Thanks Mom and Dad!

What I learned from my parents led to what I love to do today. Thanks mom and dad!

My mom and dad taught me well.  Not intentionally, really, because in many ways they were hands off when it came to me and school work.  My older brothers and I all excelled in school, so they never really felt the need to hover over our homework. I’m not sure it would have done much good anyway since both were immigrants and had limited grasp of English.  Growing up in the depression and WWII Europe, my dad only finished the equivalent of 9th grade.

My mom was an avid reader and encouraged us by taking us to the library each week.  By the time I was in 6th grade I was reading at college level.  I read everything she had on her own bookshelves too, including authors like James Michener and Leon Uris.  Given my appetite for historical fiction, it’s no wonder I became an English major and History minor in college.

My dad, meanwhile, loved to tell stories.  About everything.  About growing up in the Netherlands during the war, about the construction projects he led, about his early years in Canada. He was the kind of story teller who also told the sidebar stories. In some ways I am shy; I’m not the best at walking up to a person I don’t know and starting a conversation. However, I am very receptive to being approached by others and, once engaged, I launch into stories depending on the other person’s interests. And finding out their stories, of course. It’s no fair to dominate the conversation that way.

When you combine the reading/writing trait with story telling, it naturally led to journalism and public relations and, in more recent years, blogging.  Thanks mom and dad. This is a lot more fun than math.

From 8 to 81

The changes in technology over the lifespan of one man are incredible. What will happen in the next 80 years?

Yesterday we celebrated my son’s 8th birthday and my dad’s 81st.  That it also was Thanksgiving Day was appropriate, since we’re so thankful for both! Jack and dad represent the opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways, one growing up in the middle of the last century, the other a product of the 2000’s. 

Jack
Jack

The way Jack learns and plays and sees the world is vastly different than my dad, who grew up in the Netherlands during the Great Depression and WWII.  Jack got a Nintendo DS Lite for his birthday and travelled more than 250 miles to visit relatives in Wisconsin. My dad’s birthday gifts were quite simple, I”m sure, and I am guessing he never traveled a hundred miles from his home until he joined the army after the war in the late ’40s.  Jack’s a bright kid who will likely finish college 15 years from now, while my dad basically finished elementary school.

It’s hard to imagine what challenges Jack will need to overcome in his lifetime, or how well prepared he will be for those tests. My dad, meanwhile, made it through a depression where his dad put food on the table that he grew himself or earned by making wooden shoes. Yes, really.  He made it through a great war that literally rolled over his family’s farm — the Germans chopped down their young orchard to camouflage the guns trying to hold back allied advances.  He and his brothers and sister sold the farm and everything on it to fund their ocean voyage to Canada.  He became a carpenter by learning the craft on his own, often through trial and error.

What will Jack do with his life? With the best education and technology, with a “recession” that hasn’t really made him feel hungry or deprived in any way.  With no great conflict rolling over his dad’s backyard. With the ability to connect to people and cultures across the world from a laptop on the dining room table. With the ability to have a dialog that creates understanding and maybe even prevent wars like the one my dad saw as an adolescent from ground zero.

Dad and Frances
Dad and Frances

Last year my dad remarried. My mom passed away five years ago and, after receiving a heart valve transplant and a new lease on life, my dad was looking for someone to share his life with.  So was Frances.  In years past, they never would have connected, since he lives in Ontario, Canada, and she was living in Washington State. Techonology didn’t leave my dad behind because he learned to use it. Despite limited keyboard skills, he was able to communicate via social media with a woman a couple thousand miles away and, eventually, meet and get married.

So, my dad didn’t entirely miss out on the wonders of the connected age.  Today, he and Frances can check up on their children and grandchildren hundreds of miles away. What will Jack be able to do when he is 81? What kind of technology will exist to allow him to be connected and engaged in the lives of others?