A Conversation with My Grandma

Last month, we read Leaders Eat Last as the launch of our Gold Millennial book club, and I followed up our discussion with a write up summarizing some of the most poignant messages and lessons we gleaned Simon Sinek’s 26 brilliant chapters.

yummy treat, tea, and book

I was pleased and honored that my grandma Bernie was enthusiastic about our book club from day one, and read the book with us. I was especially interested to hear how a member of an older generation would view Sinek’s thoughts on the generational gap.

After I published our follow-up, I was able to have further discussion with Grandma Bernie about this phenomenon, and with her permission I am sharing her thoughts with you today.

Stacy: How do you feel about Sinek’s description of the generations (ch 11-12)? Do you find them to be accurate? Stereotypes? What are some personal stories you can share about how the generational stereotypes have been true or not true?

Grandma Bernie: “I guess I’m half depression-era-child as well as older baby boomer. I was born just before the boom in 1943 but grew up after WWWII when the economy was really starting to thrive and technology started to take off. I lived through vinyl, 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, CDs, and now i-pods and digital sounds.

We got our first TV when I was thirteen and it was in color! Woo hoo! My aunts had a black and white.

old fashioned tv, old tv, bunny ears

The Greatest Generation. I heard first-hand accounts. The brothers who we bought the paper business from were very old fashioned.  They had a big victory garden. This was 1984 when we bought the store. That was the first time I’d heard that expression. They were living a very simple life. They explained that the purpose of a victory garden was to become self-sufficient, and to reduce the burden of the war effort.

My family told stories about ladies who worked in factories. One of my aunts made bullets and ammunition. Many car factories began making military vehicles. My sister (seven years older than Grandma) said she walked on the heels of her shoes as much as she could so she wouldn’t wear the soles out. Everyone saved everything. Everything was rationed. Nothing was wasted. Just in case.

All my uncles were serving in the armed forces. I remember seeing a lot of uniformed men when I was a kid. There was a lot of military music on the radio, movies depicting the war effort, war-time love stories, even war-story musicals.

toy soldiers

It was much like the feeling we all had right after 9-11. A surge in patriotism, flags all around, a strong, stick-together nationalism. It was comforting to know that we had very strong allies oversees in the EU (well it wasn’t called that then!), unlike today’s alienating nationalism. It was a unifying nationalism.

And yes, jobs were for life, mostly. There was strong company loyalty between heads of companies and employees.

Appliances – your toaster lasted twenty years and so did your washing machine. It feels like such a waste to me now throwing out a toaster. I remember my uncle taking the toaster to the repair shop. Even pens. Our pens were refillable. We didn’t throw them out –  we bought new ink! When pens first became disposable I had trouble throwing them out.

We weren’t a very coddled generation, but we showered our kids with what we didn’t have. My kids fall into the baby boomer generation. As Sinek said, the younger baby boomers raised in the 60s are more of a me generation than a we generation. More emphasis on personal wealth and success. I find that to be absolutely true.

Even though I am not part of that generation, I see how I was influenced by it, because that’s just the way it was. Then there was the hippie generation – I was a young married person when that was going on. Grandpa did not have to go into the Vietnam war because we had kids. But people were not satisfied with the status quo, and things began to change. Inequities. A lot of protests about the war. Everything Sinek said was spot-on.

Interesting that I was caught somewhere in between.

Comparing all that to how things are today, the world is much smaller, metaphorically.  Because of the Internet, social media, and cell phones, we socialize daily but have become disconnected physically from each other and the real world. Texting has replaced dropping in to visit someone.

I’m just as guilty as my children. We’re all trying to do more, and feel like we can do more, with new technology. But in the process we are not ever living in the moment. We rely on health clubs for our exercise, weight loss programs for our abundance of food (Grandma has worked at Weight Watchers for over ten years).  We feel because of all the modern conveniences that we can and should be able to do it all!

So many of us in our old-wired brains are not able to deal with it and need to seek outside help, such as nutritionists and psychologists. Or we rely on self-medication to cope with these modern pressures. We realize in our conscious brains all these problems, and yet we get caught up in destructive behavior despite our knowledge. So we have to consciously make an effort to step back, take a walk in the woods, meditate, call a friend – find things that humanize us – give us that dose of oxytocin.

old phone vs. smart phone

Each generation wants to do more for their kids. Give them what they didn’t have. Progress? You may say. Evolution? Anyway, as a result, each generation gets more coddled and more entitled and more protected. Everyone gets a trophy. Each generation thinks they are right and doing things the best way.

I really don’t know what the answer is. Every generation has to figure out how to make the best choices for their lives. There is a shift I believe today. Millennials are realizing that more isn’t always better and instant gratification isn’t always best and that life doesn’t always hand out trophies. We may be awaiting the best generation yet, as Millennials raise their children, learning from all the mistakes of the past one. Hope springs eternal!

Millennials: your generation really has all the answers! You’ve seen so much in your little lifetimes. You’ve seen a lot. You lived through cassette tapes and CDs and you’ve realized that being a helicopter parent isn’t the best thing. You’re doing it all right. So I do have hope for the world.”

Stacy: Thank you Grandma for your inspiring stories and encouraging words! This is really uplifting and powerful. I now also feel a renewed hope for future generations.  Whatever suffering older generations have been through, it never has to be in vain. For the sake of our children and for humanity, we will keep learning and teaching and passing on only the good. When we know better we do better.


What did you think of Grandma Bernie’s account of the generations? What stories do you have to share?




3 thoughts on “A Conversation with My Grandma

  1. LOVE this ! SO true and well said. I agree with all these comments and observations about generational views and cultural / parental influences !


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