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The Berryman makes me think about my older relatives. When you are young, you have these layers of people over you, protecting you, and now it's my 86 year old mother.


It's weird. All the connections back to the past, the people who can remember WWII for instance, disappear. And then one is oneself amongst the elders of the tribe!

And you're probably protecting your mother to some degree, right, Janet?

I know--I have mused about that disappearance of living WWII memories before. Over the next 20-40 years or so the same will be true of the 1960s. I have a feeling that younger people do not see us as the elders of the tribe.

Yes. I think that she would have liked to have done more for me the last few weeks, but Bill is used to my illnesses.

Yes, even things like Kennedy's assassination are fading away pretty fast. One day in history group about 15 years ago, one of the moms was trying to get the kids to remember someone who played a part in the first Gulf War. She kept saying, "Oh come one, I know you remember," and finally it dawned on me that the oldest one there had been about 4.


And that was 15 years ago. For teenagers now, the Gulf War is almost as far off as WWII was for us at that age.

I think I've told this before: I had my big Kennedy shock somewhere over 20 years ago. Standing around at work, the "where were you when you found out that Kennedy was shot?" question came up. People gave their answers until a young woman, pretty recently out of college, said "Well, I don't know where I was because I was only two years old." Sober silence took hold of the rest of us. It wasn't just that she didn't remember, it was that she was an adult.

What I think about deaths like this is that you (that is to say, I) don't realize that you believe that some people must be immortal until it turns out irrefutably that they aren't. I think, "How can there not be a Ray Bradbury on earth," until I remember that for most of human history, there hasn't been. This seems so obvious, yet so strange.

I can't get used to Vietnam veterans' being old. It's the guys who were in WWII who are supposed to be old, and the Civil War veterans who are supposed to be dead. My son Joel's Eagle project for Scouts is an oral history of a local WWII veterans' group, which has involved attending their monthly lunch at the Ryan Family Steakhouse. WWII doesn't seem that long ago, until I see these very old men who fought in it toddling into the steakhouse . . .

(and I hate to admit it, but I was negative one when Kennedy was shot. And yet here I am, middle-aged, with children taller than I am who go around interviewing WWII veterans. Time is strange. )

Yeah, I had that same Kennedy experience at the Newman Center one November 22.


"negative one"--wow. I shouldn't be surprised, because when I was writing that bit earlier I was thinking that the person who shocked me would now be...middle-aged with children taller than she is. Of course I've long since gotten over that particular shock.

"so obvious, yet so strange" pretty much sums up the whole situation.

"as if mountains had disappeared" is exactly right. And then one is astonished that the younger people don't know the shape of those mountains. I feel the same way about my mother and my grandmother--they are so much a part of my mental and emotional landscape that I can't quite believe that they aren't in my children's landscapes. I have to remind myself that my children don't have any actual memories of either of them.

I've been on the other end of the Kennedy moment, though mine was about Vatican II. A professor said to us, "Think back before the council," and we answered, "We can't! We weren't born!"

I've been on that end of the VII moment, too, even though I'm of the age to remember it. Since I was an adult convert ca. 1980, "before the council" was just history to me. At first it was irritating, then it came to seem sad, to hear people my age and up hectoring younger people to throw off the shackles of the pre-conciliar Church, when the only thing they (we) knew was the sappy and daffy post-conciliar one.

I'm currently reading a book about the Fugitive poets, and it dawned on me this morning while reading that the first issue of The Fugitive was published in 1922 -- ninety years ago. Which means that we're nearing the centennial of one of the most important events of modern history, the beginning of WWI. For some reason it had never really dawned on me that the events of the 'teens and twenties, some of which had a profound effect on later history, happened nearly a hundred years ago. When you're a kid and you think "100 years ago" you think it was forever. But so much has happened since, say, 1915, that for some reason it doesn't seem that long. It sort of hit me like a slap to the side of the head.

I've already had that slap, maybe because I'm somewhat younger. Also because I spent much of my 20s thinking about Yeats and Eliot, and it was always significant to me that even then, in the 1970s, they and other big-time modernists were my grandfather's generation, and when he was born there were no automobiles. And then there was the shock in the 1990s of realizing that there were very few people still alive who had been born in the 19th century.

Still, I hadn't thought about the WWI centenary coming up. It has never had a place in my consciousness as large as that of WWII, so maybe that's part of the reason. I'm not likely to see it's centenary though it's not impossible.

Anyway, now that you've pointed it out, I'm surprised that there isn't more talk about this. Only two years away.

When I was younger, I had the opposite shock. For instance, I realized that there had been people alive in my lifetime that were alive during the Civil War. And then, I read about Our Lady of Fatima when I was a child and thought of it as being so long ago and then I found out when I was in my late 30s that Lucia was still alive and that my mother-in-law had been alive when it happened--just one generation away.


Thinking about it more, I realize it can hit me in both ways, depending on...I'm not sure what.

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