Last week my father, if he were still living, would have turned 104 years old. (My mother is still living. She is 95.) I often wonder what he would make of this very different world that we now live in. He died at age 74, so that was 30 years ago. (That means that my mother has been a widow for 30 years. It is strange to think that, even though she was married for more than 45 years, she has now lived more years single than married.)
My father was a Lutheran pastor. Things were different in his adult world. I can vividly picture him holding a cigarette in the corner of his mouth or cupping his pipe in his left hand. The majority of guys his age smoked. He was a chaplain in the army during World War II and two cartons of cigarettes a week were standard issue for the men.
I remember how he would come home from church meetings smelling strongly of smoke. Not only did he smoke at those get-togethers, most of the men attending "lit up", too. If you ever passed by one of those meeting rooms, the air was blue with smoke. He did quit in his later years (when he could no longer breathe freely), but I wonder what he would think of all the smoking prohibitions put out by the government. I doubt if he could have ever envisioned smokeless restaurents and bars.
Without a doubt, he would be either amused or appalled that most reputable television news broadcasts now include an "animal story." Animals were a part of life, even an important part. But rescuing an animal, while it was undoubtably a good thing to do, would never rate as newsworthy in his book.
The nursing home where I work used to have resident cats. The idea was to make the nursing home more "homelike." Most of the residents were either indifferent, or had signs on their doors saying, "Please keep cats out of my room." This generation drowned cats if you will remember. Their cats lived outside in the barn, or in the shed. And even if they did have house pets, they did not invite other people's pets into their homes. I think that is what it felt like to them when the cats would come into their rooms. The visitors paid a lot more attention to the cats than did the residents. Of course the visitors were raised in a different time.
Here are two seemingly small differences from my father's time to mine. Having the government regulate where one can smoke, and having the media focus on the lives of animals both seem normal in our world. But I think he would be more alarmed than bemused.
I think he would see the smoking regulations as a broader issue. He would view it as an unwarrented loss of personal freedom. And the cat thing? He'd think that a dangerous and insidious world view that attempts to exalt animals to the same level of importance as man.