We were not always old fogies

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Nov 29, 2017

Once Upon a Time

Far, far ago, we old folk used to be human beings too.

Our kids can pretty much remember our younger selves but by the time our grandchildren come along, all they’ve ever known is our graying, wrinkling selves. We are Grampa and Gramma to them and to others, just old fogies.

Cultures like the Chinese and Native Americans taught their children from the get go who their grandparents were and ancestors on back through the generations. Genealogy charts in European countries were a part of family records. And family or no, young folk were taught to "respect your elders."

For some time now, those customs have largely gone by the wayside. Indeed, they've deteriorated to such a degree that even some in government look upon people over 75 as a drag on society, no longer productive, without worth.

The Native Americans had a different take on their elders. They respected them as holders of wisdom gathered through long decades of experience and observation. They were given the dignity of still being valuable for advice and knowledge.

They mostly taught and retained their family histories through oral tradition, through story telling. A child grew up knowing their heritage. It gave a solid sense of belonging. This was a source of pride, but even more so, a sense of responsibility to those that came before. To misbehave was to bring shame to your ancestors, shame upon the heads of the family. It was the greatest punishment and to be avoided. The Native Americans did not use, or need, corporal punishment.

When I was growing up, this respect was still a cultural norm. Most certainly, you did not talk back to your elders. Nor did you interrupt when others were speaking, especially if they were your elders. Not if you didn't want your ears boxed. And I feel fortunate, indeed, that my grandchildren are respectful young people, especially to "their elders."

But the past couple of decades, for the most part, things have changed in society. Civility across the board seems in short supply. The other day I found myself, while visiting in a friend's home, in conversation with a young man my grandkids' age. No matter what the subject of the conversation, whenever I or a friend, also an "elder," offered up something on it, we would be interrupted and refuted and given the benefit of his obviously superior knowledge on the subject. Any subject. He even overrode my friend on something that he had been involved in all his life and is known for his expertise in.

My friend was forbearing of this young whippersnapper, having been raised in the age of civility. But this was my second experience with this young man and I had a hard time not to dress him down — or box his ears. He was overriding me on subjects I have spent several decades researching and reading, writing, and/or have had experience with. (One of my grandsons was there and, bless his heart, would quietly correct the young man with: "Actually, Gramma's right.")

Of course, that didn't phase him. He then just doubled down to prove us both wrong.

I use this young man only as an example of what now seems to be the norm. Disrespect. Couple that with a misplaced confidence in one's knowledge and it's downright annoying.

Both my friend and I pretty much let the young man slide without setting him straight. At our age, we tend to give ignorance a pass. Smile inside and turn to conversation with others.

However, two passes is my limit. If there's a third time, I am liable to give him his comeuppance. That's another skill we old fogies have mastered.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.


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