“People are crazy, times are strange. I’m locked in tight; I’m out of range. I used to care but, things have changed.” Bob Dylan, “Things Have Changed.”
We came of age with the battle cry of, “Sex Drugs and Rock N’ Roll Forever.” In these supposedly post-recession days, many so-called seniors are looking through their hazy memories of an outrageous past into the present certainties of lost equity, crushed 401Ks, alienated children and divorce.
People decades younger talk glibly about the, “Graying of America,” and “The Grays,” as though being over 55 makes you part of an endangered species. Have they never heard of L’Oréal, Clairol, or the “Life Style Lift?” Take a look at Cher these days!
Our kids, the Generation X and Y’s have no clue what the era of “Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll,” was all about. They don’t understand that it was a never-ending revolution which beats on in our hearts. Long ago, we buried our guilt from bruising the minds of those who simply could not understand. We still tell it like it is; deal with it.
Our youth was a time when the humongous sound amplifiers of groups like The Jefferson Airplane pushed the world off its axis just far enough for the angels of altruism to fly in and be heard; when John Lennon and Bob Dylan became Poets Laureate to the world, when walking around Europe or the Middle East on a poverty budget was only as dangerous as riding the New York subway. It was a time when the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco was the center of another world where girls dressed themselves in flowers and flowing gowns or not at all; when Harvard Professor, Timothy Leary promoted LSD as a short-cut to enlightenment and his tiny pills exploded the consciousness of thousands. Surfing on acid – Crazy!
Nevertheless, altruism died in the jungles of Viet Nam. Patriots coming home were rewarded with spit on their uniforms and the eventual disclosure that it had all been a lie. A deluded President who thought he could run a war from the Oval Office found he’d lost it and in the process, caused the deaths of tens of thousands. Even though the anti-war demonstrators were proven right, the country was broken; Utopian dreams had expired.
We got jobs, married, bought homes with mortgages, reared children, and crushed our creative spirits into the manufactured lifestyle designed by Madison Avenue. While we were trapped in the status quo, our music graduated from tapes to C.D.s. Decades later, when the kids went on to live their own lives, we discovered that we’d lost whatever it was that brought us together and the old songs were echoing through hollow lives.
The mandatory makeover of souls from blithe to banal had worn thin and, like an old sweater that was always too tight, it was trashed. Many began smoking pot again but now as legitimate Medical Marijuana patients. For some, the path to freedom was reinvented – smoke a joint at the kitchen table, make a list of who gets what, file for divorce, revive the old familiar craziness.
Of course there were those souls on the fringes of the revolution – the Baby Boomers without a Rock soundtrack. They followed in their parents’ footsteps; married for life, worked hard, went to church, listened to Liberace or Lawrence Welk, raised a family, played with their grandchildren and looked forward to peaceful golden years. Then one or the other decided to have a different kind of old age – as a Single. The oath, “Till death do us part,” was deleted.
(Statistics are pointing toward an increasing number of divorces of people 55 and over.)
There’s no doubt that divorce at any age hurts. The question for Boomers is; does it hurt because there once was love and now there’s none? Or do we mourn the loss of our integrity because we once believed it was negotiable?
Did the artists among us sell out to get paid for ad agency work; have all the novelists retreated into teaching, are the adventurers stuck in their dens replacing life with National Geographic on the weekend, did the poets decide they had nothing more to say?
Bob Dylan’s song, “Things Have Changed,” could be a Boomer Anthem. Perhaps when you’re feeling down and have no energy for your family, club, travel or the garden, you can play this as a kind of reminder that you are still you no matter what hand you’ve been dealt.
Thank you U Tube!
copyright (c) 2015 Susannah Morgan Surgeoner