Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hard times and special feelings

The photo shown here is a Minerd family. My great grandfather and great grandmother surrounded by their children. My grandfather who I really never knew is seated front row, far left. Even though I did not know him well I have stories about this family that have been passed down to me through the years and some that I was fortunate enough to hear from him in his latter years. Photo taken around 1895. What follows is not about these people, but some of them lived in times I will talk about and some of them did know people that I knew very well.

Some of us miss what we regard as the good old days even if a lot of them were not so good. That in and of itself is worth exploring the reasons many of us feel as we do. Certainly for most of us our lives are more comfortable now if not more difficult to manage.

The medical breakthroughs have made it a little easier to feel better when we get sick and we do seem to be living longer than the generations before us. The food we consume now, at least for some of us might be better for us but we have become a generation that seems to worry more about what is right for our bodies than we do about whether or not we can afford it or get enough of it.

For instance, we have gone from a generation that used to drink water from a hole in the ground by pumping it with a handle from a well to one that is willing to pay a dollar or more for a sixteen ounce plastic bottle of it. I won’t dwell on what we are now willing to pay for basic necessities but I have to wonder what my grandparents would think if they were alive to see what gasoline and tobacco products sell for now, or how much it would cost them at a grocery store to feed their family for just one week.

And because of what we have to pay for those medical breakthroughs I mentioned and how much of our income now goes to basic health care to keep us feeling well or just survive, I wonder what they would think about that. When I recall what I regard as the good old days I am not so old that much of what I now take for granted was not around then.

We didn’t have microwave ovens to shave off the time it takes to cook a meal but I think I would give mine up if the food I cook in it were easier to come by financially and if I didn’t have to think about all of the things I like to eat possibly causing me to die from cancer. Personally I hated having to go to school but I can safely say that if given the choice of spending eight or more hours doing that or the same amount of time working on a job I didn’t care for with people I had nothing in common with and for a boss who has allowed his position to go to his head, I might choose school.

I might choose that for the same reasons I might trade the circumstances of being responsible for other people for an era when someone else had to carry that burden for me. When I recall hearing my parents groan about having to spend more than thirty dollars a week to feed a family of six I have to smile.

When I think of the mortgage payment of ninety dollars they had to cough up each month to keep a pretty good roof over our heads my grin grows even wider. And even though I am in a shrinking minority of smokers who can offer no argument that it is a bad habit that may eventually kill me I wonder what my father would think if he knew I were paying around five dollars for the same pack of cigarettes he bought for around fifty cents.

My dad never worried about the dangers of smoking and it was not what killed him. Neither was any part of his diet that as a child included vegetables or meats that were not inspected by the government before they reached his plate. He and his parents before him were some of those people who killed things like groundhogs and other wild game because they had to if they wanted to eat.

Some of the stories he told about how it was when he was growing up are the stories we read about today when someone is being charged criminally for neglecting or endangering their children. But he never saw things that way. In his mind none of what it took for family survival back then had anything to do with either.

There were no child labor laws in the backwoods where he grew up but it was okay. He did not need in depth labels or warnings on what he bought and probably would not have read most of them if they were there. A picture of a skull and bones or a flame on the label of anything he bought probably sufficed.

He and those before him relied on something I think a lot of people have either lost track of or never had in the first place, common sense. I wonder what his parents would think if they could return from the dead and be told they could not express an opinion about someone’s sexual preference because it would offend too many people or that they might be arrested if they burned something they no longer needed behind their house without a permit they had to buy?

I wonder what anyone who has been gone for more than twenty years would think of the internet and how it can be used to pay ones bills or send mail across the planet in seconds. I wonder if they would trade the rights to live as we choose that many of us have given up through the years for it. I don't think I would, even though technology has advanced the way we live more than anyone could have imagined during what were my own good old days.

That is not to say that I would go back and live my life over again if it were possible. Because even though I have had what I consider a pretty good life there is still too much that I would not want to have to experience a second time, and I doubt that anyone who struggled through our country’s depression or its wars would want to experience any of that again.

Certainly no one who has had to grieve over a lost loved one would want to go through that again. I often wonder though what it would feel like to wake up just once more and feel the energy I had before I was an adult, before I ignored all of the good advice that was offered by those who came before me.

When we are asked if we would do it all over again most of us might say that we would if we could make some changes. I have often heard others say something I have thought many times myself… “If I could go back and know what I do now.”

So let’s play with that thought for awhile. If you could go back to a time when everyone you knew who has since passed away was still here would you do it if you could and know what you do now? Of course that would mean that your kids wouldn’t be on the planet yet if you have any and some of the friends you have now might be people you don’t know yet.

But if you could do it, would you? Hypothetically speaking, do you think your opinion of loved ones would be different? If you knew what you do now would you be as angry with a parent because they spanked you or grounded you? That’s an easy one, how about those days when someone cared for you while you were very sick. Do you think you would go through the worst illness you ever suffered through if you could have the days that followed back?

Would you be willing to endure all of the headaches, sprained ankles, cuts, bruises, broken bones, stomach aches and colds you had all over again? What about your most embarrassing moment?

Would you ever want to be in that spot again? How about experiencing every embarrassing moment you ever had? What about failed romances that broke your heart or the emptiness that came with missing a special event? What about the feeling of losing a pet? Did an animal ever break your heart when it passed away? Could you go through that again even if you knew then what you know now?

Could you face handing your parents a bad report card and see the disappointment on their faces again and feel any better about it the second time around? If you had to sit in all of the dentist chairs you did would that be any different? Have you ever lost something that meant a lot to you like a ring or some other keepsake and felt horrible about it for days? You would have to do that again too.

Have you ever had something important stolen from you? Think about that and remember, even though you know it is going to happen are you still willing to go back and do it all over again? If you could again speak with someone who was as old or older than your grandparents and know what you do now do you think you would want to ask more questions? What if you could do that but still had to play by the same rules you did then? Because remember, you’re only getting a do over, you can’t change anything except to pay closer attention.

Fast forward your life to adulthood. Have you ever wanted a job so much that each day your phone rang and it wasn’t that employer calling you felt discouraged? The jobs you had that were long on hours and short on pay, would you work them again? What about all of the days you had to go to work even though you were sick? What about all of the traffic jams you sat in through the years or all of the lines you waited in? Could you sit for hours in all of the hospital waiting rooms feeling anxious or worried about a loved one again?

If you had to pay for a return to the good old days by reliving all of the times you have moved from one home to another, or dating people you wished you never did or going into debt for something you never needed would it be worth it? Has your car ever broken down and left you stranded when you were broke? Have you ever had to tell someone they couldn’t have something because you couldn’t afford it? You have to do it again.

Have you ever been told something horrible about someone and then asked to keep it to yourself? If so, one of two things probably happened, either you couldn’t do it and had to break that person’s trust in you or you kept it to yourself and lived with the disappointment. What about the mistakes you have made that disappointed others in you? Have you ever broken the law and then had to face a judge? Traffic citations count here. Did you ever dread having to be held accountable for something you didn’t mean to do or something that was just a very bad decision on your part?

Have you ever faced a judge in a domestic proceeding such as a divorce or a child support issue? What about fighting for visitation rights of a child? Have you ever done that and been disappointed by the verdict? Could you even imagine going through it again, even if you could enjoy those good old days before you reached this stage in your life?

If your life wasn’t perfect and you had other discretion's you would rather forget would it be worth reliving your life if you had any of the following experiences; Have you ever had a utility disconnected for non-payment of the bill? Have you ever had a car repossessed? Ever been turned down for a loan for something you really wanted? Having lived as long as I have and having lived and worked among many different cultures and social standings I have learned that more people than you might imagine have experienced such pot holes in life.

So let’s stay on this theme for a moment. Do you think you might have jumped the gun in your zeal to leave the nest when you moved away from your parent’s home? For instance, was your first home or apartment something you would like to live in again? And if it was an apartment, would you want to experience living in a building with the same people again? Have you ever been annoyed by your neighbors noise on the other side of the wall? Have you ever had a neighbor that you were sure went out of their way to annoy you or one you couldn’t trust?

Did you ever worry that a neighbor’s poor living habits might cause bugs or rats to enter your home? Have you ever had a neighbor pester you for money or favors? Would you want the furniture you had in your first apartment back? Have you ever come home to your apartment to find an eviction notice on the door? Have you ever lived with someone like a significant other or just a roommate who was a slob?

Have you ever spent a day cleaning up your home and then gone away only to return to someone else’s mess? Ever had an argument over bills? Have you ever had to borrow money from a parent just to get by? Have you ever been beaten up or otherwise assaulted? Have you ever been robbed? Has anyone ever broken into your home and stolen things from you?

Have you ever been caught cheating or learned that someone was cheating on you? Have you ever wished someone would get out of your life who wouldn’t? I know, it’s getting a little nasty here but I’m trying to cover the bases of possibilities. Remember, I have been on this planet for a long time!

So, have you ever been in an automobile accident? Has anyone ever tried to ruin your reputation or destroy you financially? Have you ever had to defend yourself for something you didn’t do? Have you ever been wronged by a friend or a loved one? Have you ever gotten sick on a trip? Ever been lost or hungry with no one to turn to? Have you ever loaned money to someone when you couldn’t afford it and not gotten it back? Have you ever had a debt you couldn’t pay? Ever go bankrupt? Has anything in your house ever needed repaired or replaced but you couldn’t afford it?

Have you ever been laid off from a job or been fired? Have you ever felt pressured to have sex with someone who repulsed you? Ever had someone stalk you? Have you ever been an alcoholic or a drug addict? Have you ever lived with one? Ever been drugged on purpose by someone else but didn’t know it until it was too late? Ever been a passenger in a car with someone who scared you? Have you ever had someone call you to tell you that a child has been arrested or hurt?

Were you ever separated from a loved one because your parents got a divorce? Ever see your mother cry? Ever see the helplessness of your father because he lost his job or because he couldn’t come to your aid in your time of need? Has a doctor ever delivered bad news to you?

Have you ever had to have surgery that was so painful you could barely stand it? Have you ever wished you could take a loved one’s place when they had to have surgery for something? Ever feel nervous because there was a policeman at your door? Have you ever lost something because of a fire?

Okay, those were pretty tough ones, but on the chance that you experienced any of that, would you still go back to the good old days if you knew that any of that would be in your future? I am sure that I wouldn’t do my life over and mine has actually been pretty good. Somehow I managed to escape a lot of tragedy’s and heartbreaks but like everyone else my life has been far from perfect. I haven’t always made the decisions that were best for me and I have been on the short end of more than a few sticks. But overall I have been lucky. I still wouldn’t do it again, as much as I miss the old days and as much as I miss the people who are no longer here.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could pick and choose what we would do over? Have you ever wanted something so bad for Christmas that you couldn’t think of much else and received it? Do you remember that feeling? Have you ever made the honor roll at school or received an award there for something you accomplished? Have you ever had a friend’s parent’s take you along on their family outing? Has your parent’s ever allowed a friend to spend the night with you? Ever get more than you expected for a tooth you left under a pillow?

Have you ever received a pay raise or a bonus when you didn’t expect it? Have you ever been the guest of honor at a party? Birthdays count here. Have you ever graduated from a school? Ever get promoted on a job? Have you ever asked someone for a date who you thought would say no, but didn’t? Has anyone ever said something flattering to you for no reason at all?

Has anyone ever told you that they would like to be just like you or that you inspired them to do something? Ever been picked first to be on someone’s team? Have you ever had a reporter write something flattering about you in a newspaper? What about a nice note written to you in a yearbook? Were you ever excited to see a school year end and the start of a summer vacation?

Ever take a memorable vacation far from home? Do you remember how you felt the first time you learned to ride a bicycle or the day you received your temporary driver’s permit?

I haven't experienced all of these life moments, but I know people who can relate to them all and I have been closer than I wanted to be to more of these scenarios than I think I ever would want to be again, even if that meant I could relive all of my best days. I'm not sure the trade-off would be worth it. But if I have made you think, or if I only gave you a moment of fond reflection than read on. I have more questions to ask, because I think there is a very good chance that I know you. If you felt anything personal so far, I am sure that I do.

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