Better then or now?

By Joe Rector

I’m sitting on the front porch and waiting for the storm to roll in. No guarantees are given, but the air has cooled, the skies are filling with a thick blanket of dark clouds, and the thunder is rumbling in the distance. I suppose some would say I’m not too smart to sit here with a computer in my lap and the air charged with electricity, but I’ve always loved to sit and watch the rain fall. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a thought on my mind about how we all seem to want to go back to the past sometimes. Sitting in one of my favorite places and pecking out thoughts on the screen might clear the whole thing out of my head.

Part of the reason we sometimes have that longing to go back is that our lives have grown weary from adulthood. We have responsibilities now. Work isn’t a choice for most of us; we toil so that we can pay for roofs over our heads and food in our stomachs. Some stash a little cash in the bank for emergencies. Just when our lives seem to be going well, the HVAC drops dead, or the refrigerator stops cooling.

As big people, many of us have children. The average cost of taking care of one offspring is about $18,000 a year. So, by the time a child reaches the age of 17, the cost has reached a whopping $310,605. Think about that before you decide to add another little one to the family.

The longing for past times grows ever stronger. Childhood is something that brings smiles to most of us. We played with friends, still liked school, and had food on the tables and warm water for baths. Our decisions were few; they were made for us by the big people in the house. A rained-out day at the pool or having a set bedtime were the biggest problems we had.

As we grow older, our desire to “go back” involves loved ones. Folks want to be with parents and brothers and sisters, and friends again. It’s a natural thing to miss those we loved in our early lives. I find it almost impossible to believe that high school friends and even students whom I taught are gone. I also know that the days ahead of me are fewer than the ones behind me and that sometimes makes me long to be young again. All these pains associated with age also have me thinking about the “good old days.”

The truth of the matter is that we aren’t going backward. Our lives are meant to continue in spite of the devastating blows that come our way. Some of the best things lie in front of childhood. I wouldn’t take anything from the past that might keep me from having found Amy at Tennessee Tech. No gifts from back then are close to the ones that came with the arrivals of Lacey and Dallas. Nieces and nephews and friends have made my life full and rich. Teaching school was something I loved until the last year of my career. Who would ever have thought that I’d be lucky enough to write a weekly column for a paper or a couple of books or some items for other publications? Even retirement is a pure blessing. To spend days with Amy, even if we have our separate activities, is a blessing. Most evenings, we sit in front of the television. The couch has recliners, and between us sits, Sadie, the sweetest dog that the good lord sent us when we needed her most.

I hope I have several more years here with my family and friends. My brother Jim and I have plenty of work to do on our golf games, and Amy and I are starting to do the old folks tours. I want to see what the future holds for my children and for this country that is struggling right now. The truth is that my past was good and my present ain’t too bad either.