Ghosts of yesterday

Rick Ryckeley's picture

“Son, live in the here and now where the ghosts of yesterday don’t apply.” That was some good advice for a father to give to his son. I just couldn’t believe it was coming from me.

Long, long ago, in a place not so far from our hearts, we adults lived in a magical time called childhood where the summers lasted forever and everyday was a good day because we were kids.

It was a time when there was no such thing as fast food eaten in a car, cooked by someone we didn’t know. Food was slowly cooked by Mom, and we ate at home. There were a lot more thin kids back then.

Milk was delivered to the front door before daybreak by something called a milkman. The milk was in glass bottles with little paper caps. The milkman would pick up the empty bottles and leave full ones.

Now you can get pizza and Chinese food delivered to your house, but not milk. Milk you buy in a grocery store. It comes in a plastic jug with a plastic cap. The milkman is probably sitting at home eating Chinese food and ordering pizza.

I used to have a paper route when I was a kid. Every Saturday, rain or shine, I’d ride my bike throwing newspapers on the front lawns and be done before 8 a.m. Now, you can’t get most kids up on a Saturday before noon. And in the land of golf carts, if you’re seen throwing anything on anybody’s front lawn, you’ll get a ticket.

We only had one phone in the house — it was black, rotary-dialed, stuck to the wall, had a three-foot cord connecting it to the receiver. The three-foot cord was really only one foot because it was always tangled and twisted.

The phone had no push buttons; you actually had to use a finger and rotate the dial. The only caller ID we had was to pick up the phone and ask who it was. If Mom or Dad didn’t want to talk to them, we said they were out.

Now not only do we have phones with no cords in most every room of the house, but we have cell phones. The Boy has a cell phone in his pocket. He never answers it when I’m calling. Guess he has caller ID.

I remember eight-tracks and 45-rpm records that I played on something called a record player. We helped Mom by licking the S&H green stamps and sticking them to the cards. When she had collected enough, we’d all go to the S&H store and trade them in for something free.

That’s how we got our first television — a black and white that was built inside a huge wood box that sat on the floor.

Dad had not one, but four remotes. He’d tell one of us four kids to get up and change the channel.

This was easy; we didn’t have 500 channels like they do today, we only had three: 2, 5, and 11. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven when channel 17 came along and there was a whole hour of cartoons on Saturday morning.

The time is long gone for metal ice trays with levers, blue flashbulbs, roller skate keys, drive-ins, wash tubs, and pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards. Gone also are the days when it was safe to ride a paper route before the sunrise.

Lamenting for yesterday is a guarantee you’ll never be happy today; all the yesterdays are gone forever. Detail planning for the future doesn’t work either.

I knew a guy that at one time had a one-, five-, 10- and 20-year plan for his life. One phone call not only wiped out all of his plans but changed his life’s direction forever. The phone call came 21 years ago from a fire chief informing me that I was the new rookie.

The older I get, the more I realize you have to live in the present and make the best of every day. The past is gone, and no one is guaranteed the future.

I told all of this to The Boy. When I finished talking, he said, “Umm, okay. Look, Dad, I’ve gotta go. Got a class to get to.” He hung up, not understanding a word I had said. I looked at the phone and smiled.

One day, when all of his plans for the future are changed with a single phone call, he will.

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