Dad’s Not Old- Cultural Reference Points

In the silent of the night I can hear the echoes of the past reaching out to me. Silent ghost like images march before my eyes, begging for my attention. Moments of time when I wasn’t anything more than the boy who lived in his parent’s home are intermixed with fragments of the future. The boy becomes a man, the son becomes a father.

In the midst of all this I stand in front of the mirror. It is Wednesday night and I am getting ready to play in my basketball game. White high tops, blue shorts, a dark t-shirt and two days growth are about to accompany me to the door. Just before I leave I look in the mirror again and do my best to look menacing. It is part of my pregame routine. Something that I have been doing for about 30 years or so.

As the realization of just how long I have been doing this washes over me I shake my head. Did I really start this during the first Reagan administration, or does it go back a bit farther, to the days when Billy Carter was making headlines for Billy Beer and Jimmy was talking about lust in his heart..

Maybe…I started playing t-ball somewhere around ’75, but I am fairly certain that it took a bit of time for the pregame ritual to start. So who knows, could have been ’78 or ’80. Doesn’t really matter all that much because I don’t feel old.

The mysterious pundits that people refer to as “they” claim that you age is a state of mind. If there is truth to that than my upcoming birthday doesn’t matter. So what if the calendar says that I am turning 41, old Jack says he is between twenty and twenty-five.

Out on the basketball court that makes me one of the old guys, but I certainly don’t feel it…much. The mind never forgets what the body used to be able to do and the ego never stops trying to do it again. When I am out there doing battle I am just one of the guys having a good time blowing off steam.

Most of the time I don’t notice the difference in age between myself and the twenty-somethings that I play against.The operative phrase being “most of the time.”

It is only during the in between or after game discussions that I become cognizant of the differences. Cultural reference points have become much sharper and far more distinct.

Off hand remarks about old television shows are sometimes met with looks of confusion. All In The Family, Bonanza, The Brady Bunch and Mash aren’t viewed by my young friends with any sort of nostalgia. If I hear the themes to any of those shows I am instantly transported back in time

If we talk about technology few of them know about how you could purchase tubes for your TV at the drug store. They don’t know about “rabbit ears” and how you’d fiddle with them to get a clear picture. They don’t remember that TV wasn’t always available all night long.

It wasn’t always like this for me. I used to be the kid everywhere I went. I heard hundreds of stories about where people were when JFK was shot and how that was a life changing moment. Frankly it used to irritate the hell out of me. I wanted to grab them and say to stop living in the past. Funny, when did I become one of them. I mean, I am not really one of them, but in some ways I am.

The Cold War was real. It was a big deal and I remember the conversations. The Iranian hostage crisis isn’t something that I learned about in a book, I lived it. Just like I lived through so many other “historical events.”

I remember hearing about Watergate and how Nixon got lucky. I remember when Reagan was shot by John Hinckley. And the uproar a few years later when John Lennon was murdered.

My friends and I never worried about social media. No concerns over what happened in chatrooms. But we did talk about going to the record store to buy an album. A few even picked up 8 tracks cassettes.

Let’s not forget how excited we were with being able to rent movies. Hopefully you picked up a VCR and not a Betamax.

As our parents shifted over from rotary phones we figured out how to press the buttons so that the beeps would play songs.

We started to come of age alongside video games. Pong, Space Invaders and Asteroids were a big deal.

If you were lucky you had Intellivision and not an Atari 2600. Don’t get me wrong that 2600 was a trusted friend that I spent many hours with, but it didn’t have the electronic voice that would growl “yer out” during baseball games.

I suppose that every generation goes through a period of introspection in which they complain about the newcomers or the shortcomings of those who came before. We’re no different. I look back and remember the freedom we had.
We walked to school, rode our bikes everywhere and stayed out until dinner time. The monsters of the night that we moms and dads fear now were there, but the news cycle wasn’t constant so no one payed attention. It was a time when parents could beat the hell out of their children in public and no one said anything. That is not something that I look back up with wistful smile, but the reality.
I saw kids get smacked in department stores, parking lots and grocery stores. You didn’t mouth off with reckless abandon.
The social and civil changes of the sixties were still causing waves in the seventies and eighties. My children didn’t care what color the presidential candidates were. Race meant nothing to them. I was more than pleased about that. Score one for now.
Back then my parents didn’t have to listen to my siblings and I beg for computers and cellphones. I remember as car phones slowly sifted down through the ranks of the very wealthy to the upper middle class. If you had a car phone in high school it meant that you were dealing or your parents were loaded.
Somewhere around my freshman year of college beepers stopped being the sole province of doctors and entered the mainstream. I saw how they could be used as an electronic leash and refused to get one. 
Personal computers hit the scene many years before I started my career as a university student, but they weren’t considered to be a requirement for students. The majority of us labored away on our Smith Corona typewriters. By the time I was a senior that had changed somewhat, but not completely.
Ask your children now if they know what liquid paper is or why it was cool to have an Erasermate pen. If  they respond by imitating J.J.Walker and shout “Dynomite” you need to have your eyes checked because you are not dealing with a child. Or if you are your child is a little bit old to be called a child.

There is a long list of other items that can be included in this. I can talk about how I transitioned from being the kid in the office to a seasoned veteran. It was crystallized for me when I tried to build a rapport during a meeting by discussing the affect that 9-11 had on business travel and learned that the other attendees had been students when it took place.

If I say “mom always said don’t play ball in the house” my kids take it literally and not as a reference to The Brady Bunch. A friend tried to make a joke about LOST by suggesting that it would be more interesting with Gilligan on the island. It flopped not only because it wasn’t funny but because the 23 year-old he said it to had never seen the show.

We really aren’t old, but we have lived long enough that some of our cultural reference points are dating us a bit. It is sort of a funny place to be in, but I am ok with that. It is not like I have too many options. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go place my order for my Ginsu Knife and the cool kitchen tool that RONCO is selling. And maybe if I have any money left over I’ll buy one of those KTEL music collections, they are pretty cool.

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