Elders

They used to stare into the darkness, always worried about something, these old men I grew up around --- men who had seen combat as early as WWII. To the young men and women, boys and girls, who had not yet known the lives of the elders, nights were as fun as the days, darkness was a change in time, not an emotion.

Often I wonder if those who sent these old men into combat stayed up as late as the service men did when the days turned into sleepless nights. Did they sweat in the factories while coming home to families day in and day out? Did they worry about paychecks and mortgages and about whether or not their children would grow up fighting in another war that promised to be the war to end all wars?

The older women had a look, too, but theirs they hid behind smiles that kept the family together in the worst of times. Their worry never showed except when they didn't know another was looking. Their strength was beyond measure for theirs wasn't just an emotional burden, but a physical one, too, born from a labor of homes kept clean, children kept dressed, and family meals prepared, and more often than not, pursuits denied for reasons women still struggle to overcome today.

Like the older men, older women at gatherings mostly maintained a stature of silence about how bad things could get until the whining of younger generations grew to such a volume their booming voices silenced it. And you could bet when they spoke in this manner, all that bottled up emotion resulted in words that were sharp, sudden, direct, short, and to the point. Usually silence followed such corrections during this time, as the young contemplated their own ignorance.

When we are young, it is difficult to understand that there are reasons our elders have so many rules. Mostly the rules exist because they know how bad things can get. They've already lived through what happens when things go wrong, when too much fun is had. We live in times that are better thanks to those who came before, those whose voices and actions speak across generations. In this age where anything can be had at just about anytime, I wonder what times will be like for generations unborn. Will the actions of today speak of a world maintained for some beneficial future we can only imagine, or will they speak of excess and exploitation, impermanence and pollution?

Never fall into the trap of thinking that because you can't see it, it isn't there. I can assure you there is more to the darkness than the night.