Now ensconced in that “curmudgeonly old uncle” demographic, I’ve become particularly attentive to holiday gatherings, weddings, even the birth of great-grand-nieces and nephews. I envy the prospects, insights and opportunities of younger generations. And though I try not to belie my trepidation, I twitch at some cultural practices beyond my comprehension or those that jolt my moral conscience.
Being of the generation we are, my husband and I recently delighted in the chance to fold an embossed wedding program into our suit pockets. It seems we reenact that gesture much more often with memorial cards these days! We celebrated all the more in the warm glow of our grandniece’s wedding — the couple’s promises of faithful love, long awaited reunions with family, surprise encounters with friends we haven’t seen in decades.
Only the birth of a baby is better than a wedding! Fortunately we have a family flurry of these as well — flashes of unmitigated joy hold us in an embrace of love. These are all special occasions, liminal moments, transitory times grounding us before an inevitable return to the hum-drum of a daily routine — what we typically call “reality”.
That confounding admixture of exuberant revelry with that which love really looks like day-to-day, moved me to pull aside a favorite nephew-in-law for some honest talk. He’s a career meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Witnessing the youth, promise and expectations filling the banquet room, I needed to know, “How bad is it?” His professional perspective would be unvarnished — if only because we will soon be celebrating the marriage of his son and a fiancé who charmed us with their presence at our table.
Pat’s ever present smile and the Irish glint in his eye revealed his indomitable good humor. “It’s serious, Richard!” With dance music muffling his words, he explained that his attention is focused on North America. Still, he soberly reported that we are “well on our way” to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. We will have winters when Minnesota lakes do not freeze over. It will be worse in the northern part of the hemisphere. The poor will be especially hard hit! My mind reeled while recognizing this is a mere 28 years from today.
Perhaps it is best to hear such sobering assessments in the context of a family celebration of birth or while witnessing the exchange of promises to love one another in good times and bad, in sickness and health, forever! In none of this are we to be naive, delusional or unrealistic. As in marriage, that is not an option!
Whatever hope we may muster has to be grounded in a love that — finally, in the end — is really what its all about! Am I an old curmudgeon for worrying and questioning what gift we are giving to young couples and our newly born?