Life has gotten easier.
A persistent memory from my early childhood, now more than 60 years distant, is of my father, working around the outside of our homes, and on their grounds. He was always working diligently at a task that needed doing. These tasks were, of course, in addition to the work he did to support his family
In retrospect, I suppose the lifetime habit of hard physical work helped him in a least two ways. First, it kept him so healthy and strong that he lived an active life right up until a few months before turning 100. And second, home maintenance and yard work provided my father with what was certainly a soothing escape from the interpersonal rigors of raising six children.
I digress. Let’s get back to my thesis that life is easier now.
We had a summer home on the east shore in Jamestown, a true antique that my father maintained, and that we all loved dearly. It was exposed regularly to harsh weather.
Etched into the collective consciousness of my siblings is the image of my father waving to us from the roof, as he kept it leak-free while we engaged in our summertime fun.
Or lying on his back in a crawl space repairing plumbing that was already quite old when we acquired the house in 1944.
But these tasks are not the daunting ones that prove my thesis. The chore that plays that role occurred at our city home. That place was a large old Victorian, three stories high, with a barn, an orchard, and lots of space, inside and out. We needed that space, because this house was home to nine people: my parents, my father’s mother, and six kids.
In the late fall, every year, my father would haul out a rickety old wooden extension ladder. I don’t know how he did it, but, using that ladder, he would lift heavy storm windows, with wooden frames, and large areas of glass, up to the second story of the house. While hanging on the ladder with this awkward load, he would somehow manage to engage a couple of clips that would attach the top of the storm window to the house.
I think back on my father’s annual performance of this task in awe. And think, what homeowner today would be crazy enough to undertake that risk.
And, of course, given advances in building technology, dangerous tasks like that are no longer necessary.
So, in some ways, life has gotten easier. And, in many others, much less simple and much harder.