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Boomer Bytes #22: Roles

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

  • See second column – Are We Really Old? – here.
  • See third column – Cars and More Cars – here.
  • See fourth column – Getting Educated – here.
  • See fifth column – Home Alone? – here.
  • See sixth column – Death – here.
  • See seventh column – They’re Playing Our Song – here.
  • See eighth column – Driving: Knowing When To Quit – here.
  • See ninth column – Hobbies: What’s Your Favorite – here.
  • See 10th column – ‘The Last of Life, for which the First was Made’ – here.
  • See 11th column – Volunteeering – here.
  • See 12th column – Duck and Cover – here.
  • See 13th column –  Providing for the Future – here.
  • See 14th column – Here We Go Wandering… – here.
  • See 15th column – State of Schools – here.
  • See 16th column – Our War – here.
  • See 17th column – Behind the Curtain – here.
  • See 18th column: Our Mind
  • See 19th column: Change
  • See 20th column: Memorials
  • See 21th: When is Old? 


By Steve Canipe

June 13, 2014. As I was thinking about topics for this week’s column, I was trying to think of things that I’ve done in my life that might strike a bell with others.  One of the things that I realized is that during my 68 years I’ve had many roles. Part of the reason for thinking about this is my high school class 50th Reunion – wow!!


Some of these prior roles are pretty mundane like being a model builder.  I  loved building model airplanes and cars!!   Others like being a husband and father are pretty profound.  So I just sat down and did a “brain dump” ; I did this for about five minutes listing all the roles that I could think of that I have had in my nearly 7 decades.



During that time these roles helped define who I am now but most certainly who I was then.  I thought this might make a good contemplative column for all the readers.  I would ask you to take some time and grab a scrap of paper and jot down all the roles you’ve had.  If I were doing this in a workshop format I would pause five minutes to let you compete the task.  Obviously here I cannot see what you are doing or even if you are writing down anything. So let me just insert a couple of reminders to you to do that list……<Write down the roles you’ve had>


Now that I’m sure you have written down the roles. I want to share some thoughts and hopefully,if they agree with yours but especially if they don’t,. please post a comment or send an email.


Some of your roles are bit parts and non-speaking.  I’m thinking here of the role you had as a baby.  You certainly made noise but for a while no real words came forth.  Your role was one of helplessness.  You depended on your caregiver, usually your Mom and Dad to feed, diaper and clothe you,tuck you in bed, cuddle you , and generally do the things that registered in your mind as love!! Your role affected your parents greatly.  If you were a first child, it was a major adjustment to wake up in the middle of the night to feed and change your diapers.  Some of the men and women who were our parents could not adapt to this responsibility and some marriages split apart– role changing for them once again.


It would not be long before you were doing a role known as crawler.  In this role you caused your parents’ role to change.  Babies are major players in families with regards to making roles change….and not always for the best for the other players.  Babies are demanding and insistent creatures who have a most profound effect on the life play.


Ultimately you progressed from crawler to uncertain walker to runner to school child.  All stages have multiple roles.  Once you started to school you either watched or starred in the bully/bullied action.  Hopefully you did not have the role that was the bullied.  Many things could trigger that interplay between the bully/bullied roles.  If you were the bullied, it could be that you were smarter, heavier, looked different, dressed differently, lived in a different section of town, or maybe in a mobile home.  Whatever the heartbreak in some of the roles that elementary children play, it can affect the “actor” for the rest of his/her life.  Some children take on a clown role to enhance their difference; others become reclusive; and still others become “brains” thinking that if you can’t join them, then you will beat them where it counts – in academic achievement. The shy role or the loud mouth role – we have all probably seen them and even have lived some of the roles ourselves. So many roles were being acted during our elementary years and they were constantly changing.  Think of the kids in your elementary school classroom and the roles they had and that you did.


Recent actions by some young people demonstrate those who took their role as persecuted too far and began to strike back.  The action at Columbine HS in Colorado is a case in point.  Some roles may become too hard to sustain and since stalking off the set is not really an option, the actor lashes out. Weapons with terrible killing power have not been kept out of the hands of these young people, and when they use these weapons, tragedy is the inevitable result.


During school some students develop other roles like baseball or basketball players, choir members, actors in school dramas productions.  Some will develop leadership roles and be elected class officers or student council members.  Other roles during school days include friend, musician, clown, scholar, etc.  During high school, additional roles can emerge like boy and girlfriend roles.  Sometime even sexual roles occur and sometimes even parental roles – most often unplanned!


Adult roles are where smaller bit roles get taken to the Big Time on Broadway and include husband and wife roles and then parental roles.  During these roles there are many side roles of worker, supervisor, owner, banker, etc.  Unfortunately we don’t get to play just one role at a time – we all are playing multiple ones.  Balancing the various roles is a key.


I remember when I got married and I began living with someone other than a traditional roommate; it was a different role.  With a roommate if there were disagreements you could just move – with a spouse my script said moving out was not an option.  I/we had to make the role work!!  Unfortunately some folks do seem to take the role of living with a spouse just like having a traditional roommate – if it doesn’t work then just leave.  In this metaphorical-like column using a play with actors and roles, and scripts, I viewed my husband role as an unbreakable contract.  When and if my children decide to have children, I will consider the grandparent role a likewise unbreakable contract.


I don’t play the role of judge very well, so if your spousal role did not work out, I don’t judge but do believe you have to do what is right for you, your spouse, your children and your larger family.  For me there are two roles I will not relinquish – at least not of my own volition – husband and father being the two that are the most important to me right now.


Lots of other roles have come and gone for me over the years; some were enjoyable and some were not.  The role of traveler/explorer was and continues to be a lot of fun and I hope to continue in that role for many more years.  As I get older, I may not have the physical attributes to continue to play that traveler role but hope I have sense enough to know when to give it up and look at my old posters (aka photos)!


Some of us boomers play so many more different roles than I have mentioned – politician, writer, scholar, voter, criminal.  Hopefully few of us are criminals and politicians!! Think of all the roles you currently do daily and have done in the past – I’m going to list a few more roles that may spark your thinking and help you give me feedback I’m asking for in the last paragraph of this column.


Son, brother, uncle, daughter, sister, aunt, carpenter, electrician, handyman/woman, cook, dishwasher, soldier, widow(er), fraternity brother, sorority sister….think of others.


Do you have thoughts about playing different roles in your life and at different stages?  Which was the role you enjoyed playing the most and do you think this helped make them real?   Send your thoughts, either via email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com or post them at the end of the column. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.