Today is my mother’s 90th birthday, which makes me, well, never you damned mind.
In the past few days this milestone has given me reason to contemplate her life and my own, viewing things from the perspective of how far society as a whole has advanced during our respective lifetimes. For example, at the time I was conceived at least, man had yet to set foot on the surface of the Moon, while today it’s been over 45 years since we’ve bothered to take that journey. I’ve seen nine men serve as the President of my country, three of whom being either criminal, inherently stupid, or both. I witnessed the dawn of the information age and the decline of the industrial one, and am starting to see signs of the next age, though I’m not quite sure the exact shape and scope of its form.
My mother, meanwhile, is older than the concept of sliced bread. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but a literal one. The earliest public documentation of the concept of sliced bread was published in December 1928, while my mother was in swaddling clothes. She pre-dates not the Great Recession, but the Great Depression. The name “Adolf Hitler” had never been heard by 99% of the American people, and his Nazi party six months earlier had only 12 seats of the 491 comprising the German Reichstag. Meanwhile at home, Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States (that’s 16 presidents ago, for those scoring at home), and the concept of a trip cross-country from Pennsylvania to California seemed as daunting as one would forty years later from the Earth to the Moon.
Having been in ill health for some time it is exceptionally unlikely she’ll read this, or ever have this read to her. She never touched a computer in her life save to hand her youngest, then 14-year old son one as a Christmas present. But in contemplating my nearly 50 (damnit, you got it out of me) years shuffling around this mortal coil and seeing what has happened thus far, and then contemplating what she has seen come and go during her 90 years to date? I can’t even remotely imagine what the next forty years – whether I’m around to see them all or not – will bring to mankind. I can’t imagine they’ll all be good things. But for sake of my children, their potential children, and yours, I hope they are.