The world these days is frighteningly different from the one my 80-year-old father-in-law grew up in.
Laid up yesterday in medical suspension, his crankiest complaining-point centered on the attendant whose faulty assistance could not prevent the fall that now confines him to a hospital bed.
“No speaka de English,” railed the old white guy about the “foreigner” minimum-wage health-care provider.
Yeah, it was all her fault, dad, that you fell.
They’re not like your Irish-immigrant ancestors who were speaking the Queen’s English (ha!) in New Jersey neighborhoods back in the day. And I guess you forgot about the Italians who had lived around the corner, or maybe you blocked them out of your memory, although I know for a fact that you later gained an intense appreciation of their restaurants and their wine.
This slow drift toward chronic fault-finding with the presently-devolving world is something I’ve noticed lately. I’ve encountered it in my own late-50s bad self. My father-in-law, however, seems to have a full-blown case of the grumpies.
He always was a perfectionist, though. That’s how it starts, you know, as if Aristotelian attempts to impose logical order on the chaotic–or some would say “dumb”– world, might actually have a constructive impact. He’s an engineer, able to make sense–and productive systems or machines–out of numbers and physical forces. Unfortunately, human beings–and anything that they initiate or maintain–do not conform to those logical paradigms.
A little bit later, though, as our attention to his present circumstance mellowed his attitude somewhat, I became amazed at the old guy’s mental sharpness. Here’s the grumpy fella imprisoned in a hospital bed, but he’s been watching numerous reports about the infamous oil spill in the Gulf. While analyzing this world-threatening problem, his engineer’s mind had recovered every millimeter of acuity. With a precise understanding of what BP guys were attempting to do to stop the gushing oil, he spoke lucidly about their mud-pumping strategies. His practical brain was striving to ascertain where such a massive amount of mud would be readily obtained and stored, and calculating pressure differentials between inside the pipe and outside it, in the mile-deep water…62 and a half pounds per cubic foot of water times x number of feet in height…
What a miserable cataclysm was being presented, by hospital-room tv on the wall, to his octogenerian eyes. What’s happening to the world? Is it going down the tubes? Where are ya when we need ya, Shirley Temple?
What a debilitating, toxifying effluent cast upon the fertile fish-yielding, mouth-of-Mississippi waters in which his sons had fished only six weeks ago!
What a screwed-up world has unwound during his eighty years…although it is maybe not so alarming compared to what Hitler was doing to Europe when the the Jersey kid was only pubescent.
What a messed up world! Has it always been this way? Has it always been getting worse, with more pollution spewing, more politicians cheating, more lobbyists bribing, more people speaking alien languages at you, more rogue-states killing, more priests molesting, more unruly kids fucking, more of the world sucking…has it always been this way?
Or is that paranoia just hyper-critical cantankerism of the washed-up geezers (could that soon be me ?) in a world that has always been so?
Well, I think not.
In times past, we could discern the possibility that man might someday destroy himself. But nowadays, I fear we might actually have the technological capability to do it.
That’s not a comforting thought for a middle-aged guy like me watching his father-in-law with all those tubes and wires stuck in him, knowing it might be me in the not-too-distant future.
Assuming we have a future.
Oh, shut yo mouth, fool!