Many of us grew up hearing that our generation was “the future.” But as a child, the future seemed so far off. Growing older seemed impossible.
To a child, hearing your elementary teacher was 25 years old made them appear ancient. Time is so hard to grasp when you are young, and in that moment, you can’t fathom years beyond your own next birthday.
But the older I get, the more I see how fast time goes, how there is never enough time, and how much time you spend thinking about time you’ve lost or misspent.
Time is more apparent to me when I attend memorial services.
In recent weeks, I have attended the services of local legends.
I’ve read the life stories of wonderful people we’ve lost, with the concept of time now but a part of written and oral history.
With every newspaper delivery or website search, I read how we are slowly losing the “Greatest Generation” and “Baby Boomers.” And my thoughts are always with the family.
Every loved one who is lost means the loss of a living and breathing library. The loss of wisdom, guidance, stories, and information that will never be found in a book.
I’ve always thought of death like that: like a book depository being lost to a natural disaster. An important person is gone and those of us left behind have to rebuild and pick up the pieces.
But recently, there has been a switch in my thinking.
Now, instead of mourning the loss of someone and being upset about the time I may have missed with them, I feel the grief of the loss and the responsibility that my generation’s “future” is now -- that Generation X is moving up from the minor leagues and is practicing with the major leagues.
We are the bench warmers who will soon be up to bat.
We will bear the responsibility of being the wise aunties and uncles, the mothers sharing their granny’s homemade salves and ointments, the fathers who will pass down their father’s barbecue grilling tips. The one’s wearing the sleek suits and grand hats at church on Easter.
We are about to be tagged into the Game of Life and will be IT.
No one trains you for this. No one gives you a heads up on how to be your favorite uncle or amazing grandmother. There are no books on how to give advice to the little ones or how to lean back in your chair, light a pipe or rub your brow while looking pensive before offering deep, mind-blowing answers to your nephew who is thinking about leaving college his senior year.
Our elders seemed to do this effortlessly, with style and swagger and with such idiosyncrasies that we tell stories about how they told stories.
I have to admit: I’m kind of freaking out about how I can hold a candle to the amazing legacies of my great grandmother Mama T or my grandmother Geraldine. My great, great-grandmother Mama Rosie and her husband Daddy Mac.
How can I be the train engine that pulls the family when I’ve just been a passenger car for decades?
How will my life be told when my great grandchildren approach the podium at my service?
No one tells you how to live your life and make an impact between your sunrise and sunset.
But I do know this: that now is the time to start collecting the stories of who is still here with me in my life --- to collect the stories of the elders around me, and to make time to take the time to ignore the clock.
Tammie Leigh Brown-Edwards serves as Alderman At-Large on the Macomb City Council.
The views expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.