Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Things will be great when you're downtown

I felt old.

Ok, it was merely yet another instance.  This time, it was not in a store, not at an office, and not at the barber's.  This was personal.  

My high school friend's son came to meet with me for a couple of hours when I was in Chicago.  And he called me "uncle" throughout the conversation.  Uncle Sriram!  Or, "Sriram Uncle" as they say in India.

As we were walking around on the lively downtown streets, I felt old.  I wondered if this is how my father would have felt when he was my age and pointing out interesting aspects of the urban landscape to a twenty-two year old.  

I now became self-conscious of everything around me.  

I then started thinking about my father. Now a grand old man at 85.  I suppose kids and adults like this 22-year old would no longer refer to my father as "uncle." He is now past that rank and is everybody's grandfather.

Meanwhile, there I was walking with the 22-year old. I pointed out the landmarks that I have come to recognize in Chicago, having been there before.

I recalled how more often than not I was inattentive when I was a young man and "old men" talked with me.  I wondered how many stories I missed out on.  I re-assured myself that I did pay attention.  Which is why I know all those old stories.  And I know them well enough to even remind my father about some of them.

When we reached an intersection, I remarked that the original deep dish pizza place was somewhere nearby.  I remembered from my previous trips.  While this old man tried to search through his memory, the young man searched in his iPhone.  We walked those two blocks.

Later, after reaching home, I updated my father about meeting the high school friend's son.  And that I took him around in downtown.

"Yes, I remember Chicago" he said.

Of course he would.  A civil engineer would love such downtowns.  The high rises. The concrete and the glass.  The old and the new. The broad avenues and the narrow alleys.  The cars and the trains.  The bridges. 

Some day, perhaps before I even know it, I won't be an "uncle" anymore to a kid in India.  I will recall walking about in cities. Walking about in villages. Hiking up the trails. Hiking by the rivers.  I would have become an old man. "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

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