Greatest Generation to the next generation

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

I suddenly found myself stuck in the car with the teen-aged grandson. Halloween night was a few hours away and I found myself in a frightful situation.

Maw-Maw had hired the 14-year-old for a couple of hours of yard work. My part in this drama was to drive over and haul him.

While Maw-Maw has had a big hand in rearing the kid and his siblings, I’ve not had such a history with them. Too often I’ve been away at work or such, been more in the background. So one-on-one times like the one in the car have been infrequent.

This kid is the inquisitive one. He asks good questions. Today’s tip for young people: if you want to impress, ask good questions. Particularly of teachers and of potential employers/supervisors.

Somehow the topic in the car turned to World War II. Did I know anybody who was in World War II? he asked.

Well, of course, my father was in World War II, I replied. Dad served in the Army then for more than five years.

“Really?” responded the kid. His fascination took me aback.

Being a stepgrandson, the kid doesn’t know my family here in the hometown. I was eager to tell him about Dad. Probably the kid will end up inheriting Dad’s 16-gauge pump shotgun.

I did some quick calculating. The kid was born in 2001, more than 60 years after Dad signed up with Uncle Sam and just ahead of the storm that was about to hit the world.

I was born more than 90 years after great-grandpa Harris saw the end of the Civil War in which he served. To the kid, WWII is about as distant as the Great National Conflict is to me.

“Did he fight in Europe or Japan?” the kid asked about Dad. It was good to learn that at least they’re still identifying the players in history classes in modern schools.

The answer was Europe, but I quickly moved into a mini-lecture about Dad being one day out of the Philippines when the first atomic bomb dropped. The kid took in my praise for President Harry Truman’s fateful decision to drop the bomb and possibly save my Dad’s life along with those of a million or more fellow servicepeople.

So what will the future hold for the kid? How will he feel his way into manhood as Dad did so many years ago on the eve of the world’s greatest conflict? As I felt my way many years later in peacetime?

One of the great pastimes of we seniors is picking out some young people to follow as they grow up and head from school and out into the world.

We like to speculate on things like what’ll the kids end up doing, who’ll they will end up marrying, what’ll they end up doing, where’ll they end up living.

Especially when the kids are close by, in the family circle. Though they don’t have to be family. Neighbor kids, church kids, others here and yon also are good for seniors’ study.

For us, watching young folks grow up is better than TV.

Of course we seniors are never right in our predictions.

For instance, I have two nephews close in age and temperaments. Sons of an Air Force veteran, the older one up and joined the Marines. The other stuck close to home and likes the civilian life.

That surprised me. I had expected somewhat opposite outcomes for them. You just never know.

I’ll try to provide an update on the kid when events warrant. There’s another grandkid who holds potential for another, future report to you.

While rearing kids the temptation is to get so concentrated on the day-to-day details that you miss the bigger picture: that the kids are wonderful stories being written right before our eyes.

We tend to focus on what they’re doing — specifically what they’re doing wrong — and miss out on what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking.

To miss out on the bigger picture would be like letting a really good book just sit around on a shelf. You pass by and glance at the attractive cover once in a while but never open it up and mine the treasure inside.

A few carefully injected questions once in a while can make the kids’ stories much more intriguing. I’ve found that a car ride on a sleepy Saturday morning provides fine opportunity.

By the way, to the Greatest Generation and to those who love them, have a good Veterans Day.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

comments powered by Disqus