PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Personal Finance
The rules of financial health are simple, but remarkably hard to follow. Be frugal in order to save, use your savings to buy the whole market not parts of it, if this system ain't broke, don't fix it. And don't underestimate your longevity.

In Memoriam
Charles Peterson
Henry Cadbury
Kenneth Gordon, MD
Lewis Harlow van Dusen, Jr.
Lindley B. Reagan, M.D.
Frederick Mason Jones, Jr.
George Willoughby

Old Age, Re-designed
A grumpy analysis of future trends from a member of the Grumpy Generation.

Customs, Culture and Traditions (2)
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Right Angle Club 2010
2010 is coming to a close, a lame-duck session is upon us, and probably after that will come two years of gridlock. But the Philadelphia Men's Club called the Right Angle, keeps right on talking about the current scene. A few of these current contents relate to speeches given elsewhere.www.philadelphia-reflections.com/topic/137.htm

Personal Passions
My own personal short list; eight decades in retrospect.

New Roles For Grandparents

Like everyone else, I had two grandfathers and two grandmothers. However, I can only remember seeing one grandmother on a single occasion when I was three or four years old, and the other three died before I gathered any recollection of them. Essentially, I never knew my grandparents. If they ever knew me, it was as a puking infant, don't he look sweet.

{Grandpa and Grandson}
Great Grandpa and Great Grandson

One of the many unexpected consequences of the introduction of penicillin, polio vaccine and the like, is that my generation has had to invent the role of grandparent, without any models to follow. My grandchildren are all in college or beyond, with reasonable expectations of getting married and starting careers while I watch. I already have two great-grandchildren, and with luck will have lots more. To my knowledge until ten years ago, I never met anyone who had great-grandchildren, so I'm not entirely certain what I'm expected to do with them. I could ask others, but they don't know much, either. Society has evolved a database of experience about how parents are supposed to relate to children, and children have evolved a literature about how they are expected to cope with their reflex hostility to their parents. Sigmund Freud made up a huge mythology about such conflicts and emotions, and while we are shaking off a good deal of it, Freud did help define the general rules of behavior between parents and children. All of us believe we are exceptions to such rules, of course, but they do make up a road map of the land mines to avoid. Furthermore, most of us formed some firm opinions during the Vietnam conflict, or the Summer of Love; presumably, most of our children feel a little silly about it now. Their folk songs record the mythology of that experience; even with guitar accompaniment, these songs all sound a little wry. Sorry about that. Wouldn't have missed it for the world, but sorry about that. Are ya gonna need me, are ya gonna feed me, when I'm sixty four. Sixty-four? That was twenty years ago.

By this time, the sassy generation has had a chance to learn how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is, as a reminder that there have always been a few who lived King Lear's experiences, but now it could happen to anyone. The two generations, my children's and my own, have now lived a common experience from start to end, not just half of it as Freud depicted. But there's a new twist; the two generations think they have a role with the third generation. Both generations are unclear about what the grandparents role should be with the new generation of young adults. I know what I think, you know what your think. Neither of us knows anything.

A thousand years of experience teaches how unwise it is to allow any relationship to revolve around gifts and the expectation of gifts. A mere two hundred years of experience make it plain to almost everyone how easy it is to ruin children by making life too easy for them. What does one do, then, with savings large or small, when grandchildren seem to combine aloofness with expectations? Does our society really expect us to favor our personal genome into eons of astronomical time? As one wanders occasionally through graveyards, it is very clear that our nostalgia for great grandparents born in 1814, is small indeed. Should we make an effort to create a lasting impression on such visitors from another planet, or should the whole misty idea of consanguinity be abandoned as a delusion. Should we take the wry advice of those who test our reactions with cynical descriptions. Should we, in a word, attempt to live out our lives with the perfect timing of spending our last dollar during our last hour? Come back in fifty years and there will be shelves of novels, plays and poetry which tell the sad tales of those who made one choice or the other. Future generations of grandparents will still have to make their own decisions, but at least they will know how the world will view them. One generation will likely cling to the viewpoint of its contemporaries, another generation will reject such viewpoints as nonsense. Our generation will never be quite sure.

Among the funny things about this situation is the curious inversion of the social classes. Everyone notices how domestic servants hang around observing the behavior Upstairs; no matter how firmly it is rejected Below Stairs, employer behavior is marveled at and imitated to some degree. But in the past, those servant social groups who had their children at sixteen, their grandchildren at thirty-two, their great-grandchildren at forty-eight, knew something that those of us who defer our gratifications might wish we knew. The experience is raw and basic, and all the more important for that reason. Some budding novelist, hoping to cloak predictions as folk lore, might give that theme a try.

(1823)

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