The Lost Generation

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I went to a funeral today. It was for my Aunt Freda. I’ve been trying to process what I’m feeling since I found out about her passing, but it’s not easy. So, I decided to do something different than I normally do. I decided to write about it.

First off, thank you all of any well wishes or condolences, but that isn’t why I’m writing this. It’s for the cathartic value. I need to vent, to get this out and share it. I’m not certain that it will be diminished in any way, but I doubt that it will hurt either. I may ramble a bit, but bear with me.

I took a picture of this picture with my cell phone. You can see the glare of the light above me. I’d never seen this picture before and am amazed at how it has haunted me.  This is the Roberts family, circa 1940-ish. No one was certain when this picture was actually taken, since everyone in this picture is gone now.

Back row: Uncle Earl, Uncle Raymond, Thomas (my father) and Uncle Melvin (Bob)

Front row: Aunt Freda, Grandpa Ora, Grandma Rosa and Aunt Ida.

The passing of Aunt Freda was the last remaining member of that group and the last of my father’s siblings. Dad, Ray, Earl and Melvin all fought in WWII. Grandpa fought in WWI. They came up poor during the worst of times, the Great Depression. Dad joined the CC Camps just to have a job and to send money back to his family on the farm. They don’t make people like that anymore.

I referred to them as the Lost Generation. Mainly because they are all gone now, but also because of what is now lost to us. Their work-ethic, their values, their willingness to sacrifice for each other. It seems that in our world of “me first”, we’ve lost touch with that kind of dedication to each other. I will also miss their wisdom. The stories that they could have told that I will never hear, or hear re-told. My sons will never know most of them as more than just stories I’ve told them since the majority of them were gone before my sons were even born.

I’ve worked hard all of my adult life and tried to be as dedicated to my own family as they were to theirs. We’ve scraped and struggled to make ends meet. There were times when my wife and I skipped meals so our sons could eat. We’ve never had much but what we have, we’ve earned. I hope I’ve instilled in my sons the integrity that my father’s generation embodied. I hope that they will remember me as half the man my father was. I still miss him, despite our differences.

Neither my father nor my mother lived long enough to see me become a father or an author. They never saw my boys grow into young men, either. I would give anything to know what they think of the job I’ve done. I wonder what they would say. I wish my sons could have known them as I did.

I will most assuredly miss Aunt Freda. I realize that not only am I mourning her, but the old hurts that came to the surface when it struck me that she was the last. Seeing some of these old pictures both thrilled and pained me. When I see the pictures of my father as a young man, I wonder what it would have been like to sit and have coffee with him, at that age. Granted, this picture was taken decades before I was born. Despite that, I still wonder.

So, I guess, I’m saddened by both the loss of an amazing lady and the memory of those who were already gone. That entire generation is gone now, and never will its like be seen again. Ours is a different world. Full of technological wonders that would have seemed like sorcery to the men and women in that picture, circa 1940. That picture was taken long before the moon landing, let alone the internet.

The people of today are different, as well. We’re more jaded and cynical that they were. We’ve grown up in a world far different than the one that they knew. Often times, we don’t have time to do the things we want to do. We just work and do our best to take care of our families. We don’t take care of each other, the way we used to, either.

When I was a kid, I knew the names of everyone in our neighborhood. I mowed yards for my neighbors and went to school with their sons and daughters. Now, I barely know my neighbors. We all keep to ourselves, anymore. We lock our doors and dread watching the nightly news for fear of the most recent tragedy or crime that was too close to home.

The fact that I’ve worked in Law Enforcement for the last decade hasn’t helped that perception of the world, either. I see the worst elements of society on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in things like “human decency” or “compassion” when you’ve heard the stories and seen the things that law enforcement deals with. It takes a toll on you.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Both law enforcement and writing. I’m proud of what I do. I’m thrilled beyond words when I can help people. I realize and accept the fact that I may one day have to sacrifice myself to save another person. I guess in that way, I’m very much like my father.

And there was the catharsis I was seeking. It wasn’t until I was writing this that it hit me. That generation isn’t lost. They’ll live on in me and my siblings and cousins. Not just in our names, but in the lessons we learned from them. The values we had instilled in us at an early age.

I may never be the man that my father was, but it won’t stop me from trying to be the best that I can be. I hope my sons see that, too. I may not have always given them everything that they wanted, but I gave them everything that I could. It was the same with my father.

I understand that now, dad. Thank you for not giving me everything that I wanted. But you did give me everything I needed, and that is all anyone can ask.

So to you, my readers…I’m sorry that this post had nothing to do with writing or with my books. I needed to get this off my chest. Writing seemed to be the best way for me to express it. Funny, but I really do feel better now. Sure, I’m still mourning the loss of that generation and Aunt Freda in particular, but I think I have a better understanding of that grief now.

It will take time, but life will always go on. We may not feel like it will, but it always does. Grief doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s a natural part of the process. But, it’s like anything else in life. We cannot let it consume us. We will survive.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

D.A. – 01/27/2017

 

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