The Long Way Home 5.31.24

For nearly 60 years, the television soap opera Days of Our Lives has been a staple of our screens. Its iconic opening sequence, featuring an hourglass and the phrase 'Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives,' has become synonymous with the show. Originally airing on NBC in 1965, the show concluded its run in 2022. The story didn't end there. New episodes are now exclusively available on NBC’s Peacock streaming service. 

The show is set in a fictional city called Salem, IL. There is an honest Salem, IL, and I’ve been there. It was the headquarters of one of the last trucking companies I worked for before my latest attempt at retiring. I don’t recall any bragging in Salem that it was the namesake for a long-running soap opera.

But enough about that.

The hourglass and accompanying phrases remind us that the characters and our lives are steadily slipping away. 

To supplement our fixed income, I do some freelance writing. I’m also a certified and paid aquatic invasive species inspector, but the income and the inspections are seasonal, so I labor on the keyboard as much as possible. 

I spent too much time pondering the past twenty years earlier this month. 

Freelance writing assignments come from editors willing to pay (my motivation) to get the story they want. So last month, when a magazine editor invited me to prepare an article about the changes on the North Shore since 2014, I said yes, with gratitude and commitment. Thus, the time spent pondering.

Some researchers use a 20-year window as a starting point to define a generation. This is because it reflects the gap between when parents have children and when those children become adults. I’d never thought of it that way until I realized four of the five grandchildren that bless us are either sniffing or past the two-decade mark. The other, Dorothy, just finished kindergarten.

Before the grands were born, our children were a generation. As we turn 70 this summer, the bohunk and I have slogged through three and a half generations. 

See what pondering the last two decades can lead to? It gets you pacing the cage. 

“Pacing the Cage” is a moving song written by Bruce Cockburn. The lyrics may seem a bit depressing, but they speak to me. “Sometimes it feels like you’ve lived too long. The days drip slowly on the page. Sooner or later, you wind up pacing the cage.”

Returning to the North Shore more than half a decade ago, the Bohunk and I see a new generation making its way into a popular retirement community and impacting the area. Kids who came of age at the change in the millennium have raised a new generation, and if I’m being honest, I delight in watching them move into the world while I’m pacing the cage.

I remember the “educational” movie Reefer Madness that the powers that be showed to scare us in high school. It was not as scary as the prospect of going to Vietnam, but it made me think about whether I should inhale or not.

I recently read that daily pot consumption exceeds daily alcohol consumption in our great republic. So much for reefer madness.

Sometimes, the sadness of seeing some of the changes that new generations, residents, and visitors bring can get overpowering here in the cage. 

But with hope and optimism, tempered with knowledge and experience, I can beat back the sadness as I watch the brilliant kids I know, our grandkids and the children of friends and neighbors, begin tackling the challenges we’ve left unmet.

I even look forward to being at the boat landings, away from the cage, to inspect for invasive species and interact with a diverse group of people--locals and visitors. See ya out there.