“Young people need models, not critics.”
As a former soldier, one who served with the British Army, (thirty-five years unblemished service) I can relate only too well to the concerns of former military men and woman when it comes to our respective retirement years – ours was an occupation that demanded much more than a professional nine-to-five mentality – we didn’t merely enlist into our respective Army’s, we became indoctrinated with specific values and standards for utilization within a disciplined and highly-motivated infrastructure…and employed each of them accordingly.
When it transpires that a soldier’s lengthy service in uniform is finally at an end – and we ultimately don civilian clothing on a full-time basis, it is not merely our exterior appearance that must alter, but that of our respective mindset’s – and it is not an easy transition, I speak from personal experience.
Collectively speaking, as reluctant retirees all, our sensibilities and vision can, and all too often, become distorted when we wrongfully ascertain that life has only a couple of relevant chapters pertaining to the story of our existence – one being that much-cherished installment we refer to as youth – the other relating to our contributing years in the workplace and everything associated with them, (family included) – wrongful assumption for sure!
On leaving the armed forces in 2012, I entered a melancholy period and remained at a loss as to how to fill the void. Following many months of personal agitation and despair, I discovered an outlet working with former soldiers, those specifically who had fallen on testing times – a learning curve for me and the ideal panacea for what ailed my disenchanted psyche.
As time went by, I soon discovered that I had regained my appetite for being even more involved and thus, searched for more outlets to engage in within the social and wider scheme of things, the mirror told me I was over sixty, yet my mind was saying thirty.
Where I had opted for a safety net within an environment that was familiar to me – and felt comforted and assured by that existence, I overlooked the possibilities of working with those much younger than myself – hitherto, it was pretty much a taboo subject and one that I simply could not fathom – what youngster of sixteen or under could possibly gain plausible benefit from liaison with an individual who had lived just over six decades on this troubled planet? – Few that I could think of!
During a wet, cold October evening of last year, the doorbell stirred me from my post-dinner power-nap, a nightly thirty-minute interlude that I have enjoyed for many years – and one that has precious little to do with my current vintage.
Convinced that I was being beckoned by the annual Trick or Treater’s, I armed myself with a few ‘goodies’ before opening the front door – half expecting to see the usual group of kids, bedecked in various colorful guises and scary masks, demanding appropriate fruits for their extensive labors.
I was somewhat astonished therefore to find my neighbor’s twelve year old daughter on the threshold – tightly gripping a couple of school books in her right hand – and still attired in school uniform.
Before I could enquire as to the nature of her surprise visit, she, in a somewhat agitated tone asked, “Do you remember the 1960s Mr K?”
I wanted to respond by saying that anyone who remembered that wonderful decade was never really there, but I thought better of it, I simply acknowledged her query in the affirmative and awaited justification for her question.