A dearth of grandfatherly wisdom
Ukrainian men have the shortest life spans in Europe – 62 years. Worldwide, only a few countries in Asia and most countries in Africa are behind us in this. We losing our grandfathers. We are losing the wisdom and kind words that once inspired Vasyl Symonenko’s “Ballad of a Granddad.” We now have a shortage of wise elders who could take care of us and who could set us and those who rule us straight.
Men die too early in Ukraine, depriving younger generations of wisdom that comes with age, experience and education
Our grandfathers must have been quite unhappy in this place. Somehow, they try to leave it without even showing it, long before we could take notice of the seriousness of their intent.
And therein lies the truth of why there are so few granddads left.
Or at least that’s the opinion of learned people who have taken notice of our grandfathers dying off. Researchers say that, apart from one important chromosomal difference, men live shorter lives than women because they live like … well, they live like men. They don’t whimper over their aches, they don’t look for help when it really hurts, they don’t like to be careful and they don’t like to “be” … when
it does not mean to “live.” They discuss with their doctors the latest in soccer instead of the latest in their ailments. And with their wives they talk about stars at night instead of plans for the twilight years.
Perhaps Ukrainian men are the greatest men in all of Europe, since they live this little. Their blood must be too thick for their ruined veins. The Cossack blood. This month many of our retirees will begin receiving new retirement subsidies. A 100 hryvnias on average. Such was the president’s promise. The elections are not far off.
Often these crumbs anger many of the recipients, particularly our grandfathers. Many continue helping their families even in old age. And getting a meager raise to in their meager pensions makes them feel like they are lesser men somehow. It’s hard to fathom that this scanty tip from the government would buy anyone’s vote. It can only buy wrath. There are several ways to add more years to the lives of our grandfathers. But a few hryvnias added to their pension isn’t one of them. Doctors say that we have to teach men to stay healthy, to take care of themselves, to think about their own health. If so, turning their country into one of the most corrupt, undeveloped, bureaucratized countries in Europe isn’t going to help. In a country like that, grandpas stop thinking about themselves altogether.
They can only think of the pitchfork in the shed.
A few extra hryvnias won’t calm them down.
I recently lost two grandpas who were very dear to me – both indefatigable, ever-active, not easy to calm down. One fought for a better fate for his land in his books; the other, who passed away only days ago, by attending political rallies in support of those in whom he truly believed. A very important piece of my country has broken off with their departure.
We celebrate our grandfathers only when Victory Day is upon us. Such is the tradition. We remember their heroism and their sacrifice.
But on a day like this, I think more about those morsels of wisdom they gave away throughout their lives with little hope that we would ever make good use of it, about war and life without war.
Some like to tell us that living this life is like reading a book – it gets more interesting as you go along. And when I hear this I pray to God that our fathers have enough years left to finish reading.