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The New Normal


October 27, 2013
Many years ago, during the child-rearing days, I made a comment to my son that many parents have probably uttered when their offspring acted up.

I said this: "You are really annoying me. Why can't you be normal like all other young people your age?"

Not known for his profound proclamations, here is the reply he delivered.

"Dad, normal is a setting on the washing machine."

Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all. Worth remembering

So now, decades later, I have recalled that statement and now ponder over what is normal and what isn't. My conclusion is there are no easy answers. However, less difficult is this: What is the New Normal, circa 2013? Surely this is something worth debating.

One answer is generational. If you grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, as I did, what you considered normal then is undeniably different today. About every 10 years, maybe less, there is change, major change. What time or form this takes is the New Normal.

If you are of Medicare or Social Security age, virtually nothing in 2013 is the same from your formative years. That's a given. Kids usually respect grandparents today but sort of consider them as Aliens from Another Planet. They definitely don't choose to debate an era when they weren't even born yet. I mean, really, whoever heard of anyone who couldn't text and tweet? Usually we oldsters are treated with benign neglect. Accept it.

As I said, discussing "normal" is fruitless. But the "new normal" is worthy of conversation, right?

In my youth there was no political correctness, organic foods, heart transplants, gay marriage discussions, minimal obesity, cell phones, cable TV, masses of talking heads on television, a pervasive drug culture, and no certainly no Unaffordable Care Act. I could go on forever. As for iPads, iPhones, Facebook, hash tags, those weren't words in the vocabulary until much later.

I am not telling seniors, or mid-50s types, anything they don't know. What I am asking is this: Are you okay with the New Normal? Are you overwhelmed with information technology? Do we know more than we need to know? Is the family unit being helped or hurt by the noise, the chattering class, the endless stream of information and misinformation? Put another way, is life on this planet simply too complicated?

Everyone talks politics now. Mostly it brings anger, tension, conflict and polarization. There is a small place for it in our lives but nothing more, not really.

This oldster — I am age 76 and a retired newsman — has one piece of advice. Accept the New Normal, don't try to define it. On some levels you should embrace it. And, yes, try to change it or alter it if you are so motivated, but don't let it consume you.

I like to think the New Normal is mostly good.

Take health care, example. When I was born in 1937, the charts said I would live on average 57 years, or the year 1994. Gracious, I was earning money, having fun, welcoming grandchildren, playing golf, taking trips with little or no concern about giving up my earth suit. My wife and I were doing fine then and still are after 54 years.

I like it on this planet and I probably will go down kicking and screaming, hoping to live a reasonably healthy life into my 80s. The medical professional has me covered. Advanced treatment is everywhere, although not everyone (sadly) can enjoy its benefits.

Intellectuals will demand studies, surveys, position papers, peer reviews, scientific screening, trial tests, comprehensive analysis, ad infinitum, to support what I wrote here. I did better than that! I visited my friends at the Pauma Valley dog club and there was no shortage of meaningful offerings. The average age there is 50 to 91 and not one of them even suggested bringing forth a blue ribbon committee or a panel of experts.

Finally someone said Pet Insurance is the New Normal. That's when it hit me. This discussion has no end. Maybe what really matters, after all, is what is normal, what one can count on day after day — the sun, the moon, the stars, the heavens above, the winter chills, the warmth of summer, the changing of leaves, and the smell of roses. Plus, in my case and that of many others, there is the love of a four-legged friend, which is priceless. .

So if readers are still with me at this point, thanks for hanging around. If not, blame Kim Harris, the new editor of the Roadrunner. She asked me to write about the New Normal from the perspective of a member of the geriatric set. I did that, for better or worse.

P.S. The column head says Editorials and Opinions. I'm not the Roadrunner editor. I'm a guest columnist. My name is Doug Ives. If you found little to like here, so be it. If you enjoyed this column, my advice is: Enjoy Me Now and Avoid the Rush.

There's one more thing. Now that Normal trumps New Normal, I had to visit an area where Men of a Certain Age rarely used to go, the laundry room. I just had to check my Kenmore. Sure enough, the word "normal" is still right there in plain sight on the washing machine, right next to some strange words like Timed Dry, Auto Moisture Sensing and Fabric Care. I guess those words are the New Normal.

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