Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Fading of a Generation

            Yesterday I saw a quote someone had used to convey a loving thought to their spouse.  To paraphrase, it related that Romeo and Juliet dying together to be less romantic than "Grandma and Grandpa" growing old together.  Besides the fact that Romeo and Juliet did not exactly die together, or that as romantic as committing suicide to be with a loved one is the actual circumstances were much more tragic than romantic,  I was somewhat puzzled by the lack of reality behind the sentiment.  As much as I look forward to the adventures ahead for my wife and I, and all the life we have left to live, I do not look forward to those final twilight years.  The years where one of us passes and the other continues on, heartbroken.  Perhaps we will both grow old enough together to forget who lays besides us in bed at night, Alzheimer's or age catching us.  In the end, grief may lead the one left behind to wither and give up to be with their love, quite similar to Romeo and Juliet, I suppose.  Still, more tragic than romantic, or tragically romantic?
            All this, and plenty of alone time in the dark at night, left to me think of Irma.  (I was also perplexed that the person using the quote did not think of this mutual relative.)  She is my maternal grandmother and nearing the century mark in age.  I believe this year she will have seen 93 years on this Earth.  With it being a decade into the new millennium, she has experienced much of what most of us have only read in history books.  She was alive for prohibition, hid sugar during the Great Depression, experienced the Second Great War first hand married to an Airmen, watched the Sixties blur by, struggled through Vietnam and the arrival of grand kids, continued briskly through the '80's and '90's, and witnessed the end of a century.  She was here to be a great-grandmother.  And, now, struggles each day to stay mobile and, more importantly, to stay within her own mind.
            Her husband passed many years ago.  She carried on with her children.  My paternal grandparents left this world awhile ago, also.  The only evidence of history within my family is this withered lady that stands stoically against time.  Her mind can recall, on good days, stories of the past.  Yet, they come like shadows or wisps of smoke on the wind.  You need to be there when they come and need to listen even more closely to the whispers of the past.  She is surrounded today more by ghosts than by the living.  All her contemporaries have left her behind to carry the burden of memories.  The young, me included I guess, are too busy with their lives or families within the bustle of today's world to wait on the slow, quiet roll of the past.  And so she fades softly away.
            I do not see the romance in any of this.  I do see the tragedy.  I see the good-byes.  I see hard decisions ahead.  I see the family drama.  I see the silent sadness.  But I do not see the romance.  The journey of life can be romanticized but it always ends in tragedy.  And, so I offer, choose your words wisely and your path even more so, live romantically to make the end all the more tragic.

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