Late last October while at the Superior Credit Union on Elida Road doing a little reallocation of my dollars and cents, I, as always, spoke to a long-time acquaintance, Joyce, who works the front counter just inside the vestibule.
As I was leaving, Joyce said something interesting. She said, “You know, I’ve been reading your columns for quite a while now, and I think you’re getting pretty sentimental lately.”
Now, she really didn’t say it in a snarky or critical way. It was just an observation. Then she asked if I was going to do anything for the newspaper on the World Series, what, with the two teams that ascended baseball’s grandest stage, the Cubs and the Indians, having gone a combined 176 years since either had won a World Series title.
I chuckled a bit as I left, turning that thought over in my mind as to the increase in sentimentality of my journalistic musings and the possible transformative nature of writing as one ages.
Having my experiences as a high-school English teacher upon which to draw, certainly I know that writers far more accomplished than I could ever be didn’t write the same way in tone their entire careers. Two, in particular, come to mind, Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain.
While Bierce’s early writings were satirical, often trying to expose the frailties of humankind, as he aged, his writings increased their satirical slants and became far more biting, so much so that he acquired the moniker “Bitter Bierce.”
Similarly, Twain’s later work, most famously in his short fictional tale, “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg” a narrative about a town that boasted of its moral virtue only to be exposed as one that actually had none, certainly grew more caustic as time evolved.
So cynical were some of these writings at the end that, after his death in 1910, those in charge of his estate refused to release any posthumous new manuscripts. The decision was made out of fear that releasing some of these final writings would forever taint Twain’s reputation as America’s pre-eminent literary humorist.
So, certainly, I know even the most accomplished writers changed as time evolved. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise me that my scribbles probably have changed since I became a contributor to my hometown newspaper some 16 years ago when I was in my late 40s. After all, that was long before I carried, as I do now, a Medicare card.
As for the sentimentality factor, I think that’s to be expected. Listen, I don’t need the math skills of Copernicus to figure out the road before me is a whole lot shorter than the portion I’ve already traveled.
While I don’t think, like Bierce and Twain, I’ve grown more cynical, I do think I probably have grown more sentimental, more nostalgic for my days when those for whom I care about the most and who care about me were younger just as I was. And when it comes to my yearning and fond recollection of my youth, I think that’s pretty normal. Listen, there’s a reason Charles Foster Kane’s last word before expiring at the end of the movie classic “Citizen Kane” was the name of his childhood sled, “Rosebud.”
Certainly, while there are literally thousands of clichés out there, hackneyed expressions of which I used to warn my young writers to avoid once upon a classroom time, there is one in particular my students automatically invalidated as to its veracity. From their youthful perspectives and yearnings for the ends of their school days so that they could embrace what they perceived as the pleasures of adulthood, they surely didn’t buy into that whole “time flies” platitude.
But, ask an older person about that same cliché, and he or she will tell you there are none truer. Not only does time fly, it does so with sound-barrier-breaking speed.
That’s where the sentimentality becomes more prominent when I write. I suppose I can live with that change as time marches inexorably, now several weeks into yet another year, an impossible sounding 2017. As long as I don’t increase the cynicism quotient of my written musings, I’m OK talking about the old days periodically.
After all, for most of us who’ve had a pretty darn good run at this blessing called life, like that really comfortable quilt that warms us on our cold winter nights, the past can be a pretty nice place to visit.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.