The WW2 Generation: Love it before we lose it

I was reading a fellow Bloggers post tonight and it hit me just how incredible the internet is and how cool it is to share in life with so many people from throughout the world. He had taken a moment to write about his parents and as I read what he wrote in a form a grammar that seems so far superior to mine I couldnt help but smile behind the screen. It made me take a moment and think about how our generation has a lost desire for learning about the generaitons that came before us and I thought to myself “heck what would the generation behind me think about my grandparents generation”.

So, I thought i would take a moment and reflect on the greatest american generation tha that has ever lived. Im talking about the generation that lived during the WW2 era. My grandparents generation, the generation born somewhere near the 1920s. I wish I could say I had a lot of knowledge of this time and regretfully I only know of what my grandparents have told me in our short talks before their passing, but what I do know is so profoud and learned from experience.

My grandfather was probably one of the most incredible people I had ever met. He carried not much more than an elementry education but managed to build a car from the ground up.  He raised an entire family as a painter and it wasnt until after his death in 2010 that i learned that he never payed even one house payment in his lifetime. He built his first house and sold that house which funded his next house which funded his next house and so on.

My grandfather was a simple man but he was the wisest man I have ever known. He was calm, he was sensitive, he was intuitive and he was innocent yet the greatest judge of character. To this day I have to believe that he knew something was different about aiden even before anyone else did. He took a special liking to my Aiden and i can still hear voice clear as day in the back of my mind saying lovingly, “there’s just something about that boy”. He was diagnosed with severe autism just months before his death, we never told him but somehow I think he already knew.

My grandpa John once told me a story about when he was in the army during world war two. You see, it was his job to build the bridges for the troops and once his men had all crossed they would blow them up. I remember him telling me about a year before he took ill that he was in the trench with a man named Jose’ and there was a battle going on all aroud them. Now Jose’ only spoke spanish but grandpa could tell that he was praying and as jose’ prayed grandpa said he would just say “me too Jose’! me too!” and he smiled as he told that story but now as an adult I look back at this story and i can imagine two young men in a ditch terrified for their lives and the story is no longer funny. He never told me more about the man Jose’ never told me if he made it home or not but the story will always remain in my heart not only because of the multitude of lessons packed into one small story but because his love for me was so evident in his telling it in such a way to not make it scary but rather to make me smile.

Grandpa loved children. He just had that way about him. He wanted kids to stay kids for as long as they could. Grandpa John had this cookie jar he often would fill with the purple fig newtons and one time just as I grew tall enough to reach that cookie jar i took the silver lid off the top and grandpa came in and said sternly but with a soft smile on his face, “HEY, STAY OUT OF MY COOKIE JAR!” I remember stopping to look at him almost scared until our eyes met and we both laughed and this became a game between us for the remainder of my growing years. I dont know where that cookie jar ended up but someday maybe I will find it. I have been told its in the family somewhere but no matter what that memory is still there.

Then at his side was always my amazing grandma Betty.  Betty Davis was her maiden name he he I always had to throw that in there. Grandma Betty was that cool grandma that frequented all of her grandchildrens hockey games no matter how old us grandkids got. Grandma betty was the glue. She was the one that held grandpa together and the one link that held the family together as one. Grandma, up until the day she died, bowled with a 12 pound bowling ball and was the greatest bowler I had ever met and words with friend, forget about beating that woman she was the master.

Grandma had a way of calming me no matter what. In high school I was going through some hard times with bullying and home life and I would often skip school but when i would skip I would go to my grandmas house where we would drink coffee, play aggravigation and talk about girl things until the school day was near over. She would often say, “Ill cover for you this time but one day Im going to have to tell your mom. but if you ever skip I like that you come here and not get into trouble”. My mom never knew about mine and my grandmothers afternoons until long after I graduated high school. I was probably in my middle twenties when the truth finally came out. Oh, and when my brother graduated high school he used his graduation money  to buy an old beat up trans am insteand of helping to pay for books in college and she allowed him to stash the car behind her old barn my mom eventually found out but hey by that point the car was bought and the money was gone.

I never knew much about my grandmother and grandfathers past. They didnt speak much about it. They always made us kids as if we were the center of the universe as all kids think they are anyways. and when us kids would come and say “we dont believe in santa clause” grandpa would always respond, “I still believe in Santa. There is a Santa. Dont say there is no santa”. and ya know i have to give props to my mom because she would often sign our presents “from santa” up until the day I left home for college.  That’s just how my family was and it was my grandparents that modeled this.

Last, but certainly not least, the greatest lesson my grandparents taught me was the lesson of family and resiliancy. When my grandfather took ill my grandmother never left his side. She cared for him until the day he died. She promised that he would never end up in a nursing home for a “stranger” to take care of him. In her eighties my grandmother bathed him, fed him, changed him, watched over him and loved him more intelsley everyday. That is an example that is lifechanging. As I watch my son and when the days are bad I cant help but close my eyes and watch her in the back of my mind and feel the grace she portrayed even when i know she was struggling and its that example that pushes me through each the day. There are days I wish I could call her. There are days I wish I could sit in her kitchen drinking coffee as she eats her hard boiled egg. I miss the simpler days that weren’t really simpler at all. There was just so much more love. There was a safe place in their home. I had the best childhood because of two amazing people that knew the dark sides of the world but chose to focus on the good. Sometimes I think this world over complicates its self and the true meaning of life is found in the simple conversations at the kitchen table over a simple cup of coffee. I hope oneday I can be the calm for someone that my grandparents were able to extend.

Just this week I made some tough decisions. I decided to walk away from my job on the psychiatric unit after 14 years and through the tears I knew it was a decision i had to make in my journey to finding the calm in the world. I needed to walk away from the chaos to find myself. I had a boy at home needing his momma home and I had a soul inside of me that was hurting. I was letting my pride keep me in a place I didnt belong. Even now I struggle but when i look back at my grandparent’s life and look at what truly hangs with me its not the jobs they did, it was the love they gave. It was the calm they extended in the chaos of growing up. It was the safety they held inside of them that made their home a place I never wanted to leave. It was the magic in their spirits that I see now was the strength of overcoming the lives they had to overcome and the hardships they had to endure. It is for this reason I ask all of you to talk to your grandparents. They are not only a wealth of knowledge and wisdom they will show you a Level of love that will sustain you long after they are gone.

*the picture in this post is of the car (A ford Model A) that my grandfather re did all on his own later in his life that remains to this day in our family

One thought on “The WW2 Generation: Love it before we lose it

  1. This brought a tear to my eye. Just lovely and vivid memories. I was forced to give up my career after I lost my partner to focus on our son. I remember people saying I had made the wrong decision and I could buy in child sitters. But then I believed it was the right decision. Now I now it was the right decision.
    Thank you for sharing this.


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