What we’ve lost

At a Christmas gathering  more than 10 years ago. author Gil Rubio with his mother Lupe, brother Ralph and his late, beloved sister, Mary.

At a Christmas gathering more than 10 years ago. author Gil Rubio, left, with his mother Lupe, brother Ralph and his late, beloved sister, Mary.

By Gil Rubio

I’ll be turning 58 next month and while some people let their age bother them, I feel very fortunate to have been raised during my time.

Times were different… Things were much simpler…Music was played by real musicians playing real instruments, and radio played all types of music without having to name the styles, or keep them separate.TV was full of family shows with simple classic humor, and of course, there were Saturday morning cartoons.

Warner Brothers Classics like Bugs Bunny, Sylvester and Porky Pig.  There was Tom & Jerry too, and The Flintstones and The Jetsons … and 50 million other different Hanna-Barbera cartoons that all somehow seemed the same.

Family was important then too, and I remember that Divorce was a four-letter word!

I remember we used to pile in the station wagon in our pajamas to go to the drive-in theater … and invariably fall asleep during the movie.

We used to play simple games and board games, go camping, and fishing at the wharf, and have picnics and go play in the Carmel River.

I remember families used to visit families, and we actually talked to each other.

We didn’t have gadgets to distract us from interacting with each other. We talked face to face and didn’t sit in front of the TV, computer or with our phones in our hands only to see the side of someone’s face, and only discuss what we saw on screen.

Sure, we watched TV, but it was usually in the evening when everybody was settling down.

I remember the women would be in the kitchen talking or cooking.

The men would be outside or in the garage with the big door open.

The men would keep an eye on the real little ones, while the rest of us kids were outside playing tag, hide-n-seek, kick the can, kick the ball, climbing trees ….falling out of trees!

Our whole neighborhood was like that too. We’d be outside playing until we got called in.

Somebody’s mom would stand on the porch and yell somebody’s name and we’d all come running.

If she said your full name, … that meant you were in trouble … and you ran the other direction.

Like that was gonna help!

In this circa 1961 photo, 4-year-old Gil Rubio strikes a pose in his grandfather's driveway.

In this circa 1961 photo, 4-year-old Gil Rubio strikes a pose in his grandfather’s driveway.

The most important part of the house was the Dinner Table.

We all ate together as a family and shared our day with each other.

It was there that we shared the most basic of needs, and learned Respect and Manners.

Something as simple as passing the salt had lessons for all involved.

How to say “please” and “thank you.”

How to be considerate of others….

Somehow we seem to have lost all of that.

We are all too busy with our schedules to eat together as a family, and look each other in the eye when we speak.

Shoot, our “social media” means we can’t say hi or hello anymore, just abbreviated and misspelled words to get to the point when we speak through our texting fingers.

It seems as though our “social media” has diminished our social skills and yet magnified our lack of them and we’re less social than ever in our own little universes.

Because we can access the World from the comfort of our own home, we seem to have lost our Humility, and Respect for each other and the World around us.

We’ve lost contact with the Earth and the appreciation of the simple things in life.

Everything we do now is in the “Box” and when we lose the electricity or our Files … we lose everything.

No photo negatives or written letters to refer to and reminisce.

Our Souls have been digitized and have become a series of Ones and Zeros …

With all of us able to express our opinions to the World at Large, and give them weight, it seems that the World has even more trouble getting along than ever before.

I miss the simpler times and the Heart and Soul of the “Dinner Table with Family.”

Maybe that is what is wrong with us as a people …

As a Nation ….

As a World ….

Author’s note: “My brother, sister and I were all born in Monterey and raised in nearby Seaside, possibly the most racially diverse city on the entire Central Coast of California. My parents were both born in 1922 only months apart with my father being the youngest boy of 11 children and my mother being the oldest of 9. With that many aunts and uncles and a ton of cousins, family can’t help but be important to all of us.”

Editor’s note: Gil Rubio is my cousin, the youngest of three children born to my mom’s oldest sister. My folks chose his mom and dad, Salvador and Lupe Rubio, to be my godparents when I was baptized. My Nina Lupe is still going strong at 92.. Meanwhile, Gil is a guitarist and leader of the blues band Red Beans & Rice, as well as a catechism teacher, English lector and bilingual choir director at the church he grew up in.

Tomorrow: “Public servant at your service” by Alana Cox


11 thoughts on “What we’ve lost

  1. As I sit here reading your story on my laptop over my morning cup of coffee, I am struck by the irony of identifying with your musings of growing up in simpler times. Recently my elderly aunt laughed at me as I went into complete panic mode when I could not find my cell phone, as I was heading out the door for the airport. I love technology and I hate it. Your story reminds me of what we have lost as we continue to develop new ways to communicate.

  2. Gil, the scenario of your childhood and the family gatherings could easily describe my own experiences. I grew up in a farming community in northeast Iowa in the 50’s. Our family gatherings consisted of several aunts, uncles and cousins. No one was lost in the crowd, older kids took care of the younger ones, middle-aged adults took care of the elderly, the subtle, and sometimes undiscussed, pressure of family expectations kept most family members respectable. Now, the family units are much smaller, the kids and grandkids are scattered around the country and around the world. Family reunions are very infrequent. But, we stay in touch with email and Facebook.

  3. I was thinking about some of this on my morning walk. How it would be nice if people just gave up their smart phones. We are not better for having them or TV or computers. Those things improved the processes of businesses, but families aren’t businesses and people aren’t products to be sold. We have lost something, but I am convinced we can get some of those things back, by refusing to let go of the good things about the past. Yes, I make connections on Facebook, and have connected with family I would never have otherwise, but it doesn’t beat a face to face reunion. Great post, Gil. It really resonates with me.

  4. “… His boy Elroy. Daughter Judy. Jane, his wife.” Ahhh.
    I’m sitting down with a gadget having my social life after a long day with my two kids. Most days, the “box” and smart phone bring me the only social life I get! Definitely a love-hate situation.
    But most days, we three also still eat meals together at the dining room table. And I’m often tempted to take a picture of the meal that inspired a half hour of complaint — so I can post it on my Facebook wall.
    Cheers to navigating this new world. Thanks, Gil.

  5. I, too, agree with you and I, too, like many of the previous commenters, have this odd love-hate relationship with technology. Like others, it’s often the only way I maintain connections with my friends and family scattered across thousands of miles. Now, as a new member of a tiny coastal community, I use social media to learn about events and people and things for which small communities are known. But I also detest what technology and social media have done to us as a society … as people. Too many hide behind the veil of anonymity to spew hateful words, and far too many allow the posts of others to frame (or reinforce) their own ideas. I worry about where we are headed but I also know the barn door is open and that horse is long gone.

  6. I may not be from the same generation, but this issue still resonates with me. Recently I was hanging out with some friends from college (we graduated college in 2005), and we were talking about how glad we were that smart phones didn’t exist yet when we were in school. We still sat around and talked without the constant temptation of a smartphone within reach. Technology can be really powerful, but we sometimes forget what we are sacrificing.

  7. Here are some things I remember from my childhood…
    I remember when Nerf was a company that made footballs, not guns.
    I remember when my family drove cross country and I was free to crawl around the inside of our car instead of being strapped down.
    I feel like I remember there being a lot more litter everywhere, but maybe I was biased by that Ad Council PSA with the crying American Indian.
    I remember when baseball cards were really special. (Along those lines, I remember when I cared about baseball.)
    I don’t have any memories of high fructose corn syrup.
    I remember it took more than an hour to set up our family’s camping tent.

  8. Thank you Elsa, Bob, John, Dina, Lynn, Alana and Aki for your comments!

    I agree with the love-hate thing we all seem to feel. At one moment it is great to connect with others that you wouldn’t so easily otherwise, and yet we neglect to communicate with those next to us…

    I’m sure that most generations had the same mixed emotions about “progress”.

    But nothing takes the place of real memories with real people and real experiences

  9. Love it, Cousin Gil! I also have the same memories and am so grateful to our parents for raising us this way. I was recently asked to write a paper in my UCLA Communications class about what influenced or developed my communication style, and that was exactly it: family, sitting at the dinner table, manners & respect, growing up in a small town, etc. I also believe that technology does not bring us closer to together. Of course I realize the irony of typing that on the internet on our cousin’s blog website- lol! But I believe truly meaningful contact happens face to face when you are able to connect. Think about being in a crowd at a concert versus watching one on the internet- not the same. Back in the 90s, those wing nuts in the music business (that I was working in at the time 😉 actually thought the live concert business would go away. And NOW those are the most expensive, most valued tickets. Why? Because we crave human contact and that can not be replaced with any technology. I spearheaded an “email free day” in my office once, and it was funny to see everyone go crazy- lol!

  10. Though technology has its obvious advantages, we have lost a lot. I feel it’s great to connect with friends and family far away through email and social media, but life has become virtual. Mainly, everyone is just too pre-occupied and busy. You are also expected to be a slave to your phone and email or some irate person will say “I sent you a text!” indignantly. But they will be too busy for a cup of tea with you. Anyway, everything has it’s cycles and hopefully we will get balance some day.

  11. “Everything we do now is in the “Box” and when we lose the electricity or our Files … we lose everything.” This was notable to me. It seems more necessary than ever to make no-tech time a vital part of life too. Maybe it is the way we adapt.

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