Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Trains running us down.....

Remember when we were in school and we had to learn to read timelines in some really interesting class, like history or geography? Time meanders along that line from left to right, the years and centuries passing easily, no bloodshed or angst along the way. Just like real life, right?

Oh, I don't think so. Hold up there a minute, OK? Our perspective changes daily anyway, but as we age we find that we're viewing our personal timelines from right to left, looking back along that line of bad decisions, joyous occasions, and just plain stupidity that have played out in our lives. The individual events on our personal timelines are different, of course, but I bet most of us over the age of 50 can look back along our histories and pinpoint places where we wish we had exercised a bit of good judgment or intelligence instead of...well, what we did.

I've become so aware of this, especially as my daughter matures and makes her own way. We see our kids headed like trains toward a stop on their timeline that looks a lot like ours did, and we want to throw ourselves on the tracks, stopping that engine any way we can in order to save them the heartbreak and trouble we experienced. We might have even tried once or twice, and sometimes they listen. More often not, though.

There is this human learning curve that seems to dictate that we tote around our own timelines, absolutely sure that WE won't fall into that trap, you know, the one that older people warned us about? Get out of the way, Mom, I love you but you didn't know what you were doing. THAT won't happen to ME, so thanks, but I'm staying on this track and I'll call you when I get there.

Unfortunately, THERE usually ends up looking exactly like a station I got stuck in once, too. And when they call, they need help to get the heck out of there. The locomotive ran them over and chugged on ahead without them.

In our culture, older people are not seen as having anything worthwhile to add to our lives. They're used up and worn out, sitting in corners, tolerated, or worse yet, ignored. When they talk, we nod and smile and discount them.

You notice I'm suddenly including myself in the WE. Because we were no different, were we? We refused to accept that someone else, and certainly not an aging parent or mentor, might have been able to save us from hurt and pain and expense. Intelligence skipped your generation, Dad, so thanks but I'll be on my way.

Until our perspective shifts to viewing that timeline from the far end of the darn thing, backwards through time already passed. Then, we find ourselves beginning a lot of sentences with, "If only I'd listened........" And the train moves on down the tracks.

I never expected that. I didn't aim for that. All I wanted was to get some nice pictures of trains at night.
O. Winston Link


  1. I'm not 50 yet, but believe me I can relate. I so badly wish my kids could just learn from my mistakes and not have to suffer the heartaches and disappointments I have endured.

  2. We all wish that, don't we?? But I'm convinced that God or whatever you believe in has hard wired us to experience life on our own, even though we could save ourselves a lot of trouble by learning from our parents, etc. Sad, but true...