life, they would seemingly have no time to join clubs and organizations whose main objective is charity.
Yes, from time to time, a tsunami or a 9/11 will generate some interest and touch the nerves of volunteerism. However, the day-to-day giving seems limited what with two-income families, single parent families, all of the organized children’s activities.
These folks were the backbones of community organizations, business groups, veterans fraternities?”all of which necessitated much time and effort to keep going. There just is no more time left in today’s hubbub of life to do as much. Yes, there are still those who give and give and give, and they deserve much praise because they do so in spite of the complexities of life today. They would be the most tired of the tired with everyone else just, plain being tired.
And so, I will keep saying goodbye as we all will as we turn the page on the Greatest Generation. Maybe there are just too many of us doing too many things just to hold things together for ourselves to reach out to others. The needs are still there and probably magnified. If we could just find some time.