Living in a connected world is depressing. And that's true whether you're connected to the news from Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico or Washington; or scanning the local news in your daily paper. My neighbor has a solution: He gave up watching TV and reading the newspaper long ago, although he does sneak a peek at the sports pages and the obituaries. Keeping up with the death notices is part of the rite of passage into old age.
It's been six decades since I was a kid, but all the kids in our neighborhood were quite happy even though we had just lived through the Depression and a world war. As long as we could play sports in the park or in the street and hang out in front of the corner drugstore, we were happy. Our parents were optimistic about the future, even though many would be factory workers, streetcar motormen or butchers for the rest of their lives. But there was dignity in their work, and their spouses and children held them in high regard, silent heroes in more simple times. They worked long hours and often on Saturdays so their children would have better lives.
But then things began to change. I remember when the local merchants on 63rd Street were forced out of business by the shopping mall, a 30-minute streetcar ride away. Life in the old neighborhood would never be the same. Even the corner drugstore shut down. The local shops, where everybody knew your name, were the heart of our community. It was a sad day.
In 1960, shortly after I got out of the service, we moved to California and in the next few years adopted three wonderful children. I remember looking for a house and found one with a bomb shelter under the driveway. It was an eerie feeling opening the hatch and crawling down into that underground shelter, but it was protection against those enemy missiles aimed at our shores. Yet we were optimistic about the future, optimistic about job opportunities, raising a family and owning a home of our own, living the American dream.
Now that we're approaching our 70th birthdays and 49 years of being together, the world seems much less optimistic than it did in our beginning days in Chicago. From our perch, it's as if the world has gone mad. Here at home we've fallen into two finger-pointing, polarized and warring political camps, and the manufacturing jobs that supported many families in my old neighborhood have long gone. Then there are the cries that engineering and software jobs are also being tossed offshore. But there's more. A new upscale mall, an eight-mile drive from our town, opened last year. At last count five stores on our main street have gone out of business; the corner drugstore closed long ago. This is where we came in.
When Frank isn't waiting to be carted off to the home, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.