I was on the phone with my grandpa last night and I asked, “I called you last night. Where were you?” He answered, “What, are ya writing a book?” Mind you he’s 81 and for as long as I can remember no one knows what he’s really doing on a daily basis unless they’re with him. When cell phones came out he said, “I don’t need a cell phone. If I wanted you to know where I was I would tell you.” My aunt bought him a phone a year or two ago, though he never charges it or leaves it in his jacket pocket hung up on the closet. He also doesn’t own a computer and is still subscribed to magazines he actually reads.
After my grandma passed away, I made a promise to myself to be closer with family and that even if I couldn’t be with them, I would call once a week. I told my grandpa I was just checking in and saying hi. He replied, “Yeah, we’re all getting up there. Since your grandmother passed everyone is calling.” He’s always said things like that, “We won’t be around forever,” even going as far as to tell me how he’d want to be taken care of after he passes. It doesn’t phase him; he’s not bothered by it; he’s not afraid of that next step. He’s happy with his life; no regrets.
Before hanging up, he told me I was too skinny the last time he saw me and that he’s going to send us Omaha Steaks. I laughed and said, “I’ve just been running and eating healthier lately,” to which he replied with the list of what will be in the box.
After our talk, I started to think about how brave he is about life growing up during the depression and experiencing the home front during World War II while living with his grandparents, his sister, and his cousins. He’s traveled to every continent, well, except Europe. He said, “Why would I want to go somewhere that’s older than me?” He preferred Australia, cruises around Africa and South America, and white water rafting at age 65 in Colorado. He was in the Korean War, though just the tail end. His company was replacing another on the front lines and as they were walking to the border a truck stopped and told them the armistice had been signed. The joke in the family is that, “Stormin’ Norman showed up and they got scared.” I smile every time I think about that.
Anyway, after the war, he lived in Japan working different jobs within the military complex before heading back to the United States and getting married to my grandma when she was 18 and he was around 23. He worked as a carpenter in a union in New York City and even worked on the World Trade Center. He had two kids, a house, a dog, and a wife. He loves baseball and football and always buys an American made car. He is the American dream.
He’s part of a generation who didn’t need a college degree, could fix cars, went off to war as part of growing up, that worked hard their whole life and now enjoys their family with a pension and social security. He grew up when it was cool to be a guy; when there was so much hope and promise for the future; when people were breaking out of their shells, gender roles, and monotonous lifestyles; when Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and all the great events and speakers were promoting freedom and equality; when there were real heroes fighting for real causes. I envy that.
It makes me truly upset to sit here knowing I’m safe. Other people built the security and I sit back and enjoy it without much thought. His generation was all part of something bigger than themselves, whereas most of mine sits back and is waiting for their handout. The mantra of their generation was, “Be a productive member of society.” Ours? “Do what you want. You can be anything.” When I think about it, that won’t work long term. Totally be happy and do things you love, but who’s going to pave the roads you want to drive on, make that notebook you write in, or even make this computer I get to blog with?
Maybe they did too good of a job and now we’re all used to it being there already built and ready for use. The problem is, now it’s starting to break, and all the college degrees in the world can’t seem to fix it.