“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
Labor Day … a hint of fall wafts in the open bedroom window, as the old man turns on his bed. Yes, he’ s old now, eligible for Social Security upon his recent birthday. He remembers Septembers past …
Jewish New Year: a time of beginning and renewal. Bucks and bulls at their masculine finest contend with peers for the right to sire spring’ s new life. Semi-tumescent in the morning darkness, he reaches for his partner of more than four decades, but she arrests his stroking hand, and with a dismissive pat-pat, turns away… “And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird,” he mutters as he leaves the bed chamber for his study, “and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home…”
In his youth, September brought welcome change from August’ s Dog Days. Chores of lay-by time were time-fillers: laying in winter wood, repair of tools and pick-sacks, etc., and revival meetings. But September brought opening cotton bolls, falling leaves, and chill mornings that inspired dogs to leap at each opening of the back door, eager for the hunt.
But just as the changing season brought its promise of renewal and urgent sense of purpose, the opening of school imprisoned the youth for most of the golden day. His spirit groaned to think of the joys of shadowing and working with his father being lost as he laboriously copied out his lessons. For years, as he traveled the roads in the dawn’ s light, he felt sorry for the youngsters trudging to bus stops, laden with satchels and back packs…a sorry way to treat our youth, he thought.
A recent exchange of remarks with a grandson brought him up short. The boy was eager for school to start! “What’ s wrong?” he wondered. “Is school so much improved, or does our youngsters’ home life leave something to be desired?” Well, considering that there is no anticipation of following dad in the field, and only mind numbing video games and TV in cold air-conditioned rooms in which one cannot even hear the lusty insect song of fall, he concludes that the kids are desperate for a change. Sad.
An elderly friend once told him, “Your generation will be better off when my generation is gone.” He was shocked!
“How can you say such a thing?”
The wise old gentleman continued. “Change is inevitable, but there are so many features of change that a person of my age simply cannot accept. Better than to kick against the goads is to move on, and let the young adapt.” The splendid old gentleman has been gone nearly twenty years now, and the “newly-old” man finally understands.
No longer do children get six wonderful years of carefree childhood to follow daddy, and to engage in unhurried and imaginative play. After six weeks, they are pulled from mother’s breast and confined in rooms reeking of Lysol and other babies’ poop. Formal instruction begins by three or four. The old man thinks of ants in their colony, bees in their hive, and termites in their mound as he watches the ever-increasing socialization of the youth and the loss of freedom. He grieves for what the young have lost, but they seem happy, never having known freedom. “So many things my generation can never accept…” Indeed.
Colleagues at work hint, some ask him outright: “How much longer do you plan to work?” He is evasive. The shame of charity has been removed (to some extent) by its treatment as an entitlement. It is expected that everyone accept the mark of the beast, and “start drawing.” Periodic circulars from the Social Security Administration are Sirens’ song, trying to distract him as he negotiates the straits between the Scylla of sloth and the Charybdis of physical decrepitude.
A National Geographic Special once pictured a dying elephant trying to mate as a way of staving off the inevitable. Dawn is breaking. He wonders if his wife is awake yet.
Sonny Scott is a community columnist who resides in the Sparta community in Chickasaw County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.