Friday, January 1, 2010

Older and/or Wiser in 2010?

by Terry Thornton


Twenty-ten or two thousand-ten. However you say 2010 it sounds so strange to someone who first learned how the years and their passage were numbered back in the mid-1940s. In those pre-penicillin days and pre-television days and pre-Internet days of regionalism, factionalism, and patriotism, to hear about "the future" was always of interest to us kids at Parham and Hatley.

But nothing prepared me for leaving the "19s" behind and entering the "20s" --- and here we are one decade into them and it still seems strange.

When Mrs. Ellen Young, second grade teacher at Hatley Elementary School, had us figure out how old we would be when Halley's Comet would return it seemed improbable that I could ever live that long. To a seven-year-old living for another forty years seemed such a long time. But 1986 came and with it a puny showing of a comet that been hyped beyond our wildest dreams.

In fairness to Mrs. Young, however, the showing of Halley's Comet in her childhood on its passage by Earth in 1910 was reported to be a marvelous show that awed and inspired all who saw it.

Later, in more advanced grades of schooling at Hatley Elementary, we were expected to determine in what year we would become 65 years old and eligible for something called "Old Age Pension." We all calculated the exact day, month and year for our teacher when we would be so old we would qualify. I thought then it improbable that I could ever live so long.

But the years rolled on --- the calendars turned over and over --- and when Halley Comet showed up it was a "non-event" as pundits nowadays would term it. When my special day in July 2004, came I didn't for a minute think "Well, I now qualify for my old age pension."

But I will admit that on both those events I thought down in my secret places, "I'm getting older." Remember, even Mrs. Young said we would all be old folks when Halley's Comet came blazing overhead. And the pension was just for old age. Yes, I remembered --- not the wonders of galaxies and comets and planets and stars ---- not the notion that all individuals are born to age --- but I remembered that Halley's Comet and starting to draw a pension were events to occur in my dotage --- my twilight years --- my old age. And the authority for that information were well-meaning teachers from my youth.

So. I'm old.

And the calendar has turned over another year making me even older. Does that make me wiser? After all, almost every teacher I had in childhood waxed on and on about the "wisdom" which comes with old age. And joining in that chorus were preachers and parents all using every opportunity to let us kids know how wise we would be if and when we got older.

I'm still waiting for that to happen --- the getting wise part.

Wishing you a New Year filled with good times, good friends, good health, and good cheer.

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