Bob McKinney

The host of a local morning radio show last week asked listeners to call and give their opinions as to what this decade, that is coming to an end, will be remembered for.

 (I’m not going to address the argument that decades don’t really end until the close of a year ending in zero, which would mean we still have another year in this one. Just go with me here and if you’re too much of a perfectionist to tolerate it, I’ll see you next week).

It had not previously occurred to me that we are approaching the conclusion of a decade. Apparently, the one now ending will be known as “the teens,” with the previous one being known as “the aughts.”

Those are rather awkward labels. The next eight decades, beginning with the 20s, will be much easier to name, only having to distinguish them from the ones from the 20th century.

What’s funny about decades is how, about 20 years hence, we want to relive them.

For example, when my older son was in high school in the early “aughts,” he performed in an 80s concert, with music and clothing from that decade. A few years ago I wrote about how, for that production, he outfitted himself with clothes from my closet.

(My wife rejoiced, because she took that opportunity to not make room for the return of those outdated  --  in her opinion -- garments to my clothing rotation). 

Similarly, when I was in high school in the 70s, we went through a nostalgic phase about the 50s. Inspired by the movie “American Graffiti” and the TV show “Happy Days,” we had “Nifty Fifties” parties at which girls would wear poodle skirts and bobby socks, while guys would slick back their hair and wear rolled-up jeans.

We thought it was hilarious dancing to tunes from groups like “The Platters,” “The Crickets” and “The Coasters,” while our folks wondered what was so funny about it.

And wouldn’t you know it, as I entered young adulthood in the 80s, there were 60s-themed events where psychedelic lights flashed, incense burned (along with some other strange-smelling stuff if you know what I mean) and loud music blared from huge speakers. We raided our childhood closets to see if there were still any old hip huggers or bell bottoms around.  

That particular decade (the 60s) is still remembered with a mixed bag of emotions by those of us growing up at the time. We recall the assassinations, the Vietnam War, free love (whatever that was supposed to mean) and the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Early in that decade we were glued to our televisions as a tiny capsule orbited the earth. In 1969 we were equally spellbound as we watched a man walk on the surface of the moon.

The effect that decade had, and how it shaped us, might well depend on the progressiveness – or lack thereof – of our parents. Mine were firmly planted in the non-progressive camp, to say the least.

As far as they were concerned, very little good came out of that span of time, and the styles ushered in with it – men growing hair over their ears and the outrageous clothes -- were likely part of a subversive Communist plot. I’m only slightly exaggerating.

They were fine with the space stuff, but truth be told, my dad could have probably been persuaded that it was all a hoax coming from a Hollywood set.

So how will this decade be remembered? The host of the radio show I mentioned summed up his callers’ thoughts with three “S” terms: streaming, social media and sensitivity.  

Thanks to streaming and the wonders of the internet, we can see virtually anything on our computers and/or phones. This includes local sporting events and church services. In addition, streaming has completely changed the way we watch television, and the cable companies are scrambling as they try to stay relevant.

I think the callers are spot-on here, as this has exploded over the past 10 years.

With social media, we have the concept of no unpublished thoughts. Our current chief executive has chosen to make one of his chief means of communication an electronic channel in which he can air his latest grievances in brief filterless snippets that go out for all the world to see.

Although I consider myself more open minded than my late parents, this is one where I follow their lead and abstain. I know it provides great entertainment for many, but I’m not a social media fan.  

The sensitivity part was largely disdained by callers who said people get way too offended by way too little these days, and a little spine stiffening would not be a bad thing.

The radio host wondered allowed as to whether people might have always been sensitive, but they now have the means to express it (again with the social media).

Maybe, maybe not. I tend to agree we (as a society) get a little too worked up over stuff that’s largely harmless, and I’ll leave it at that.

Personally, the “teens” decade was a pretty good one for me.

My second and third children finished college, ending the school years for us. Numbers one and two married people I would have handpicked – the answer to their mother’s and my prayers.

All of them entered into, and maintain, meaningful career paths.

My wife and I became empty nesters several times -- maybe now for good?

Three grandchildren joined our family.

I made a late mid-life career change and my wife retired. She and I traveled both domestically and abroad, something we hope to continue.

I started writing a weekly column for a local online publication.

There was also sadness as I lost my brother and became the last one standing from my family of origin. It’s been two years, but it’s still sobering to think about.

I suppose 10-year increments provide a good framework to reflect on what is behind us. At my age, the whole of life is a bit much to consistently dwell on. Reducing it into more manageable nuggets makes it easier to digest.

Who knows what the 20s will hold and what I’ll be writing about, God willing, in 10 more years?

You’ll have to meet me back here at the end of 2029 to find out.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at bmac1018@yahoo.com.

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