One thing aging has taught me: kids live in another world than I do.
Yes, of course the young and the aging are part of the same physical world and progress through the same time — it is 2023 — but psychologically speaking, their sense of time and space is different.
Consider the dilation of time. When we were kids, one year seemed to last forever. I’ve always thought this was a simple matter of math. To the 6-year-old boy I was in the summer of 1968, when my family took the trip to Colorado to visit our cousins, one year was one-sixth of my life. Now, it’s only 1/61st. A fraction that passes in a flash.
Then there’s space. How gigantic Auburn and my old northeast Auburn neighborhood seemed back then. The old neighborhood was to me then the limit of the world. It was where water fights broke out on those glorious days of summer when the fire folk showed up to open the hydrants.
As everything comes to us in a field of time and space, it stands to reason the experience will not be the same for the young and the old.
When I think about the old days, I am overcome by a feeling of disbelief. Did summers last only 12 weeks when we were kids? Did we really cram the baseball and swimming and hiking and bicycling into that short time?
Can’t be, the emotional side of my head answers. Yes, old boy, the logical side answers, the calendar does not lie. Well, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, praise be to God “who gave me two separate sides to my head.”
Whenever I see a kid do something boneheaded, I remember the shockingly dumb things I did, things that once seemed perfectly logical. Like joining the neighborhood kids in digging a deep hole with various side chambers in the middle of the cornfield that once occupied the site of the present day Green River Mobile Estates. We didn’t worry that much about a possible collapse.
Or twisting off the decorative metal cones on the grill of the family’s old Chevy, and thinking as I did so, “Boy, won’t dad be happy!” Um, to put it mildly, he wasn’t.
Another difference is that in the natural order of things, kids don’t inhabit the geezer’s world, where increasingly, the news brings them tidings of the passing of their friends.
Yet I catch myself thinking more and more these days about the people who’ve come and gone, whom I loved like no others. Like my big brother, Jim, gone 48 years this April 12.
Really? How can that be? Nearly half a century. As if in 1975, I had looked back on a brother who’d died in 1927. Wasn’t it just yesterday he sat me down at the kitchen table, popped a cassette tape into the cheap Radio Shack recorder and said, “Rob, listen to this,” as the first notes of a song he’d just composed began to play? A week later, his friend, Shorty Adamson, performed that song at his funeral.
It seems as if my mother and father had left us only yesterday, although she’s been gone 17 years as of May 21, and dad 12 years next Christmas day. Was it not just a moment ago? I can’t shake the feeling of unreality.
In a song called “The Great Migration” on Paul Simon’s latest album, “Seven Psalms,” Simon contemplates the mystery of life and death. Now in his 80s, Simon is certainly thinking about his own approaching mortality.
“I’ve been thinking about the great migration/Noon and night they leave the flock/And I imagine their destination/Meadow grass, jagged rock …/Tribal voices/Old and young/Celebrations/A history of families sung/The endlеss river flows.”
But that’s a way off, kids. For now, romp and play in those golden fields of summer. Make good memories. One day it’ll be you saying, what happened?
Robert Whale can be reached at email@example.com.