Commentary: It’s Not Rocker Science

By Edward P. Noga

No, the title of this column does not contain a typo but it is an acknowledgement that some of the simpler things in life often get lost in our hyper-paced world.

By now, I’m sure you are asking yourself: What’s this all about?

A while back at a Zoom meeting, the convener asked if there were any last-minute questions or comments before adjournment. One member said, “If we’re giving an award for the person in the most comfortable chair, I think Father Ed gets the award because I think he is in a rocking chair.”

The speaker was right. I was in a rocker. Truth be told, rockers seem to be part of the DNA in our family, as well as a popular selling point at the front door of a national restaurant chain.

Back in July 2018, when I retired from pastoral duties, I had three rockers in the parish rectory. Two I left behind and one I brought with me to retirement. The rocker I brought with me was from my parents and given me in 1976. And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

My mom often shared with us three kids that our maternal grandfather regularly rocked his nine little ones in a rocking chair each evening after his day at the steel mills in Campbell.

I remember my brother once asking our mom, “Hey, didn’t your mom ever rock you kids?”

My mom immediately responded, “There were nine of us! Mom was always busy keeping everything in order and keeping us fed.” She went on to tell us how, when they were living at home, they woke up every morning to the aroma of freshly baked bread. Store-bought bread just didn’t happen in their household. Nine Koly kids helped Grandpa to put a lot of miles on the family rocker.

Continuing in that tradition, our mom gave us our share of rocking time. That continued with her four grandchildren who now are all adults. The soothing and calming back-and-forth in the chair is certainly part of many families’ experiences all over our world.

It slows us down and calms us after hectic days. When Mom and Dad gave me a rocker back in 1976, I didn’t think twice about it.

So now back to the recent Zoom meeting when the speaker commented on me sitting in a rocker. The next evening, I thought about his comment and how we all have those longstanding memories that slow us down and calm us.

For sure, the pandemic in this past year has caused all of us to have varying degrees of anxiety. News stories abound about how the virus has affected our minds, thoughts and personalities as well as our physical health. We yearn for some sense of normality. We want to return to some sense of what life used to be.

Early in the pandemic, doctors and public health officers encouraged us to get outside and walk in nature to calm us and keep us from getting too jittery. As the months have progressed, the call of the outdoors has not diminished. Our mental health, we should know, is just as important as our physical health.

For some, a rocker does the trick. For others, it’s working on a puzzle, going fishing or taking a bike ride.

For some, delving into a good book does the trick. Maybe a regular Facetime with a good friend who has moved away is just what we need to keep in balance. For others, it’s painting or woodworking or knitting.

There are those devoted to working out at the YMCA as well as those who look forward to yoga or meditation. With a nod to technology, some get their down time in the world of computer games.

I think the fabric of our lives needs to experience a “rocking chair” to keep us on track and in control. Science tells us of the marvel of the intricacy of our human existence and how important it is to have pastimes that bring us serenity.

As a postscript to my mention of Grandpa’s experience and also as an unfortunate example of the times we live in, my grandfather was rocking his very young son, Joey, when he died of influenza Dec. 18, 1916.

In the midst of the vaccine rollout and social distancing, as we Zoom through these days of uncertainty, make no mistake that there are those very simple and much needed aspects of our lives that help us with our balance and dreaming.

Appreciate them. Cherish them. Use them to the fullest.

It’s not rocket science.