Generation Gap

This week I am expecting a visit from my Grandson and his girlfriend. They are both college students, and wanting a break from the cold and dreariness of New Yorks Hudson Valley.

For me, it will it will be a bitter-sweet week, filled with pleasure at seeing them, and fear that I will not be able to understand their thoughts and desires. As a parent, I have only recently come to terms with understanding my children, and wonder if I will be able to cope with a generation that hasn't been completely categorized yet.

My generation was the product of the depression years before World War II when education beyond high school was only for the favored few. Many of us worked at menial jobs after graduation, and spent the time of growing into adulthood in a wartime existence. It was a time of great social change when women suddenly went from clerical jobs into the factory and assembly line to replace men who were serving in the military.

There were shortages, not only of food and manufactured goods. but also for normal social activities. Family vacations stopped for lack of gas, and dances were few and far between except for USO affairs where she talked about the boyfriend overseas, and he about the girl back home. When the War finally ended, wedding receptions became as common as 25- year-old freshmen in college.

The baby boom started in earnest, and family life got back again to normal. Fathers became the head of households and city dwellers moved to the suburbs to fill all the newly built houses. PTA's and scouts were a family responsibility: everyone participated. Teen agers lived in a society that was close to affluence. A college education was available to all who had the grades, and automobiles were plentiful enough to have more than one to a family. Dorms were still segregated according to sex, but that too was soon to change.

Grandchildren were inevetible, and often were raised without the wise council of grandparents who have moved away to retirement communities. The family home with three generations housed in it was a thing of the past as children of that generation moved away from a family complex to wherever their jobs or careers took them. Contact with grandchildren was often reduced to a check or cash in a birthday or holiday card. One to one relationships with grandma or grandpa became limited to special ocassions rather than ordinary events.

Some grandparents were lucky enough to establish a social relationship with some of their grandchildren. I was one of the lucky ones, in having my grandson share with me a lengthy overseas trip. We had plenty of time to exchange thoughts and ideas, and yet we were able to follow our own individual interests whenever we chose. The outcome of the trip was an intellectural enhancement for both of us.

I was able to treat him as an adult, and he was able to see that wise advice could be gleaned from someone older than himself. I, on the other hand gained a tolerance for his way of communicating with others without the restraints built in by tradition. We both matured in our social viewpoints.

Now he is coming to me to be the teacher, rather than the student, and bring me further into the world of computers than I have ever dared to go. He will not fear the electronic giants as I did, because he has met and tamed them since he was a child. His horizons are not limited by the view from my front porch, but the very stars themselves. He has less regard or awe for the financial rewards that he and his friends will expect to reap from their labors.

His social life has less boundaries than mine had, yet he is even more conscious of his effect on relationships with the environment and the people he reacts with. Politically he is beginning to be more conscious of how he is governed, and more suspicious of candidates promises than I was. He respects education, and works hard to wring as much knowlege out of each lecture he attends, even in required courses.

He is no saint. His dorm room is as sloppy as his mothers was when she went to college. He never washes the dishes that he has soiled, yet he always is neat looking and presentable. He cleans up well. He, like the rest of his classmates thinks his parents are overprotective and examines carefully every bit of advice they give him before deciding whether or not to heed it.

I am wondering how I will entertain him when he arrives. Through recent experiences I know that he is a good driver, yet I wonder about the wisdom of lending him the car for a trip to Ybor City or Clearwater Beach Will he want to go to Bubbas, or will he be happy to go to Hooters?

While they are here, I expect to have to change the car radio buttons away from the Public Radio station, and I am sure that our regular television shows will not be visited. We have layed in a good supply of snacks and soft drinks, and will probably eat out more often than usual.

It will be a pleasure to entertain young people provided I don't have to keep up with them physically. I won't like being caught dozing while they are talking, but I have been used to staying up after midnight for several months now. It is the morning that I fear, as I am not at my best until a cup or two of coffee. I know I shall survive the week. I hope they do!

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