The Greatest Generation is slipping away from us. Everyday, more people who were alive during World War II are not alive anymore.
Some would say perhaps it’s the inexorable passage of time; the natural order of things.
I think the Greatest Generation is leaving because it just can’t stand us anymore.
When you talk to someone from my grandparents’ generation, they’re likely to tell you about growing up during the Great Depression, and it’s kind of depressing. A night when onions and possum were on the table was a feast. No one had money for a new car or a house that comfortably fit his or her family or an Apple TV. Kids were not to be heard and the less they were seen, the better.
Growing up in those days, if a child didn’t do their 12 hours of chores in a timely manner, made a mess or chewed too loudly, they were often wacked with a belt. Parents weren’t as interested in their children’s self-esteems and bruised bottoms as much as they were in day-to-day survival.
Life was tough. You don’t want possum for dinner? Guess you don’t get dinner.
So when the war broke out, it was little wonder so many volunteered.
“Going into the Army is hard. We feed you three times a day and give you clothes to wear, but in exchange we make you wake up at 4:30 a.m., so you can you march hundreds of miles, carry heavy equipment and be screamed at. Also, you have to shoot Germans when you get to wherever it is we decide to send you,” the recruitment guy would say.
“Wait, I get to sleep in, go for long walks, travel and shoot stuff? That sounds like a vacation! Where do I sign?”
During the war years, people didn’t have safe spaces, Dr. Phil or organic green smoothies to make them feel better about themselves. They just went to work, whether the job was storming Normandy, mastering the secrets of atomic power or belting unruly youth.
I feel guilty for how soft I am compared to these people, and not just because I didn’t get regular beltings growing up.
“When I graduated high school, I decided to go to college,” I once said.
“That’s nice. I never graduated high school because I lied about my age so I could join the Army and kill Nazis when I was 17. Then I came home and worked seven days a week for 50 years, retired, and then went back to work.”
For me a hangnail is a pretty major complaint. My world feels unstable when there are only two working televisions in the house and only four Marvel movies coming out in a year. No one makes me march anywhere. I’ve never had to shoot anyone from Germany, or any other country for that matter.
My kids are even softer than me.
If the WiFi is out for 15 minutes, it’s like they’ve seen the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They each have like two chores a week to do, and it takes them all week and several hundred reminders to get them done.
They’ve never missed a meal that wasn’t their own choice. In fact, they view a home-cooked meal instead of pizza fresh out of the box as punishment. For the record, I have never served them possum.
We’re often so busy checking our Facebook feeds that we forget to look around and realize — everything is awesome.
We live in a utopia where stores are never out of bread. How many hours of high definition television did you watch last week? When was the last time you observed Meatless Monday as a way to fight back against tyranny?
Thanks Greatest Generation, even though we’re soft, we’re going to miss you.