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Council Corner: Thank you to the 'Boomers'

As we grow older we tend to slow down and reflect on life. For me there is usually a flash point or event that causes me to do this. My mother’s pending retirement in a few weeks is one of those events. It causes me to reflect on the contributions she and her fellow “Boomers” have made to our society and the lessons they have taught us. For me, her story is representative of millions of others of her generation and many in our own community.

Mom is the eldest child of Depression-era parents. Her father grew up in poverty and later served throughout World War II in the Navy, surviving Pearl Harbor to serve the rest of the war on the USS Intrepid. When Mom was 12, her mother passed from cancer and she was left to help lead the family. It would be fair to say her childhood was “brief.” Life was not easy growing up in Estacada, Ore.

After graduating, she married her high school sweetheart, to whom she is still married 46 years later (nice work, Dad). While Dad worked, served in the Army Reserves and went to college, mom worked part-time in the only jobs “available” for young women without a college education in the early '70s, while keeping “home-ops” running smoothly as the family grew.

In her mid-30s, with three young kids in tow, Mom decided that it was time to go to college (yes, I tell my kids that I went to college when I was 12). After graduating at the head of her class, she began her career as an English teacher and later risked it all with Dad and started a successful business. While Dad was on the road drumming up business, Mom was chief operating officer of the business and the family.

She was able to grow the business while also making it to every sporting event we had. She was never really into sports growing up, but she studied (hard) so she knew what we were doing and how she could help. Eventually she became more knowledgeable than most dads, sometimes asking me why I wasn’t expecting a fastball when the count was 3 balls and 1 strike (seemed obvious to her).

Eventually, she and Dad sold the business and she found her way to the Oregon Youth Authority, becoming a parole officer (why not?) and she did so with her own style, carrying her handcuffs in a picnic basket while quoting Poe and Shakespeare to troubled kids (and their parents) as she talked to them about the consequences of not taking responsibility for their actions.

She experienced first-hand the battle for civil rights as a young child and gender equality as a young woman. She watched mankind touch the moon and her brother go to the jungles of Vietnam. She raised children through tough economic times, the Cold War era and the rise of the AIDS epidemic, and she now gets to explain 9/11 and rise of modern terrorism to her grandchildren.

Her story is similar to millions of others her age entering the next stage of their lives. I think the best way to sum it up is that the Boomers have seen a lot and done a lot. They have a shared wisdom that is hard to replace, and our generation is lucky to have it, since we will need it in the years to come.

And like many other Boomers, Mom is sure to work just as hard or harder for free, volunteering for causes she believes in, while finding time to attend more youth sporting events and even breaking down a little game tape to help her grandkids take advantage of the weakness in the opposing team’s 3-4 defense against the pass in short-yardage situations.

So, to Mom and her fellow Boomers, I say, congratulations on entering retirement. You have given so much to us all and you have earned a rest, but don’t go away just yet. We still need you.

Greg Lemhouse is a member of the Ashland City Council.