Saturday, April 09, 2011

Stepping Back

Now that I am in my forties and have several decades of life experience, I wish I could talk to my grandparents, my maternal ones in particular, with new eyes. My grandparents died at a time when I was still relatively young; I didn't realize then that many people's grandparents got to spend more years with their grandchildren. My grandfather passed away when I was in high school, my grandmother when I was a senior in college. And my grandmother was never the same after my grandfather died. Sadly, my grandmother never seemed to be very content with her life or her past, which was one of the reasons I think we never talked about it. For most of the time that I really knew my grandmother, she was ill with leukemia. However, she also seemed bitter about her youngest days, spent in Europe in grinding poverty, and her life as a young adult. Understandable, but there could also have been tales of endurance and overcoming hardship.

My grandfather also had a hard life, although typical of the poorer families of the time in this country. He didn't seem to relish much about his past either. So while my youth kept me from even knowing how to ask the kind of questions I would like to ask today, my grandparents also weren't eager to share their experiences.

Which is a long lead-in (whew!) to say that I have been thinking of them quite a bit lately. What we are in now may not match our vague impressions of the Great Depression (no dust bowls, no long unemployment lines), but things are certainly tight financially for so many families. High gas and food prices, high unemployment, real estate markets dried up. If my grandparents could bear to talk about it, I'd love to know what it was like to try to raise a family in those days. What ways did they use to get by? I have ideas of how things might work out today, if life gets harder for the majority, but I'd like to know if my thoughts about a possible future in any way resemble what was in the past. Automobiles, phones, televisions, so many things are different now. Maybe someday I can share wisdom with grandchildren of my own.

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