The greatest generation had it so good - after they won that war
I'm certainly no historian — and not even all that intelligent, if I'm honest — but I'm pretty sure nobody ever had a better life than my dad's generation.
Think about it. The men of the so-called "greatest generation" was the last batch of guys on earth who only had to go to work five or six times a week and then, when they got home, they were done.
No diaper changing, no serious baby-sitting, no meal planning and no ultimate responsibility for the care and feeding of the family.
Today, of course, that is all different. Husbands and fathers of today are expected to perform at least a noticeable fraction of the household duties. Cleaning, cooking, child-care — all that junk that used to be handled by Mom (whether she had a job outside the home or not) — is now shared by the male of the species in most civilized households.
But my dad? When he got home from work, he was through. He could drink his beer and read his newspaper and everybody else was not only supposed to stay out of his way, but they needed to be quiet, too. Back in the 1950s and '60s, kids really were expected to be seen and not heard — and at my house not seen was even better.
Now, don't get me wrong, I loved my dad. I never told him that, of course, because I would have been afraid of making him mad with such a statement. And it was never forgotten by anyone at our house that Dad had spent four years in the Marine Corps during World War II fighting in the South Pacific. He didn't talk about that, even a little bit, but I know from films like "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" — not to mention books like Stephen Ambrose's "D-Day" — that he was in extreme danger for prolonged periods. He paid more than his share of dues, and he was very lucky just to have the privilege to return home.
As I have confessed in this space in the past, I am one of those experts on parenting who never actually had children — and I realize there are a lot of us out there. But I was once a child, and I was once the age of most parents. Today, of course, I am the age of a great-grandparent and still sharing opinions (with poor saps like you) on all manner of topics for which I have no actual firsthand experience.
But it is clear to me, after almost three-quarters of a century of living (OK, I'm only 72, so sue me for rounding off a little), that the things expected of a good dad today would have blown my old man's mind back in his heyday.
Let's face it, the life of that generation (assuming they survived the war and their often crappy and dangerous jobs) is not unlike the life of your typical housecat or family dog.
I'll concede one further point. My dad worked way harder than I ever did. A lifetime logger — and by that I mean timber faller, one of our most dangerous occupations, right up there with hotshot firefighter, wildcat oil driller and inner-city police officer — he had to have unimaginable strength and perseverance just to get through the day. All I ever did as a newspaperman was type and think — and maybe take some guff off of small-town politicians and pointy-headed publishers once in a while.
My dad was smart, in spite of his lack of formal education, and I never doubted his sensitivity to the underdogs of our world (he was obsessed with fairness and justice), and it's quite conceivable that, given a different set of expectations, he might have made a pretty decent 21st-century father. After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I see myself as a pretty enlightened, liberated sort of guy.
So maybe he could have been that kind of man, too. He had a good heart, I think.
We'll never actually know. He's been gone since June 15, 2000, the same day I was diagnosed with cancer, so the conversations we never had time for were varied and oh, so numerous.
Mikel Kelly is a retired newspaper reader, reporter, editor and designer who would like nothing better than for you to obey him and worship him.
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