Now, In Our Day: Part 3

We were spending the weekend at my mother’s home in New Castle when one of Grandpa Kelly’s brothers and his son and daughter-in-law dropped in on their way from Tennessee to Frankfort. He was a fine looking, erect, white-haired old gentleman who was dressed in a natty suit. I knew that he was at least ninety. (Grandpa’s people remained active until well into their nineties.)
Great-uncle Arta exclaimed to Mother, “Ruth, isn’t this a wonderful world?” I thought to myself, “Wow! How marvelous that such an old man would be so optimistic!” Then he continued and burst my bubble. “Yes siree, Ruth, Judgment Day and Jesus are coming soon, and all this will end!” Oh dear!
Forty years later, the end still hasn’t come — thank goodness! Regardless of its many ills, this old world is all that humanity has until we can colonize other planets in the future. However, as I approach the big “eight-oh,” I struggle daily to fight off pessimism.
When I consider the degradation of nature throughout the world such as strip mines close to Utah’s pristine Bryce Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef; the threats to the environment; the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of insane dictators; the extreme poverty and the subjugation of females in some countries; and the viciousness of self-righteous extremists in America who deny others free speech and refuse even to consider other people’s ideas, I find it difficult to remain optimistic.
When we reach the age of around seventy we look back through rose-colored glasses at the past of our youth. Nephew John and I are wont to say, “Now, in our day . . .“ when we reminisce about our childhood. Although it is heartwarming to view the past as if through golden-hued gauze, I have a mind that remembers. They called the songwriter/singer, Mel Torme “the velvet fog.” He entitled his memoirs It Wasn’t All Velvet. It wasn’t all velvet in John’s and my day, either.
Sometimes I feel as if all I’ve ever known is war. My brother-in-law, Donald, literally lost his mind when he was a radio operator on a transport plane that flew back and forth from Burma to China. Flying the “Hump” over the Himalayas was considered one of the most terrifying and dangerous duties of World War II. Some of the planes couldn’t fly high enough, so their pilots had to weave — often without adequate maps and navigational tools — between the mountains. Extreme turbulence caused airplanes to drop thousands of feet in a few seconds. One-third of the crews died when planes crashed or were shot down by the Japanese. Donald spent most of the rest of his life in a VA hospital.
My brother-in-law, Arnold Thurston, described crawling on his belly during the Battle of the Bulge, directing tank traffic with a whistle. Another brother-in-law, Orville Jones of Knightstown, brought back a snapshot of the stacks of starved bodies of the inmates of a small concentration camp. Their legs were no larger than my slender arms. What would have become of Europe and the Far East if Americans hadn’t led and sacrificed?
A Knightstown boy, the brother of one a classmate, was killed in Korea. Nephew John served in Vietnam. Most recently, our grandson, Bill, did a tour of duty in Iraq.
I remember vividly the newspaper headline that announced in 1949 when I was twelve years old that Russia had the atomic bomb. Until fairly recent years, I had a recurring nightmare: Mother, neighbor Gertrude Scovell and I are standing out in our backyard at dusk, watching a bright light in the sky that’s drawing closer and closer. It’s a Russian plane, coming to drop an atomic bomb on Knightstown — of all places!
And I haven’t even mentioned racism, religious prejudice, the second-class position of women, the lack of reliable birth control and quality senior facilities, and diseases such as tuberculosis and polio.
Yep, those were the good old days!