When Andy Rooney died on Nov. 4 from complications associated with minor surgery, I was naturally a bit sad. It wasn’t like we hung out together, but his crumpled appearance and curmudgeonly comments on “60 Minutes” were part of the background of my life.
My kids, of course, had no idea who Andy Rooney was. I was not exactly surprised, but it was a bit jarring. I suppose this is what it felt like to my grandparents and parents when they told me someone I had no remote knowledge of had died. For them, it was significant. Maybe it was even the end of an era. For me it was one more piece of evidence that they were old.
My first twinge of awareness that I might be old occurred when I voluntarily tuned in to an all-news station. I can only say in my defense that it was that or some sort of music that sounded like a cross between a wailing cat and a grown person whining. The group had a name. I’d never heard of them. When my daughter assured me they were very famous I bit my tongue rather than point out that 10 minutes on the pop chart did not fame make. Why spoil her moment now that she’s finally old enough to sit in the front seat and control the choice of station when we’re driving?
I’ve also been aware of a subtle shift when I teach KidWrite. It’s a double slam because the kids have virtually no clue about any fairy tale or nursery rhyme we used to know by heart. They are, however, intimately familiar with the classic books from my childhood. Books like “Charlotte’s Web,” and “Stuart Little,” to name two. And why not? The former have not been made into movies while the latter have. In fact, it often seems that every book worth reading has been turned into something that requires no effort on the part of the reader.
I know. I sound curmudgeonly. I honestly don’t mean to. I will readily admit that there are plenty of new books out there that the kids happily read. Some of them, like “Warriors” have sophisticated plots and a cast of characters that makes "Charlotte’s Web" look like an early reader. These books will no doubt become their classics, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s that to me it’s sad that such beautiful books have been reduced to the lowest common denominator, taking with them any incentive to experience them as treasures of language.
All that aside, the penultimate event that has caused me to re-examine my place in the generational hierarchy was when they started remaking movies I remember. Movies like “Dirty Dancing,” “King Kong,” “Planet of the Apes,” and—much to my horror—a John Wayne movie, “True Grit.” I mean, come on! We’re talking about the Duke here. Remaking anything of his is like saying we’d like someone else to sit for an update of the Lincoln Memorial!
I’m not quite to where I tell my daughter to put on a sweater because I’m cold. But I have the feeling those days are not far away.