Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Patriarch Diaries

Some years ago, I found myself unexpectedly promoted to Patriarch of my small, but growing, clan. Soon after, it occurred to me that the entire reservoir of stories and legends about my family’s history resided, almost entirely, in my head. This wouldn’t have been a problem if we lived closer together but, being scattered as we are, late night chats around the kitchen table over a couple of beers are few and far between.

I, therefore, proposed to record the stories and legends (face it, most of them are legends) gleaned from kitchen-table discussions of years gone by. This was not to be a straight-up genealogy but rather a hodge-podge of tales, memories and lore with no logical order or narrative thread. The idea was exciting, but when it came to actually writing it, I found myself stymied by the sheer volume of available stories, the confusing plethora of loose threads, and the jumbled recollections of childhood, all swirling around in the cesspool of my consciousness.

And so, nothing was written.

It then occurred to me that writing out my memories as blog posts might spur me on.

Don’t panic. This is not me moving my blog in a new direction, it’s more about introducing a new flavor—reminiscence posts, occasional and sporadic—to it. Added value, if you will.

This, therefore, represents the first post in the blog category I am calling The Patriarch Diaries, with the ultimate intention of producing something I can pass on to my grandchildren, in order to introduce them to a time before iPads, flat screen TVs and Skype.

I have no illusions about them being grateful for my efforts, or even desiring to read them, but I think I owe them the opportunity. Being a patriarch, after all, does not come without responsibilities, and getting old should not be taken lightly.

There are, in case you are wondering, a number of indicators that you are getting old—the shocking realization that your doctor is younger than you, the apprehension that “kids today” are not quite up to scratch, the painful reminder that you can no longer do a hand-stand—but none are quite as defining as looking at an exhibit in a museum and recognizing an item on display as something you once owned.

And I’m not talking about an IT museum, where anyone in their 20s will find obsolete items they bought when they were teenagers, I mean real museums, featuring exhibits from the 1800s or earlier. This is where you might visit the recreation of a blacksmith’s shop and find yourself thinking, “My dad had a set of tongs just like that; I used to play with them when I was a kid!” while the younger adults around you have to read the information card to find out what it is.

That, my friends, is when you know you are old.

A person who doesn’t accept the responsibilities of age might simply leave it there and, perhaps, start shopping for rocking chairs instead of patio furniture, or decide a big, comfy sweater looks more suitable than a button-down collar shirt. Anyone with an ounce of optimism, however, shouldn’t miss the fact that being old is not what it used to be (60 being, as they claim, the new 40), and that the world we grew up in is as far removed from our grandchildren as the horse-and-buggy days are to us. We, therefore, possess the energy, the enthusiasm, the technology and, at least for now, the mental capacity, to pass our experiences on to the next generations. Who knows, they might find them every bit as mysterious and fascinating as the horse and buggy days do to us.

It is with this hope in mind that I dive into the cesspool in search of diamonds, or shiny nuggets, or, barring that, some interesting sludge. It may be that I come up with nothing, but I owe it to the G-kids to at least have a go.

As for my credentials, and to stamp my location in history, I leave you with this:
  • I was born during the Eisenhower Administration
  • I remember when President Kennedy was shot
  • I was too young for the draft and missed Viet Nam by a whisker
  • I was raised in an era when children were allowed out of their parent’s sight (encouraged to be, actually)
  • I came home for dinner when I heard my mother yelling my name

Although these posts are ultimately for my grandchildren, I hope at least some of my readers will read them and think, “Yeah, I did that, too. In fact, I remember…”

That's my dad, helping to plow the field.

1 comment: