We are a short time here and a long time gone.
They Can’t Come Back
It’s been many years since the passing of one of America’s most beloved newspaper columnists, Erma Bombeck. Her humor and wisdom entertained and instructed us for decades. One of Erma’s most poignant pieces involved a father with a fetish for his emerald green lawn. He babied, feed, and watered it with great love and obsession, but was always frustrated by the carnage wrought by his children and their friends upon it. Batters’ boxes dug holes into its immaculate complexion and base paths gouged lines and tracks into its seamless surface. The father, grumbling to his spouse about the damage being inflicted into his greensward, lamented, “Will it ever come back? As time passed and the father’s brood grew and inevitably left, the lawn was restored to its former magnificence. As a senior citizen, the father gazed again out the window and upon the pristine lawn. His thoughts went back to his children who no longer were to be seen upon it. Wistfully, and with more than a touch of sadness, the man turned to his wife and questioned, “Will they ever come back?
I can’t recount the story as skillfully as Erma Bombeck did many years ago, but the gist stuck with me nevertheless. The developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, informs us that humans develop through a series of stages, lifelong, that revolve around human contact. He refers to them as psychosocial stage of development. From our beginnings, from bonding with our caregivers as infants to our search for dignity and purpose in the last years of our existence, individuals strive to relate with others. Erikson asserts that this is our most basic need: to connect with others.
Fair enough. It seems to make sense. Hermitism does seem to be an aberration. But here is the big question: If we accept the above as a true observation of the human condition, why do we spend so much time and psychic energy wishing for the reverse, griping about the “otherness” that surrounds us? Husbands complain about their wife’s annoying reminders. Wives lament sloppiness and lack of listening skills. Even good bosses are seen as vexing because of some nettlesome quirk. Co-workers may prattle about reality TV or inclement weather. On and on it goes. The examples of irritating “otherness” are as ubiquitous as there are souls inhabiting the planet.
But do we really want to live alone? Do we want to work in complete isolation? Do we really seek “aloneness” rather than “otherness”? When our loved ones are gone, will we really be happier? No more cracks about underwear left outside the hamper or jabs about unattended garbage to be transported outside. No more reason to get up in the morning to go to work. Sleep in all day, everyday. It may sound good at the moment, or even for a day. But how about for the rest of our lives?
To turn a phrase on Erma’s “lawn story,” will we find ourselves staring out of a metaphorical window and sadly recognize that “they can never come back.”
Homework: I think my readers know the assignment and do not need to be instructed about it.
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Closed eyes can’t see the white roses.
Cold hands can’t hold them, you know.
Breath that is stilled cannot gather? the odors
that sweet from them blow.
It’s children of earth doth endow .
Life is the time we can help them,
so give them the flowers now.
-Believed to have been writing by a WWII jet pilot fighter