Last week, I attended a party where I was in the company of four generations and I found it to be both fascinating and intoxicating. The topics of conversations and discussions about personal life experiences were as varied as the spices found in a chef’s pantry. What an interesting flavor we could become if we were all mixed together! Yet, like most get-togethers, the young stayed with the young, the old sat with the old, and the middle generation(s) mingled throughout, occasionally checking in on the wants and needs of the others.
Our youth and elders have the greatest differences in life and are rarely seen spending much time together. When newer family members are born, they are thrown into the arms of the eldest family members for fussing over and photos. As the child grows past the cutesy, innocent stage of toddlerhood, interest in one another seems to decrease, perhaps because of their life differences. Like opposite ends of a magnet, they naturally propel away from each other. But, if arranged in a certain way, they could actually grow closer and bond together.
Feeling that my 82 year-old father and elementary school-aged sons could learn a lot about life from one another, I arranged for them to spend an entire day together. To ensure no distractions, there were no TV, video games, computers, or any other members of their own generations present; a simple table and chairs were set up in a quiet room with a deck of cards. I asked my father to tell the boys stories from his own youth and what the world was like when he was young and I encouraged my sons to discuss what their childhood is like today with their grandfather. And they did just that while playing several games of Rummy.
My sons faces became frozen with astonishment as they listened to their grandfather tell them how he used to play with clothespins and a can of beans for toys, how he used to chase after the ice delivery man’s truck for a piece of ice, and that if he wanted ice-cream, he’d have to walk to the corner pharmacy with his own bowl in hand to get a scoop. I watched my father’s cocoa-brown eyes light up with surprise as the boys told him about their favorite TV shows, the calculated ways to win the battles on their video games, and the frustrating fact that they must do homework on the weekends and over summer vacation. As diverse as their childhoods were, these males did have a couple of classic similarities : baseball, superheroes, and checkers.
By day’s end, a unique bond had been created between the two opposite generations. Their affiliation with each other was no longer only having similar DNA in their blood, but having learned – by sharing with each other their own experience – about the evolution of man. What could be more interesting in life than that?
Have a youngster and an elder family member? Pick up the phone and arrange a time for them to be together without the distractions of modern day. They’ll thank you for it.
— Kelly O’Callan