Generations Change; Teens Do Not
It has been nearly 30 years since my then-teenage older children kept my column-writing hopper filled with fresh ideas.
Chris, Mike and Matt bore the brunt of my (to me) humorous retellings of their misadventures.
Daughter Theresa, the same age as Matt, prompted fewer “I read what your Dad said you did!” comments from students and teachers; she could cry at will, and I’m a sucker for tears.
The boys’ foibles included hunting squirrels: Matt used both barrels of a shotgun from about a foot away; “Nature rides:” Mike had difficulty explaining why his drive to the mall caused full-grown hay stalks to be trapped when the passenger door closed on them; Room defumigation: Chris’s at-Christmas decorated Russian goose eggs turned sulfurous by the time they broke in July.
The youngest kids, Greg and Natalie, provided plenty of story material, but just weren’t as (to me) hilariously misdirected in their teen years.
When they were all grown, I wrote kinder, gentler columns with respect to adolescents.
But generations mature. They provide grandchildren in general, Jim Sidon in particular.
Jim, Theresa’s eldest son, is now 19. A lanky, laconic, amiable lad, he attends Triangle Tech in nearby Falls Creek and needed a ride back to Falls Creek, fairly close to our home in Brookville. It made sense for me to make the half-hour detour, rather than having Theresa make the three-hour round trip.
So I did.
“Got everything?” I asked, as we loaded a laundry basket and a backpack into the truck.
“Yes. Everything,” he said, smiling brightly.
Knowing teenagers, I revisited the topic.
“All set? Nothing left behind?” I asked.
“Yes. No,” he replied.
We headed southeast.
En route (since I had a captive audience), I regaled Jimmy with stories about his mother’s childhood, his uncles’ and aunt’s childhood, my childhood, my parents’ childhoods and, for all I know, the childhoods of Adam, Eve, Noah and Abraham of Biblical lore.
I love to tell those stories. But my wife and grown children seem doggedly resistant. They claim repetition. Mike (my wife’s son Mike, not my same-named son) even counterattacks.
“When I was …”
“Good story, Denny,” he chirps. “GOOD story!”
Then he changes the subject, leaving me with a strangulated larynx jammed with stories that are so interesting – to me.
On that trip from Warren to DuBois with Jim, I had the opportunity to retell some of those cherished stories to a new (captive) audience.
We drove through Clarendon (“When your Mom learned to drive …”), through Sheffield (“When your Mom and I took a college accounting class together …”), through Barnes (“Did I ever tell you how hard it was for me to quit smoking?”).
At first, Jim responded with his own thoughts, reactions, even chuckles.
Fatal mistake. Encouraged, I dredged up dozens more anecdotes.
We chugged past Russell City, to the plateau where Routes 948 (to Ridgway, then DuBois) and 66 (to Kane) diverge.
“Oh, no!” said Jim.
I, of course, thought he was deeply touched by the emotion flowing from my superb storytelling.
“Grandpa … ” he said, and then paused.
I stopped talking.
“Grandpa, I left my coat on the table at home,” he said. By itself, the coat would be no great loss. Jim, like most teenage boys, has many hooded sweatshirts, etc.
But in the coat, he explained despondently, were the keys to his apartment, to his locker at school … keys desperately needed.
What did I do?
The remarkable thing is what I did not do.
If that had been 1984 instead of 2014, and if the speaker had been one of my own sons instead of this grandchild, the air would have turned a blueberry-colored hue as, arms flailing and voice castigating, I would have assailed stupidity and absentmindedness and cursed the necessity of backtracking about 25 miles, then repeating the entire trip.
But this is 2014. He is a grandson. I am mellow.
I smiled placidly, and turned the truck around.
This would give me even more opportunity to tell even more stories to a captive audience on an even longer trip!
Jim dutifully called home to inform his mother that we would be returning.
I shouted into his phone: “He is YOUR son, you know!” Theresa, recalling her own absentmindedness during those years, chuckled.
Oddly, Jim did not.
Back to Warren we went. He heard even more about the pain of quitting smoking; might as well do a little instructing along with captivating him with these stories. I love to moralize. Nineteen-year-olds love to be moralized to … don’t they?
Then we retraced the route through Clarendon, Sheffield, Barnes, Russell City … and we still had stories enough to take us through Ridgway, Boot Jack Hill, Brockport, Crenshaw, Brockway, etc.
At length, we reached Falls Creek.
Jimmy was gracious.
“Thanks, Grandpa. I’m sorry the trip took so long.”
I bet he was. And he’ll keep closer tabs on his keys from now on, too.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com.