Wisdom is a strange commodity. It is akin to its cousin common sense, another commodity that's all but common. Wisdom requires the hearer have the ability to recognize it while it's being imparted by voice, the printed word, or other means. I am convinced that wisdom poured into the ear of a fool has all the impact of a spring breeze on an anvil.
I am the youngest of 3 brothers. That is of no import in itself. I am over 6 years younger than my nearest sibling, 8 years younger than the eldest. My childhood was one of strife as I could not compete on the basis of strength. Guile and manipulation were the blades in my sheath, and I kept them honed and always at the ready. Those weapons didn't preclude the occasional pounding I absorbed. I learned that endurance is a weapon in its own right. I clutched the idea you may beat me, but you will never beat me close, fed it like a favorite puppy.
Adulthood has changed the dynamic, though tatters of our old pecking order still exist. Now I see my brothers age, walk into a season of life I too will weather... or not. All in its own good time.
Both my brothers are men used to using their hands. The eldest is a certifiable workaholic. Our father worked him like a field hand, and he grew to like it rather than to want to avoid it. He is functionally illiterate, depending on his wife to handle the 'paperwork' in his life. He is a graceless, crude, and abrupt person, viewing others as tools to be used, and should they not be useful, then fit to be cast aside. That has applied to everyone, including his own children. He has sired 4 children and has yet to raise one. He is a charter member of the "Hooray for me, and to Hell with you" club.
The middle sibling, still my elder, occupies a middle ground somewhere between myself and the first born. He is also a worker, used to doing what needs done. He was the source of the bit of wisdom I will impart by and by. He is a fair mechanic, a gardener and farmer, loves his livestock (too much, sometimes), and is basically a good man. He has lots of acquaintances and several friends. He has a wife, a daughter, and a grandchild. His hair is still red, and his walk steady.
I'm the dreamer, the one who deals with more ethereal concepts. I swim in waters strange to them. I was a bookworm, much preferring a good read to disassembling a bike or appliance to see what the 'guts' held. I'm fairly adequate in repairing things about the house, though I do not relish the prospect. I hate paintbrushes and plumbing tools. I do however like axes, chain saws, tractors, riding mowers.
We all 3 at one time were truckers, and all 3 worked for the same company. One day it so happened that we all rolled into a favored hangout in another state. We met up in the parking lot and ambled into this place, a roadside restaurant patronized by truckers for the good food and the hired help, which was mostly easy on the eye. The waitress on duty, who went by her CB handle Cherokee, saw us coming and slung a hand onto one hip and exclaimed loudly "My Gawd, here they come, Mornin', Noon, and Night." I know which one I am, but it'll just be my secret for now.
When my parents were alive, I was the peacemaker in the family. When different persons were out of sorts with one another, I was the go between, the one who managed to create a middle ground, a diplomat who bridged the gap of ideas, explained possible reasons for the supposedly egregious behavior of the other. Many times I got the wounded parties talking again, and that's over half the battle.
My, how the times do change. Now, I'm odd man out, and it's a garment that rides me like a wedding suit, fit for the occasion. The one time we 3 get together is Christmas. We are amiable enough, managing to get through the occasion without rancor.
My brothers and I were outside that Saturday (the one just after Christmas), sitting out in the shop. It was after breakfast, a meal my brother prided himself in preparing. Biscuits, eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy, stewed apples, all the fixings for a country breakfast guaranteed to harden your arteries. After the meal and a bit of chatter with the ladies, us guys excused ourselves and made off to the refuge of the shop area.
Out came the folding chairs, situated haphazardly but close enough for conversation. It was warm in the sunlight, though the long sleeved flannel shirt felt good enough.
We were just talking away, a lot of reminiscing about when we were kids, things we'd done, things we'd seen. A lot of talk about our parents, the way they were, the way they'd raised us.
My middle brother stopped and dropped this in my ear like a pebble in a still pond.
"You know the difference in us and our kids, don't you? We talk about things that are in the past. They talk about things still ahead of them. Things they want to try or do, places they want to go. They have a different perspective than we do. Most of it is still ahead of them. Life, that's what they have ahead. Most of ours is gone."
I tucked that away for future reflection. He was right, our conversation had been in large part a past tense exercise. I find myself more and more prefacing sentences with the phrase "Used to be", or "Time was when", or some other introduction into what my experience had been in the past.
I considered that it's the forward looking people who are growing, the ones who live in a still expanding universe. The old gaffers and gammers are the one in a contracting universe, headed toward our own personal heat death, an oddly appropriate description for the end of the universe and ourselves.
I'm going to have to change my perspective, I think. Look forward more, use the rearview less, try to ward off the inevitable.
I was suprised to hear such a pearl come from my brother, a man more comfortable with wrenches than words. I tucked it away, made it mine, and paired it with another pearl, "Wisdom is where you find it."
Not bad advice, coming from a man with grease under his fingernails.