The happily over-the hill couple share a kiss — and hope for the future. Photo courtesy of Brenda Pardue.

My daddy always swore it was true, and, I guess, a 14-year-old boy would notice such things.

When Montgomery, Alabama, finally got word of Japan’s surrender, spontaneous dancing broke out in the streets. My daddy was thrilled because he didn’t have to hustle to hawk his newspapers. That huge headline — “VJ Day!” — sold them all for him. Then after taking a breather to enjoy his entrepreneurial accomplishment, he spied three nude young women.

No mad Gorgons turning celebratory jitterbuggers to stone, no matron Fates spinning yarn, but young American womanhood, full-bodied with finger waves, celebrating in a downtown fountain naked as the day they were born. Forget all about your black-and-white memories. This was in living color. Our mothers and fathers were not, as we were told, priggish wallflowers. News flash: Your generation did not invent sex, let alone exuberant joy.

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Imagine those years of war, all the doing-without they endured. And we tend to forget, the thousands of casualties that deeply scarred loved ones all over the country. Back then, grief was an everyday occurrence — the letter, the knock on the door, the news that flattened you like an A-bomb.

So, what were they celebrating? All that misery finally being over. And why wouldn’t they? I suppose you can blame it all on joy. Yes, joy! From our always crabby 21st century, I vote for you! Joy, joy, and more joy!

That World War II generation braved an era that asked for a much greater sacrifice than we faced with COVID shutdowns and mask mandates, and somehow that generation survived without succumbing to bird-brained conspiracy theories. These days, even spring with its trees budding with waxy newborn green leaves barely seems to get us out of our perennial funk. The world is too much with us if robins, daffodils, and redbud trees can’t shake us, even for a moment, from our dystopian nightmares.

In our own country, we’ve had full employment for more than two years, but many of us still think the economy is as bad as if we were in the middle of the deepest recession. You can surely blame most of that on Republicans’ media-of-choice brainwashing the gullible, but this mental funk is greater than that. And we all have to fight it. Sometimes “hope is the thing with feathers,” while other times, it is something we build, despite what everyone around us is saying.

And so I ignored Shakespeare’s warning — “beware the Ides of March” — and got married on that infamous date. A 67-year-old does not marry unless he harbors some hope for the future. My bride, her son, my daughter, the grandkids, and other assorted family members and friends met us downtown at the beautiful, pink granite, Renaissance Revival Tarrant County Courthouse to witness — as Oscar Wilde wrote about second marriages — “the triumph of hope over experience.”

It had been pouring a few minutes earlier, but when we jogged from the parking lot across the street to the courthouse, the sky was clear and the air freshened. Once inside, we found the office of the Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace ran a tight ship. Even with numerous clusters of soon-to-be married couples and their parties clogging the hallways outside of court, we got married close to our appointed time. And the JP, who I’m sure has officiated more times than I could imagine, cared enough to make it a special moment.

Now, I’m not saying that because I had one good day we should all be copacetic about our world of 2024. We face real problems. The climate crisis and continuing inequality top my list. In Texas, we’re dealing with one of the most reactionary state governments in the country, forcing birth, bashing immigrants, demonizing public schools, and scapegoating pretty much everybody who’s not white, hetero, and fundamentalist. And, sadly, too many of our fellow citizens still worship at The Church of Don the Con, whom presidential historians unsurprisingly rank as the 46th “best” president in the history of our country. In other words, the absolute worst.

Having spent a good bit of my growing-up years in the turbulent ’60s, I’ve fortunately been immune to the siren calls of those who insist the world is going to hell and its corollary, that in some nameless time in the past, everything was perfect or pretty nearly so. Growing up when political assassinations, urban riots, and the threat of nuclear annihilation were everyday realities does that. Or should. Our time is complicated, as all times are. A simpler, quieter time has never existed. Despite that, hope and joy are possible, and I recommend them both.


Fort Worthian Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue happily lives in the crabby 21st century.


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