This lack of respect for our elders is really getting old
Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010 8:01 pm
As if I didn’t already have enough of them to keep me busy.
Most of my annoyances are trivial things — like store cashiers who try to sell me two-for-one candy bars at the checkout or restaurant drive-throughs that make me park and wait.
But this latest nuisance … well, it has me peeved.
Young people, listen up: It’s never — I mean never — acceptable to directly address someone older than you as “old man” or “old woman.”
Period. The end. It’s not even open for debate.
What prompted my tirade? It was a birthday greeting a family member recently received from a younger person (who doesn’t live around here). It simply read, “Happy Birthday, Old Man.”
I’m sure the sender was simply trying to be humorous and I’m always in favor of a good laugh, but there’s a fine line between being funny and being disrespectful. And I think this crosses the line.
Who is this older generation to whom some of the younger generation so casually refer?
They’re the doctors who delivered them and the teachers who taught them reading, writing and ’rithmetic … the senior pastors and Sunday School teachers who faithfully shared the love of Jesus … the parents who first changed diapers and later spent many a sleepless night waiting for a teenager to come home … the grandparents who selflessly stepped up as babysitters and who loyally attended countless recitals or ballgames.
They’re the men and women who have been referred to as “the greatest generation” — those who fought and died on foreign soil to protect our freedoms, those who were born in a kinder, gentler era where boys were brought up as gentlemen and girls were taught to act like ladies.
They’re precious gems who’ve earned every gray hair and every wrinkle (which were likely spawned by their children’s behavior anyway), every “senior moment,” every right to slow down and enjoy the golden years, every senior discount and every ounce of our respect.
Unfortunately, they’re sometimes overlooked and often taken for granted in the daily rush that sometimes leaves far too little time for one-on-one contact.
And I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
I admit I wasn’t overly close to either set of my grandparents when I was growing up. (Nevertheless, I’m fairly certain my parents would have been pretty upset had I walked up to one of my grandmothers at a family gathering and greeted her with, “Hey, Old Woman.”)
Looking back, I now realize it would have been nice to have been able to spend more time with my grandmother on my mother’s side. There’s a lot I could have learned from her, a lot I never got around to asking her and a lot I never knew about her. They’re things I always “meant” to do “someday.”
She was less than 5 feet tall, never learned to drive and, even though she wasn’t Southern, made the best sweet tea. She made a spectacular banana-walnut layer cake that I have never been able to master and, every Christmas, made chocolate-covered cherries that put the store-bought kind to shame. Regrettably I never learned to make them, either.
She was somewhat stubborn and unwavering in her liberal political beliefs — which we never did see eye to eye on — and sometimes I think she was happiest when she was engaging someone in heated debate.
She had brilliant blue eyes that sparkled like the sapphire ring I remember her wearing on special occasions when I was growing up. She always promised she’d leave the ring to me when she died and, sadly, I inherited it May 27, 2007.
Ironically, it was only after her death that I learned we shared a favorite hymn. She didn’t attend church regularly most of the years I knew her and it wasn’t until a couple years before her death that she got back into church. Her funeral service began with the soft strains of “It Is Well With My Soul” — which always moves me to tears anyway — and I later learned she’d requested the tune be played at her funeral.
When I hear the song now, it almost seems like my grandmother was telling me one last thing.
I just wish I’d taken the time to hear her say the message in person.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 5.28.10