Today is the last day of March in the year of our Lord 2016. That means it has been five years since I had my pulmonary edema/heart attack/kidney failure. I had one foot through the veil. Nothing like a close encounter with the Grim Reaper! It makes you appreciate all the things you have, even if think only have a little. I think my last post explains how much I really had to lose.
One of the results of my near-death experience was that I quit smoking altogether. Cold turkey! No messing around! Although it has been five years since I spent two weeks in the hospital, it has not been five years since I gave up smoking altogether. In the last month or so, I have gone back to smoking my pipe occasionally. That is the backsliding I am referring to in the title to this post.
I know I will get a fair amount of criticism for my apparent weakness of character, at least from some of the fundamentalists on the Internet. So be it! I am almost 69 years old and I am fully aware of the consequences that I face for going back to smoking. I believe the consequences of smoking my pipe occasionally will be minimal. Certainly nothing like the consequences of going back to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, which I did for about 50 years. I know my doctor will give me all kinds of crap, if he finds out, as will my cardiologist. But, it is my decision and no one else’s. I accept the consequences. That is what a real adult does. Make a decision and live with your decision and its consequences. Don’t go blaming God, Satan, the tobacco company, the Marlboro man or anyone else. If you choose to smoke, like I did to some extent still do, it is no one fault but your own.
One of my pet peeves about contemporary American society/culture is that we find someone other than ourselves to blame for our faults and weaknesses. There was a time in my life when I held my father responsible for my weaknesses. Then I blame the death of my mother. After all, when she was killed in an automobile accident in 1966, I became an emotional wreck. It took me years to get over her loss. I can only emphasize with my son Michael, who took my little close encounter with death very hard. I am glad that I survived for as long as I have because it has given me a chance to help him accept the idea that people die. We Americans seem to think that we will never die for that death is something to be avoided at all costs. That is at the core of much of the marketing for various and sundry anti-aging products and services.
Get over it! We all get old. We will all die sooner or later. Obviously, I would prefer later rather than sooner. But the point is that death is the only thing that we cannot avoid. Unlike the old cliché, you can avoid paying the tax. You cannot avoid the Grim Reaper! No way! No way, no how. So stop trying.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, my generation had a saying, “don’t trust anyone overr 30.” Trouble is, those of us from that generation who are still alive are well over 30. So, how do we come to grips with the fact that we are, by most standards, getting old? Are we now untrustworthy just because we have lived a long time? Have we become foolish in her old age? I think not!
As someone who has a degree in anthropology, I have a great deal of familiarity with what we euphemistically call “primitive” cultures. My favorite of those are the Native American cultures. At least the traditional ones. You know, the ones before the Native Americans had to deal with Europeans. Nowadays, it seems that native Americans have lost a lot of their ancient traditions, much as we Anglos have. After all, how many of us really know about whatever barbarian tribe are ancestors belonged to?
In most traditional cultures, like Native Americans, old people were not despised or pushed aside to waste away in a nursing home. The elders of the tribe were revered. They were the spiritual and moral conscience of the tribe. After all, they knew what life was all about having lived for so many years. They had the wisdom and experience of age. That made them the ultimate information source for the younger members of the tribe. In fact, it was not uncommon for the grandparents (and anyone else of that generation) to be a child’s teachers, even their first teacher. The education of the youngest members of the tribe was considered a great responsibility. After all, these children were the future of the tribe. In order to maintain their cultural heritage and identity, these children had to learn that heritage and those traditions from those members of the tribe who knew the best-the old people.
Nowadays, the American educational system favors young women just out of college as the teachers in kindergarten and elementary schools. Nothing against 20-year-olds, but they really are not prepared either psychologically or socially to deal with a bunch of rowdy five and six-year-old. Children that age require someone who has already race children. Someone who has learned patience with children. Someone who has not just the intellectual education but the wisdom education that teaching children really requires. Maybe that is why our educational system is failing our children. We are giving them over to people who may be very nice people but are not prepared to deal with children.
I have three children of my own. My oldest is 25. My youngest is 20. I will be 69 in two months. That means I was nearly 43 when my daughter was born. I was nearly 50, short by a couple of years, when my younger son was born. Even in my 40s, I was not totally prepared for dealing with young children, although I have been around people I knew back in the day who had young children. You can read all the books on child psychology; you can take all the courses you want on primary and/or secondary education. But nothing prepares you for being a parent or a teacher then being a parent. In other words,b a good parent or a good teacher you have to have the wisdom that years of experience with children gives you. Years of experience means you are aging! It’s, you may actually even be old! God for bid we turn our children over to old people! Lol
The politicians are always screaming for educational reform. Well, I have some advice for those politicians, especially the younger ones. Don’t believe that saying from the 60s! You can trust people over 30, well over 30, as teachers for your young children. Get the various school systems in this country to change their hiring practices a bit. Stop discriminating against older people and start discriminating, if you must discriminate, against the younger ones. Let the younger ones teach middle school or junior high school. Whatever you do, don’t turn them loose among the wolves of high school students! Lol! The students who need teachers the most, those in elementary school and those in high school, need teachers with experience and wisdom to do the job right!
For those of you who did not get the joke in the title of this, click here!