What happened to my grandparent’s world?

Each summer I couldn’t wait to go visit my grandparents.  It involved a dreadful road trip but was worth every mile once I arrived.  

One set lived on a wheat ranch. Flat, dusty, with miles of amber waves of grain. I would get up with the sun, gather eggs, dig potatoes, hang clothes on the line, pick apricots, and as I got older I’d help with the cooking and cleaning for a harvest crew. Work never felt so good.

The other set spent their summers vacationing lakeside amidst the tallest trees I’d ever seen. Their summers were slower paced with the biggest decision involving whether to canoe or swim.

Like most children discover, grandparents are amazing. You wonder how your parents could have ever come from such loving and considerate people. Weeks without arguments and at mealtime: no beets or liver.

My grandparents couldn’t have been more different from one another. Farmers versus college professor and nurse. Protestant versus Catholic. Staunch Republicans versus die-hard Democrats. Ford versus GM.

While their differences were striking, their similarities changed me the most.  Married for life.  Scrupulously honest. Worked hard. Saved money. Patriotic to the core--even in desperate times. Poverty and war shaped their worldview. The Great Depression was a time of personal deprivation. They held strong opinions about foreign dictators and had great respect for our republic. If I had to attach one word to them it would be: values. Their values ran as deep as their memories.

As my parent’s marriage dissolved around me, I clung even more to my grandparent’s values.  While their political viewpoints differed, their belief in America did not. Neither couple allowed debt, instead would save up and pay cash. Their lifespan encompassed amazing changes. Inventions and medical advancements made things easier and helped them live longer but was life that much better? They often pointed to how our country was changing and change wasn't always good.

My amazing summers were shared with two couples that never ceased to hold onto their belief in America. What would they think now? I think I know. They'd be ashamed. All they believed in and worked for is slipping away. The values they clung to no longer seem to matter.

I'm ashamed too, for deep down I knew better and didn't want to change. I liked this new way of life. I supported the idea that I could have it now and pay later. Yet my grandparents showed me that struggle comes before success. I also remember their warning: we often don't appreciate what we have until it's gone.

I fear what's gone are my grandparent's values.  Our nation faces staggering challenges. In my grandparent's world their values could stand the trial. I'm wondering what values are left in this nation  and are they strong enough for what is just ahead?

“America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”  Alexis de Tocqueville 1835

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