Ellie — I hear you didn’t make it to midnight on this December 31st — but then, neither did your grandfather.
2017! People my age marvel at what a high number that is, at how quickly the years pass as we grow older. By the time you read this, 2017 will be only a memory. None of us have any idea what kind of memory it will be for us, personally, or for the world at large.
Right now, the world’s not faring well — with global warming threatening disaster, refugees fleeing war zones, alliances fraying, economies making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and dangerous, simpleminded tyrants appealing to the worst in us all. We see these enormous problems on news screens and videos and read about them in newspapers. But, as middle-class Americans, we’ve mostly been spared seeing it up close or living through it. After all, we’re buffered by vast oceans and national wealth.
What do your grandfather and I do about the state of the world? We stay well-informed about the world — or as well-informed as we can bear to be. We give to charities. We vote. We talk about it, we worry, we often ignore it, since it makes us feel helpless (after all, what can we do?).
Growing up in a religious household, I read the story of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament. They were brothers, the sons of the first two people on earth, Adam and Eve. Cain ends up killing Abel out of spite and envy. Then, when God asks where Abel is, Cain replies he’s not his brother’s keeper. God cursed Cain and marked him for life.
Now … all these years later … I have all kinds of problems with that real bummer of a story. I’m an agnostic, so I can’t say I believe in God. And I definitely don’t believe in Adam and Eve and their two kids.
But — am I my brother’s keeper? Well, that’s the question of our lifetimes. Of course, we’re responsible for other people, but who, beyond our friends and families? And what are the limits of our responsibility?
Your mother tells me you’re frustrated because you can’t talk much. Right now, that dominates your life, as you continue to grow and push outward. That’s as it should be.
At our age, we look around at the world and worry and wonder what it will be like for your parents and you in the next decades. We all have our concerns. But it helps us to think about you and see what you’re doing on FaceTime.
This weekend, you first tried to swallow the iPhone, then walked away to move your toys around and scatter them on the floor. You made a real mess, in fact.
That’s what you should be doing at your age. Don’t worry about cleaning up your messes till you have to. That’s for the grownups in your life.
I realize this isn’t a very chipper new year’s note. But, you know, some days are like that. Love you, Coco