Boomers Become Elders

This past week my dearest uncle Lou [cousin Jed’s father], suddenly passed away. Lou was a dynamic, vibrant, enthusiastic, loving 91-year old whose presence brought a smile on the face of whoever’s path he crossed. He had this indescribable lightness of being and he was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was a man who right until the end, continued to give back to his community by helping to care for the less fortunate. Lou was from my father’s generation of men and women who I greatly admire. This was the generation I called upon for doses of wisdom and a sense of perspective when life had a tendency to go astray or when there were no answers to unexplainable problems or concerns.

As I sat on the airplane on the way home from his funeral in Florida, my eyes stretched out towards the heavens trying to grasp onto his spirit and keep it close to my heart. I hoped that wherever he might be, he was peaceful and would continue to watch over us.

After twelve hours of travel, I returned home, unpacked my suitcase and sat down at the vanity in my bathroom. For some reason the gray hairs encircling my face were a little brighter and more obvious. I suddenly realized that for my children’s generation,  I am the generation they will look to for their wisdom, in the way that I looked to Lou’s generation for my solace. I stood up from my chair, pulled back my shoulders and walked to the liquor cabinet for some Armagnac [special brandy from France], something I learned from the previous generation to do at the end of the day. My father-in-law swears by its healing powers to help with everything from sore throats to depression. I also learned from my father to be kind, non-judgmental and to treat people with respect. Habits like these are ones I’ve learned after years of standing on the shoulders of giants. I now realize that every snippet of wisdom they shared is now cherished more than ever. Today, there are only a few remaining who were born in the early 20th century. For me, it’s Uncle Bob, my father’s brother who voiced his somber sentiments at Lou’s funeral by saying, “It’s so sad, it’s as if our generation is all standing in line waiting to die, and we never know who will be next.”

Uncle Bob’s words stopped me in my tracks as I tried to imagine what it must be like not having anyone to look up to, or to glance  around the room at family gatherings to see that there is no one older. Also, there was a sense of the end of the road, a sense that there is nothing to look forward to and that everything that generation has seen has been seen many times over. My response  to Uncle Bob got lodged in my throat and all I could say was, “Uncle Bob you’re fine; you look great.” I really did not know what else to say but I did start some serious thinking. I thought about how my generation needs to prepare for the role of being the seniors and bestowing wisdom onto the next generation. We are soon to be the pillars holding everything together, but the big question is are we ready? Are us baby boomers ready to walk in those shoes and share the wisdom of our predecessors?

This New Year brings so many things to think about!


5 Responses to “Boomers Become Elders”

  1. 1 Shirley Budhos January 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    To me, the saddest part of being the generation born before or at the beginning of the Depression is that there is no one to call me by my actual name, for my first name represents my American persona,as the daughter of immigrants. Also, there is no trace or survivor of my community except in a cemetery.

    We also speak another language, pre-electronic, World War II lingo, and communication with our descendants is circumscribed by experience, age, and the over-sentimentalized renditions of how we lived. I barely recognize those descriptions in thick books based on research of old neighborhoods, because they lack the sweat, frustrations, mispronounced words of earlier residents. Nowadays, young ‘uns who find living in a tenement an amusing challenge are not comparable to those of us who experienced it as a necessity, for we were never sure of escape to upward mobility.

    Diana, I’m not sure we elders can impart much wisdom, for our world was so different; yes, family can teach behavior, morals, a sense of sin by example, but how to live today is beyond our scope. At 80, I cannot preach, because my references are from the past, though I live in the present.

    And, to tell the truth, for me, the past resonates so strongly that today’s panorama has many shadows, which younger people will acquire by experience and reflection.

    As for boomers, being 50 today is so unlike those who died at 60 in earlier days; my grandparents looked and acted like elders in their fifties. The challenges this present Boomer generation encounters may be more familiar to their children than to their elders, but, Diana, it is lovely that you pay homage to those who preceded your generation. I wish that other young people today would welcome us instead of physically, emotionally, and socially dismissing or segregating us from the living.

  2. 2 Ernie Witham January 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Oh great! I don’t have enough things to worry about now I’ve got to get some wisdom to share?

    Seriously, great blog. Puts the cycle of life into perspective.


  3. 3 Jim Alexander January 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Are us baby boomers ready to walk in those shoes and share the wisdom of our predecessors?

    I don’t know if we’re ready, but we’d better get ready!
    Sorry to hear about your uncle.

  4. 4 Darlyn Finch January 11, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    I’m sorry you’re sad, dear Sister of my heart. Love you!

  5. 5 Michael Shapiro January 11, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Diana – Nicely said, I miss a great man, our Uncle Lou


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About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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