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  • Writer's pictureWade Bell

The Old and the Young

Sure, when you’re old you will recall the terrors. The waves of panic as you almost drowned. Or your foot, unruly appendage, slipping, leaving you breathless on the cold mountain ledge. Or colliding with a tree branch on a black diamond run at Slippery Slopes. Not to mention the many things you are sorry for doing or saying; that load of regrets that we carry.

But the residue of shock accompanying such ghost recollections will not subvert a mind packed with fragments of old happiness that bubble up like Yellowstone paint pots or laughter from a gilded heart.

The old have done much, seen much. They have loved and if they are lucky still love, if only those who went before.

The old paint, sculpt, sing. They play a mean guitar, a sultry sax. Knock, commandingly, a little dimpled sphere into a tin cup. Hit balls of various sizes and shapes back and forth, back and forth, on courts.

They have experienced life profoundly. Their wins and losses. The great loss that in the end no one escapes. Some write about it. Oh, how the old can write. Often grandparents understand the young better than their parents do. And they have compassion for them. They appreciate their wisdom and understand their dilemmas and fears.

The young are wary of the future. They know about plagues, about climate catastrophes. Some in their vivid imaginations visualize Earth as shaking us off like water drops from a dog after a swim.

They travel the world almost by instinct, subconsciously imitating outliers of ancient tribes who scattered in search of promising new territory. Old habits never die. They just take on different disguises.

I know seven of them. They are all in their twenties. Between them they have logged air miles from Korea to Mexico City, Iceland, Europe and the Emirates, South America, the U.S. and I don’t know where else. Who can keep up?

With gusto they take what the world has to offer and live with the contradiction, as older generations do as well: what they consume makes the world less healthy. The planet aches as it shoulders the burden of us.

What the young need is a common purpose. Greta writ large. Greta’s everywhere.

Left, right, center, politics does not divide the young as it does the older generations. They are too wise for that. They know catastrophes bring people together. And that catastrophes can happen anywhere.

For most of the twenty-somethings getting away from the daily grind is a daydream, as far from their grasp as the spy satellites overhead. For a few there is the endless supply of drugs that enrich corporations and cartels. Drugs drug. They mask pain but cause it too. Euphoria then the collapse of personality.

The threat of nuclear war, the rumblings of extremists, knifings and shooting of innocents, form part of the soundtrack to their lives.

The old recall the U.S. atom bomb tests. For protection against radiation that was expected to come north into Alberta from Nevada we practiced hiding under our desks. It was a strategy we all knew was useless.

The old recall the Cuban missile crisis. On the lip of destruction common sense saved us. Will it again? Common sense is not such a common commodity. I hope the young have more of it than their elders do.


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