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A Grandfather’s Sleep

by on March 4, 2015

                                                       A Grandfather’s Sleep

                                                         by Marco M. Pardi

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The comments sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments. 

“Stupidity is without anxiety.” Goethe (1749-1832) 16 August 1824.  In Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, 1836-1848.

In his groundbreaking work, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler introduced us to the mirror, the face of people confronting increasingly rapid technological and cultural changes that had us glancing left, right, up, down and, for many, behind. 

Up until that time, 1970,  much of my life had been lived in the helplessness of childhood, observing changes which appeared incremental and “in the natural order of things.”  It was at first difficult to internalize Toffler’s message, especially since I had for many years been observing people who had a very different view of the past and, in my view, a very limited view of the present.  Too young to remember all the turmoil of WWII Italy and its immediate aftermath,  I was raised in an America which still had Civil Defense monitors watching the skies, flashcards with images of Soviet aircraft, and an institutionalized form of school PE which had one adroitly scrambling out from and getting under one’s desk to “duck and cover”.  Somewhere in the mid to late 1950’s someone decided either the Soviets weren’t coming or, what the hell, an inch thick wooden desk top could make no difference if they did. In any case, it seemed more a ploy to instill fear and hatred of the Soviets than a realistic means of saving one’s life in an attack.

Moving from northern Ohio to northern Florida I was stunned silent by the appalling process the South called “education” in the late 1950’s.  Had I missed this in Ohio because I had been in “better schools”? I did not think so, since I had close friends in public schools who seemed no different from me. I comforted myself with what had become my dictum: Eat until you are big enough to leave.

When I had eaten enough I volunteered for six years in the Air Force, considered the most high tech of all the branches of military.  There too, I saw the educational divide between the majority Southerners and “the rest”.  But my focus was mainly on myself, not world events and long term implications.

During my single and early married years I made career and personal choices that many would consider risky.  Why not?  My wife was an adult from a resourceful family which could assist her were I to be eliminated, and she was capable of taking care of herself.   But becoming a father brought a sea change.  The focus through which I first saw my daughter intensified into an evolving aura in which all things revolved around her.  Abstract notions of raising a child elsewhere than America dissolved into the factual realities of providing the best I could for her, even if it meant staying here.

But life has its way of jerking the blanket in the middle of the night.  She was just going on 4 when her mother and I divorced.  In those days my chances of custody hinged solely on my ability to prove the Archangel Gabriel had delivered her exclusively into my custody.  Where’s an Archangel when you need him?

This transition meant bringing her 50 miles each way for week-ends, and trusting – to the extent possible, that her weeks were accomplished benefically.  It also meant a return from analytical to operational function was possible, though the days of sitting in a cafe in Beirut having manaeesh, a pizza like dish soaked in olive oil, crushed olives and herbs and popular for breakfast were reduced.  The incessant crump – crump of heavy ordnance in the surrounding mountains would now have a more personal meaning.  How would she fare without her father?  I had seen my own father only three times in my life by that time.

Yet, it was quickly apparent that my daughter was at least as intelligent as me, probably far more so.  She was also socially strong, having a willingness to engage other people I never really felt.  As she grew into the teen years the visits were reduced to me spending a day with her.  And, I had transitioned into a career which had me moving great distances frequently.  Still, I worried about the world she would grow into.

I did not get to share her anxieties through college (how many parents do?) but did see her chosen field as something I would not have done well in.  Just her text books intimidated me.  After graduation she married a brilliant young man with two Masters degrees in engineering.  I admit to a certain though not precisely definable feeling of release.  But world developments were still ongoing.

Over time they had three wonderful children (doesn’t every grandparent say that?).  On visits I noticed that she and her husband did not turn on the local evening news.  Puzzled at first, I understood better as I reconsidered my evening news habit.  At least the first 15 minutes of each nightly broadcast covered who shot whom, who got robbed and/or raped, what child was beaten – sometimes to death.  I had not realized my Amen moment after each piece was an increasingly dismissive “Shoot ’em”.  

But the job market had taken them to Dallas, Texas, a State which is the epi-center of in-your-face-proud-to-be-stupid people.  In his book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload,  Daniel J. Levitin tells us we live in a world “with 300 exabytes (300 billion billion) of information, an amount that is rapidly expanding to ever greater amounts from this already brobdingnagian level. And yet the processing capacity of the conscious mind is a mere 120 bits per second. This presents a challenge to not only our processing capacity, but also our decision-making ability.”     

Texas and the other Red States to the rescue.  Under the State edited version of “education”, a rejection of Common Core (which might make a high school graduate in San Antonio hardly distinguishable from one in – GASP – Seattle), children can learn that completely unregulated capitalism and industry is good, God hates abortion and even contraception (women should not have the right to make those choices), and Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King were minor malcontents.  Adam and Eve were White; all others are White Man’s Burden (okay alone, but once they’re around their kind, well watch out), and Climate Change is a Leftist Socialist Communist Pinko Homo loving plot, and when a woman swallows a camera it goes to her vagina.  Need I go on?  At least when my grandchildren speak they do not have the phony “drugstore cowboy” speech of George W. Bush (the only one in his family to speak that way). I attribute this to their parents, not enculturated into the pseudo-macho Texas culture in which sounding educated means you must be liberal, which means you must be socialist, which means you must be one o’ them homos.

But what kind of world are they growing into?  As I write this world population is approaching 7.4 billion, increasing at the rate of >228,000 per day. By the time you read this it likely will be 7.4 billion and still moving.

Although a definitive statement of species loss per year should be grounded on a baseline – which we do not have, it is agreed that we are losing >10,000 species per year mostly through human activity.  Even best case scenarios portray the loss of renewable resources such as rain forests and fresh water advancing at a rate which is exceeding any known technological means of reversal.  And the demand increases disproportionately with human population growth.

I grew up thinking if things got bad enough here, I would go there.  Well, there is no there there.  Every day I sit at my pc hammering out my signature on 200 to 400 email environmental and political petitions per day. Sounds exaggerated? Sit with me sometime.  Or, sit with me at the beach while I spoon the ocean back.

From the day she was born I worried for the future of my daughter, and have lived a life which entailed risks others would not take to safeguard that future for her.  That she is unutterably intelligent is both a consolation and a concern.  As I worried and worked for her, she worries and works for her children.  She can’t just turn out the lights; she can’t just put on some idiotic television program and wonder where the time went.

My grandchildren already demonstrate very significant intelligence.  Yes, thus spake every grandparent.  But a $98,000.00 scholarship to a fine university did not come to my eldest grand daughter from Publishers Clearing House. 

I learned very early I could take excessive physical and mental punishment, and I did so in various ways.  My daughter told me, “Dad, your self confidence is dangerous. You get yourself into impossible situations no one could get out of thinking you will always win out somehow.” 

Well, in the darkness I hear Jean-Paul Sarte, reminding me, Les jeux sont faits.  The chips are down; I’ve played my hand.  I’ve been in situations wherein I saw the end coming (for someone else) and could do absolutely nothing about it.  It makes me sick to think I go to bed, letting the dreams come at the bidding of some cocaine crazed monkey who stole the remote, and I will wake up the next day sickened by the time I wasted sleeping the night before.  Do something, I tell myself.  Grab that spoon and run again to the shore.   

     

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8 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, I recall being in my late teens and early twenties, having extended family members visit my home. When I was observed preparing items for recycling and composting, there were various comments ranging from, “Why do you are you so obsessed with the Earth?” to “We’re not going to be here much longer anyway.” At the time I also lived out in the country, and would drive nearly an hour round-trip to visit the recycling center each week. I didn’t care; it never once felt remotely a “bother.” Being vegan wasn’t much better: “You care about animals more than you care about unborn babies.” I never quite understood that poor attempt at analogy.

    Several years ago I was exceedingly pleased and proud to discover my daughter had been signing petitions supporting female health and reproductive rights. At the time she had no idea I had ever signed a petition related to any cause. I remember thinking, “Perhaps I have done a good job after all…”

    There have been a few times I have wondered what it might be like to be able to turn out the lights. I am glad we can’t.

  2. Thank you, Dana. You not only have not turned out the light, you keep the light shining. And it illuminates others in ways we often don’t know.

    • Dana permalink

      Thank you, Marco – and I feel precisely the same way about you.

      “…sitting in a cafe in Beirut having manaeesh, a pizza like dish soaked in olive oil, crushed olives and herbs and popular for breakfast…”

      These are the sort of “adventures” (although I realize you were working) that fascinate me. If I had a “Dear Reader” idea, it would probably be more tidbits of your life such as that.

      Manaeesh sounds like a marvelous breakfast.

      • Thanks, Dana. I should try making that at home. I could share that, but not much more.

  3. So nice to get to know another aspect of you Marco ! Loved reading this post !
    But “Just her text books intimidated me.” Really ??? YOU ??? No further comment … 🙂
    and P.S. No sleep time is ever wasted .

    • Thank you, FOAL. At times I’ve been a bit slow to be realistic about my limits. Watching my daughter’s development has greatly helped me put myself in perspective.

  4. Every generation wants the next one to have a better life. It sounds as if your family has been successful in that endeavor. Although I know you wished you could have been a larger part of your daughter’s life, it is obvious that you were a good influence, especially in showing her that all things are possible if the desire is great enough. Of course, education, proper training, and skill go a long way toward that success.

    Way to be a proud Grandfather!; and congratulations to your granddaughter on her awesome scholarship. The branches of your family tree are expanding ever outward in intelligence, education, and, ultimately, success.

    • Thank you, Rose. I promise I won’t get a “Let Me Tell You About My Grandchildren” bumper sticker.

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