The Wisdom of Elders

Song of the post: “Centuries,” Fall Out Boy

I love a good action movie. Seeing good guys win, like the video for the song above, is just bad***ery at its finest.

But in reality, some good guys triumph, others not so much.

Recently, my Mountain family came down from the holler and went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Mountain Papa and his brother, both natives of the lands south of the Mason-Dixon Line, ran the Outer Banks Marathon together, which runs from Kitty Hawk to Manteo. The course varies from sand to asphalt and gravel.

During their race, the Mountain kids and I stopped by Duck Donuts in Kill Devil Hills. There we watched donuts being made from the fryer to the glaze and sprinkles.
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A few blocks up from the shop, we encountered the first of many lessons from those older than myself. As anyone with kids knows, the times when there aren’t public restrooms and when you need them the most. We drove to a few spots an found a gas station. After walking around the store for a bit and not finding a restroom, I asked a cashier if there were any nearby. He pointed behind him and let us use the employee restroom.

“You have your hands full there don’t you?” he said as the Mountain kids and I squeezed inside.

“Yes,” I said hurriedly, ” And thank you so much.”

He waved me off like it was no big deal. My oldest kids were puzzled about being allowed in the bathroom. I talked about kindness and how some people understand that kids really need to go potty.

We left with a bumper sticker and went up to a spot on the course so we could cheer Mountain Papa and his brother on.

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While there, an older couple shared some snacks they had out while waiting for the racers. They were kind enough to not berate me as my wild kids did laps in a yard as we waited.

As the runners came by, we cheered on almost everyone that passed, and gave a special yell to Mountain Papa and his brother.

The race was awesome. There was such a diversity of people that we don’t see in races in Appalachia. Also the sheer number of runners and supporters was bigger than anything I’ve been to so far in my time as a runner.

We made a few stops along the way before heading to the finish line. As we passed some half-marathon runners, I spotted a pregnant woman with a kid in a jogging stroller. She was/is super awesome in my book. The kids were impressed too, but I think they were more in awe of the stroller pushing. They know how much I complain after just a few miles with the stroller.

We waited a long time for Mountain Papa. He was dehydrated as he crossed the finish and it took a toll on his pace. Despite the hardship, he and his brother finished a marathon.

Soon after the finish, we piled into the car and headed to a friend’s house. There we met a grandfather who just got back from doing some sailing. He was looking to hunt bears that week. You could tell that old age didn’t hamper his activity. It was refreshing to see. As was the sunset off the dock.

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After the visit with our friends, we headed to my parents house. As the sun burned my kids’ eyes (their words, not mine), I soaked in the rays while driving and hoped they shone happily at my parent’s home outside of Raleigh, N.C.

As you may know from previous posts, my dad has had health issues. My mom has been a rock during it all. When we got there, it looked like the home I knew as a child, even though I never lived in their current home. It was clean. A stranger may have thought they were moving, we always had lots of boxes.

My dad was vibrant although a recent hospital visit had taken a toll on him. When Mountain Kid 1 complained about being bored, he said, jokingly, “Why don’t you make yourself useful and rake some leaves?”

She jumped at the chance to do so, as it’s one of our bonding things we do at home. So she and I made a good dent on the raking, while Mountain Kid 3 picked up pinecones with a grabber tool.

It felt good to help after all they’ve done for me. We walked a total of two miles around their yard as we worked.

My dad showed me that if you’re able, you can still have fun. From his chair in the den, he helped the boys play with some model trucks. The oldest kids joined then as they made soda together; which my kids thought was super cool. They also learned that my dad was a veteran, a member of the Air Force Reserves, which I know but don’t know if I ever
told them.

On Veterans Day, our last stop was probably the coolest for me. We visited Uncle Bob, a 91-year-old World War II veteran, who still has his stuff together. While the kids played, he talked with Mountain Papa and I. It was the first time I heard his talk about his duties during the war. His battalion clearedEuropean towns of the last remnants of the Germany army after the war. He went to seven countries.

He didn’t go into detail, but it was the most I heard him speak of the war. As a history buff, I was in awe. But what he said next inspired me more.

His brother died when Mountain Kid 1 was an infant. Uncle Bob had cared for his brother in the weeks before his death. He remarked on how his brother final years were spent mostly in front of a television set.

“That wasn’t really him. He wasn’t really living,” Uncle Bob said.

I knew he was right. I also knew how many days I wasted in front of a television, computer screen or on a smartphone.

Having a life on the Internet isn’t really living. Unless you have something real behind it, like a web-based business.

I have a lot of vices, and the Web is one of them. After my first break-up, I turned to the Web for faceless interactions because I was too broken to deal with real people.

When I have issues with the kids, I turn to Facebook to look at cute photos of dogs or see what others are doing.

It’s a waste and a bad example to set. Happiness can be found online, but there is a price: You lose connection with reality. The bonds with family and friends change and sometimes it’s not the better.

The conversation with Uncle Bob also showed me how much/little I’m using my talents. I’m too scared of failure. There have been moments (usually running related) where I pushed beyond what I thought I could do, and it was exhilarating. But I have been letting other’s opinions of me dictate how I used my gifts.

I don’t have answers right now, just a road sign saying I need to go a certain way. Hopefully, when I take that path, I find what has been eluding me since I was a child — a sense of purpose and a reason to cast my pessimism aside.

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