I never expected to be a grandfather.
Most of you know I have two married daughters, the eldest of whom will be 40 next month and the younger 38 next year. Like virtually all members of the lower 99%, each of them and their husbands work – not because they necessarily want to but because they have little choice. Thinking about having a child is a momentous decision, more so today than ever.
Long gone for the most part are the days of multiple children, big families and stay at home moms. Women should have a choice as to whether or not they want to continue working after having children; but more and more that choice has been eliminated, Those who are the loudest in supporting “family values” are the same ones opposing a living wage for anyone who works full time. My wife and I had four children; buried two. We raised our kids on one income. My grandfather came from Italy in 1906, didn’t speak the language and supported a wife and 8 children. My father with an 8th grade education supported a wife and 3 sons; he was a union man.
No more. That’s capitalism.
This development was an all new experience for an older man who didn’t think there was anything new to experience.
On Thanksgiving Day I was riding in the shotgun seat on our way to my son-in-laws mother’s house for dinner. He was driving and my daughter was in the back seat with their two week old son. My son-in-law is a knowledgeable music buff and slipped in a disk of the music of my youth and, while listening to various “girl groups” from the 1960’s I began to smile.
This was the music that my wife loved when she was 17.
And as I listened it dawned on me that this moment was mine. Neither my daughter or son-in-law were alive when she was seventeen. My son-in-law never met my wife who was already gone when he met my daughter. And my daughter knew her only as her mom, not as the woman I loved.
It seemed like a dream; a mind trick. Here I was sitting in a car on Thanksgiving in far from home Florida, thinking of the girl only I knew, while riding with the daughter she and I made who was sitting by the son she and her husband had made.
I had held an infant and danced around the room to Hall and Oates “Rich Girl” – that same woman / mother now sitting in the back seat with her new son in a dreamily different place and different time known only to me. Indeed a surreal few moments for an old man in heavy traffic.
What do we want for our children and grandchildren?
A long and healthy life. Happiness. Freedom from want and fear. These things are what everyone hopes for their children. Yet none of us knows what the future holds.
Clark will go into the future having been born on the day Donald Trump was elected President. It will all seem perfectly normal to him just as FDR and Harry Truman were normal to me. Just as normal as Hitler was to any German child born in 1933.
Yes I worry about the future. Comparisons to 1933 no longer seem so ludicrous.
Will he grow up in a proto-fascist state which seems perfectly normal to him? I hope not. But now, more than ever I need to do what I can to ensure that he does not.
“Oh Toritto! There you go being hysterical again!”
Well no. Our extended family includes Italians, Hispanics, Jews, blacks, Koreans, lesbians and inter-racial nieces and nephews.
I refuse to see any of them marginalized, wind up on registries or in camps. I refuse to see any of them die in pointless wars. And yes; it can happen here.
How many German mothers celebrated the birth of children in 1920 Weimar only to see them die a pointless death at Stalingrad or Kursk? How many of my mother’s generation bore sons to die pointlessly in Vietnam?
I want peace and freedom for all of our grandchildren. I want a world still green. I want equality and dignity for all of us.
Clark has given the rest of my life new meaning. For these things this old man can still fight – and fire a rifle if necessary.