Good-Bye to the Old Neighborhood

When I was growing up, in the fabled ‘50s, our neighborhood was full of big families—five or more children—including ours. There must have been at least 50 children in a one-block area, so anytime I stepped outside, I was sure to see kids on the streets riding bikes or in the fields behind our houses playing catch or hide-and-seek. Not only did all the children play with each other, the parents partied together on Saturday nights in basement bars.

Although that world is long gone, I still find myself surprised at the fast pace of change. Or maybe it’s that I choose to remain oblivious until something smacks me in the head, like overhearing a comment from the realtor showing the house next door—a comment that reveals I’m older than I want to think.  

When a friend and I moved into our subdivision, some 25 years ago, we were among the younger people. On either side of us were older couples, maybe in their 60s, while we were in our late 40s. Gradually younger families started moving in, but there was still a balance between the older residents—who raised their children here and formed a community—and the new ones with young children.

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Take Me Home

When my mother was in the last months of her life, and suffering from moderate dementia, she told her caregiver she wanted to go home and several times tried to “escape” from her apartment in a senior facility to get back to that home— wherever or whatever it was.

Recently, a friend who has Parkinson’s and who also experiences dementia has started wandering away from her mountain cabin, telling her worried husband and the people who find her on the road that she wants to go home. When strangers ask her where that is, she’s unable to tell them, except that it’s “hundreds” of miles away.

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History Repeats Itself

It feels like 1968 all over again: a divisive president calling for law and order, mayhem in the streets, a divided society and distrust of the police, who we referred to as “pigs” back in the ’60s and ’70s—and for good reason.

In 1968, I remember watching with my father the Democratic convention. on TV. It was held in Chicago, where the police force viciously attacked mostly peaceful demonstrators in the streets outside the downtown convention hall, about 25 miles south of where we lived. While I watched with increasing horror as the police clubbed protesters, my dad was on the opposite political side, shouting “Get ‘em,” and “knock ’em down.”

There was a generational divide then that I don’t think exists now: between parents baffled and disgusted by their teen and young adult children who were letting their hair grow long, smoking pot, engaging in sex before marriage, burning the flag and rebelling against a country that our fathers fought for in World War II.

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