Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A privileged man

When I looked at young man sitting next to me, I suddenly realized how special the situation was. The absence of boundaries, not feeling reserved whatsoever, being part of a cosmos that includes two different generations, may be a recognizable feeling for those who are parents. But when that entire spectrum of feelings and experiences that accompany that thing called parenthood is not yours, a relationship like this is all the most significant to me.

Years ago I found myself in a somewhat awkward situation. Objectively it may not have been so odd, but I did feel a bit uncomfortable. While visiting the spa in Noordwijk with the teenage son of my cousin - who we shall call my nephew here - and taking a shower, I noticed a man and a woman walking in. I instantly recognized the guy as someone who used to work at that same spa, and who left for a trip around the world a year before. Both took position right across us. There was no way to quietly slip away, and this was one talkative guy. And you don't tell about a world trip in one minute. Call me old fashioned, but he and his girlfriend were standing in full frontal view right before us. I felt uncomfortable. Physical inconvenience added to my mental uneasyness. The showers were hot and damp, and the story rolled on and on. Too cowardish to end the conversation myself, I projected my discomfort on my nephew. “You must be melting by now, is it time to leave?” I looked at him. He was leaning against the wall, relaxed, the warm water rushing down his body. “I'm fine,” he said. “I'm listening to the stories.” It was the first and last time that I tried to use him for my own advantage.

People who have children are part of their offspring's lives. Well, at least, that's how it is supposed to be. Maybe even without noticing it, they have their feelers in the world of younger generations. That is a valuable privilege. It is all too easy to focus yourself on the mindsets of the people your own age when there is no younger generation in your life. There's a genuine danger here. You might get stuck in those 'it was better back when we were young' thoughts and a new grumpy old man is born. For sure, things are not always better now, but younger people are not doing it the wrong way by default. Why is it, that we tend to think that they always need our advice and that they are never able to sculpt their lives without our guiding hands? 

Photo taken during a New England, Maine and Quebec trip many years ago.
We stayed in this motel at Lac Mégantic, Quebec.

But let's not get too philosophical here. It could squeeze all joy out of life. Fact is however, that a 24 year age difference seems to evaporate when we get together. Were we, some 15 years ago, both just the persons and role models we were both looking for? Whatever it was, it did not only bring friendship, but for me it also opened the door to the world of younger generations. Maybe my only chance to be part of what otherwise would most likely be unknown to me? I enjoy their dynamics, but also see their challenges, like the problems that are confronting young parents. There are people who simply turn away the moment the responsibilities of friendship include a genuine effort to listen to what young people have to deal with. I can't do that. It's all in the game. Friendship is non-committal.

Last Saturday was our monthly sauna visit. It has been that way for thirteen years. Of course, these are not the only occasions we see each other, but it is the perfect way to sit down and listen to the latest updates on kids and school, work and recession, the weekend away with the in-laws. There were serious moments, and there was laughter, because after all, men will always be boys. There were coffee, beer and smoked salmon baguettes. Just the two of us for a few hours. It could have been so different. Suppose we never grabbed that opportunity to get to know each other?
It was a precious day. I am a privileged man.


  1. Ik heb een vraagje, Martin: hoe stel jij die gerelateerde links in met plaatjes onder aan je bericht? Wat is de precieze weg daarheen?

    1. Dat is een 'related posts' widget, die je kunt toevoegen aan de html van je Blogger template. Die zoekt dan naar vergelijkbare berichten aan de hand van de tags die je aan een bericht toewijst.
      Er zijn er diversen van beschikbaar, hier lees je er meer over:
      Ik weet zelf niet meer welke ik gebruik, maar als je er niet uitkomt, laat het nog even weten.

    2. Dat ziet er ingewikkeld uit. Ik dacht dat het gewoon een instelling binnen 'berichten' was. Ik bekijk de site nog even aandachtig en als ik er niet uitkom, laat ik het maar even zo. Liever maar voorzichtig aan met blogger.

    3. Hier is een duidelijk uitleg, je moet alleen één woord vervangen door de code die op die pagina ziet staan: Als je eerst de html van je template kopieert en als reserve achter de hand houdt, heb je niets te vrezen.

    4. Daar waag ik me niet aan hoor, html-codes. Maar wel bedankt voor het doorgeven.

  2. Marilyn Martin via Facebook:
    Another entertaining and interesting story. I never had kids either, but sure do enjoy having my sisters and George's in my life. We don't have any public saunas that I know about, so no worries for me to ever face that full frontal dilemma. LOL