We take a lot of looks at the interaction of baby boomers with younger generations. But how about boomers and the generation that came before it? Larry Checco of Silver Spring, Maryland, has written a touching piece for BoomerCafé that he calls, One Stone Upon Another.
Mike died nearly a year ago. He was 90. For 25 years prior to his death, he and I met for lunch at least once, more often twice a month.
Over good Italian food and glasses of wine — for him a light Pinot Grigio; me, a dark, heavy Cab — we talked about everything: politics, religion, philosophy, sex, climate change, the economy, love, life, death, you name it.
The luncheon table was our fire circle where year after year, a member of the Great Generation and a member of the Boomer Generation contentedly passed down their stories, thoughts, ideas, and family lore. We learned a lot from each other.
Fact is, Mike lived independently, quietly and alone, and died the same. Never married. No kids. Little in the way of any meaningful family ties. Yet he was a pillar of humanity.
Mike spent decades as an editor and writer on health care issues. He loved books and literature, and in retirement wrote short stories, served on the board of a nonprofit literacy organization, and tutored adults how to read.
For years, and up until his final days, Mike volunteered at a soup kitchen, dispensing food and sage advice to those often not mindful enough to receive it. “How are these poor people going to get by?” he would rhetorically ask me in true humanitarian angst.
Neurotically self-effacing, never feeling “good enough” as the result of a dysfunctional, emotionally abusive childhood, Mike stated in his will that upon his death he wanted no obituary, no memorial service.
I knew this, and over many lunches tried to convince him otherwise. But Mike would have none of it. For Mike, death was the absolute end point. Nothing more followed. Nothing more needed to be said.
A recent trip to Ireland, however, firmly convinced me of the error and impossibility of leave-no-trace-behind mindset.
You see, I love old stones. They speak to me. And Ireland is littered with them. Yeats said that for every star God put in the sky, he placed a million stones on Connemara.
But it’s not the stones, themselves. Rather it’s what humankind has done with these stones.
Placing one painstakingly upon another, houses and walls were built to contain and protect families and livestock. Gargantuan stones were somehow transported great distances, either placed in modest circles or raised to soaring heights for spiritual purposes.
What struck me in all this is that super humans didn’t build these structures. Rather people like Mike, people like you and me, ordinary folks, many faceless and unknown, were constantly at work. And still are.
One stone upon another upon another, and here we are today.
It’s all related. Nay, we’re all related. It’s the chaos theory in practice. A butterfly that flaps its wings on one side of the world affects a hurricane on the opposite side.
In some inexplicable way it all makes perfect sense. All you need do is look at the stones. They tell the story.
I don’t know where death takes us, if anywhere. But if you’re reading this, Mike, know that you did make a difference, that you placed your stone, that your time on planet Earth was well spent.
Also know that I offer no apologies to you for writing this.