My old friend, nostalgia, paid a visit this week. He always drops by on my birthday to reminisce about the good, old days, and what are birthdays for if not that?
My wife thinks I live in the past too much, and she’s probably right, but every time I deal with the present and think about the future, I wind up back in the past, usually with Sinatra on my turntable and a Jack in my hand.
Anyway, what I’m getting to is breaking news for me. I always thought I was a member of the Baby Boom Generation, but I came to find out I’m really a member of the Silent Generation — born between 1928 and 1945, according to the respected Pew Research Center, which looks at little things, like facts.
My generation was so silent I didn’t even know it existed.
It had to be a mistake. I checked off all the boomer boxes and was right at the top of my class — four babies, two cars in my garage, and I spent money like I actually had it.
I was a child of the Cold War, and believed my teachers when they told me the only way to survive a nuclear bomb was to dive under my desk. I think there might have been a Stupid Generation stuck in there somewhere, too.
Anyway, it was no mistake. I was born in 1944 — two years before the Baby Boom Generation (1946-1964) kicked off. My generation, Time Magazine wrote, was a “small, still flame” compared to the Greatest Generation (1901-1927) before it.
How’s that for a pep talk? A small still flame. We were known for keeping our heads down and working hard. We didn’t take risks, we played it safe because so many of the older, silent members had lived through the Great Depression, and knew what poor was.
We tended to be thrifty and even miserly. In short, we were a generation of accountants and hoarders. I can live with that, but I wasn’t sure my father could.
He served in Okinawa at the tail end of World War II, and, according to Pew, was born six months too late to make the cut for the Greatest Generation. I broke the news to him last Sunday while we were watching the Rams lose another one.
Here’s the thing about my father. He’s blind, except for a slight sliver of blurred vision in the periphery of his right eye. With only that to go on, he has the uncanny ability to see every bad call the refs were making against the Rams, which, by the way, he had fifty bucks on to cover the spread. They didn’t.
So, his mood was a tad bit grumpy when I casually mentioned I was not a baby boomer, as I thought, and he technically missed the Greatest Generation by six months.
My father is a man of few words. You know that term that refers to horse and bull manure, but not chickens? Yeah, that was basically his reply to the Pew Research Center.
It takes a lot to make my father laugh these days since my mom died in March, but I got one out of him at my expense last Sunday when he told me he was born in 1927, not ’28, as I thought.
“Your mother would have enjoyed that one,” he said, smiling. Yes, she would have, pop. She loved it when I was wrong.
With that, my 95-year-old, blind father from the Greatest Generation went back to yelling at the football refs, and his 78-year-old son from the Silent Generation just sat there — a small, still flame enjoying the time we have left together.
Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.