My Father's Father - The Influence of Other Generations

I was born in the early 1980s, making me an early millennial (or perhaps a Xennial if you subscribe to this theory of a subjoining micro generation between generation X and the millennials).  I don't demonstrate many of the characteristics associated with millenials, and sometimes I wonder how I came by some of the positions that I currently hold - a modern woman in a modern world, but with some very traditional ideas.  Many millennials were born to generation Xers, but my parents are both baby boomers.

My father was born immediately after WWII.  His dad was a laborer throughout the war, possibly as a civilian in the armed forces.  As soon as the chaos of the war period died down, in the enthusiasm of peacetime, he celebrated with his wife and she conceived, probably rather unexpectedly, as she was 41 years old when my dad was born.

My dad's father and mother were born in 1904 and 1905, respectively.  They were married in 1930 and had a few children through the the thirties, two of which did not survive childhood.  My dad is truly one of the first baby boomers, a late life child to his parents.

My dad was 37 when I was born, so perhaps not a late life baby to him, times had changed by the 1980s, but he was certainly an older and more traditional father than the types of fathers my friends had.  Furthermore, my dad was not raised by a man born in the roaring twenties, but by a man who was a fully grown family man when the difficulties of the Great Depression struck.

I feel the influence of being only two generations from the start of the 20th century.  My paternal grandparents were a part of the Interbellum Generation, those who came of age between the first and second world wars.  When I think about what my grandparents must have seen, it's sort of startling to think about.  The Interbellums were the first generation to start using cars as their primary source of transportation.  This means that in their early childhood they may have used horses, and grew up with parents that were having to adjust to this new way of life.

The folks of these generations experienced the social, political and economic changes of the 1920s and the challenges of the 1930s.  They raised children as the world entered WWII. They saw amazing advancements in technology, and yet probably (at least in the case of my dad's parents) did not live long enough to own a personal computer.  They saw the atomic bomb, prohibition, segregation, automation, everything from the implementation of the first telephones to the earliest man-made satellites.  I wonder how my dad's mother felt when, at the age of 14, Canadian women were granted the right to vote.  How did she feel knowing she was growing up in a new age of women's rights?

I never met my dad's father, he died in 1978 at the age of 73.  I have seen photos of him as an adult and my dad looks like him and I can even see myself in him a little, which feels strange.  He was a handsome man, uneducated, hard working.  There is a funny story about my grandfather.  He left school at the age of 9, and went to work in a factory as a sweeper.  He brought his earnings home to his mother every week, who then gave him back one nickel to buy tobacco.  A 9 year old factory worker, smoking tobacco.  It paints an interesting picture of the times.

He did a lot of manual labor work throughout his life, and my dad had a lot of respect for the provider that his father was.  My dad's mom was...a bit of a kook, based on the stories I am told, but from all accounts his parents loved one another.  His mom described his dad as being very handsome and that the counter that led to my dad's birth was like "a second honeymoon."  They were Catholics, sending my dad to Catholic schools, which in the 50's were a rather strict way to get educated.  His mother died when I was a small child, and I regret that I couldn't have personally known these two people better, who were such a strong influence on a man who was such a strong influence on me.

I think about who my dad was, a staunch traditionalist in so many ways, but yet always tech savvy, having always owned (and even built) his own personal computers.  My dad was also not college educated - and in fact dropped out of high school numerous times to pursue a musical career - but my dad was always so proud and supportive of higher education for his children.  My dad did manual labor, suffering an accident that left him with a permanent handicap in his twenties (he lost a hand), but my dad was very resilient through this challenge (I never knew him with both hands and so his way of doing things seemed very normal to me).  He was a wild musician, an insurance salesman, and later in life the stay at home parents who home schooled his children.  My dad could be stubborn as hell in altering his opinion but was open to change, including moving to a new country.  He was a baby boomer, a lifelong hippie, a techie, a parent to millennials, and always the son of older parents who lived a very modest life.   My dad was a bridge between my life now in 2019, and my grandfather, who came of age shortly after WWI.

The last time my dad spoke to me about his parents they had been gone for over thirty years.  He never idealized his parents.  He saw them for who they were and he loved them.  He would get a wistful expression as he told us stories and would say, "I miss my parents every single day."  They clearly helped shape him into who he was, and my dad helped to shape me.

So nowadays, when people make the comment that I fall into the millennial category, I sometimes say, "That is true, but I was raised by a man who was raised by a man born in 1904, and that influence can definitely be felt in my life."


Comments