My generation, the boomers, the sixties kids, the revolutionaries, the change generators, also invented the term, generation gap. It was proudly and derisively aimed at our poor parents. We were the ones who first benefited from technology; in my life, I went from the phone on the wall with party lines and an operator, to my cherished cell phone. As a writer, I am an information junkie. Way back in the dark ages, the beginning of this century, I finally got high-speed internet. My daughter, also a writer, and I would phone each other at midnight to see if we were both still trapped on the internet, clicking away from site to site.
The fascination wore off pretty quickly and I went back to books. I had a brief flirtation with Kindle but it was too annoying to read. Books, more books. What is handy now is that internet is a good place to find books, read reviews, find publishers, read about books, so I can get and read and write, more books.
I wonder now how my mother and father felt about the changes they went through in their lifetimes. They were married in 1946. My father started farming with horses but quickly moved into farm machinery, which he kept running with a combination of ingenuity and cursing. They got a phone and a television but they never really gave either of these things a lot of attention. My father maintained a strong dislike of phoning long distance, which he was always convinced would cost a fortune, and the TV only went on at night, and then only to watch music or educational television.
But what did they think about their crazy children; their oldest daughter who went off marching against the Vietnam war, and then marching for peace, and the environment and feminism. We rarely talked about such things so I still have no idea how much they comprehended of the work I did.
And drugs, the idea of which horrified them. Although as they got older, they bought more and more products at the health food store, carefully tried out each new miracle pill or food or whatever came along.
But now I am more and more finding myself on the other side of a different generation gap. My generation said, “Never trust anyone over thirty.” But then we hit our thirties (some of us were amazed that we were still alive) and then our forties, which seemed pretty old, and then our fifties, when the idea of old started to gather speed, and now our sixties and heading into our seventies, when we are genuinely old and, in my case, furious about it. As far as I am concerned, old age is the meanest trick my life has ever played on me and I am so not ready for it.
At the same time, I am finding myself in an odd relationship with my kids and grandkids. I am a social media junkie and proud of it, still writing, still working, still researching. But my kids and grandkids are now way ahead of me. I really don’t have a clue what a bitcoin is or does, nor do I know or care about hashtags or Snapchat and a whole lot of other things. I have watched my grandkids grow up with the internet: Louis was eighteen months old when he shoved my hands off the keyboard and announced firmly, “Me do it.” If I need something fixed on my computer or phone, he does it in about three seconds. I am waiting for him to be old enough to write a book about it. Someone will soon.
What else is weird is that I have children turning fifty. Once we were all young and striving together. I was trying to become a real writer and they were going to school and applying for jobs and looking at their futures and it was very exciting and we all shared that excitement.
But now we have very different goals. Mine is to get through each day with a minimum of pain and to stay alive long enough to read all the gajillions of books I still want to read and write a lot more books. Everything is still so interesting. I am still an information/reading/writing junkie. I am just so much slower. So although I write every day. I can’t write at nearly the same speed I used to have; nor can I work long into the night as I was used to doing. Evenings are now for Netflix and the odd glass or two or three of wine.
My children’s lives have settled into stasis, working, and kids, and mortgages, successful and great but not with that frisson of excitement we once had.
I am no longer clear about what is expected of me, if anything. What is even worse, is that they watch me in case I become that thing, that old parent who is a problem and needs fixing and care. So I tiptoe a lot through conversational minefields, where I say, “I’m fine, I’m okay,” all the time wondering, “Am I?”
I went to my fiftieth grad gathering this year, (which was a lot of fun. Thanks everyone) But I was shocked and saddened when they read out the names of people we had lost. I now have a handshake familiarity with death, but as long as it stays outside, and I can keep working, I am mostly filled with a fierce joy that I am here, that the world is so beautiful, that my friends and children and grandchildren are so wonderful and interesting. Lots to do. Lots more still to learn. Not done yet.