America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Not the Greatest Generation
By Jared Bennett
13 March 2017
You know when I look back at photos of my great-grandparentsí generation, I canít help but to feel a bond and comradery. They were tough. I mean they shaved with straight razors. My great-grandpa was a farmer and a lumberjack and a carpenter and a fisherman and a soldier and a factory worker and a communist unionizer and a progressive. When I look at old pictures of him or any picture from that time period I think about all the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made, and thinking about their sacrifices helps me make my own.
Every morning when I get out of bed those pictures are the first thing on my mind. My salary doesnít pay enough for us to install heated tiles in our bathroom floor, although everyone in our neighborhood has them. This makes it very difficult to brush my teeth on the frigid floor, but I tell myself, if great-papaw parents can make it to America on the Titanic then I can go without heated bathroom tiles. Sacrifice builds character.
I keep a photo of my Great-Granny on my desk at work. Lord knows I need to be reminded about sacrifices here more than anywhere else. Every time my coworker says Ďpacificí instead of Ďspecificí during his weekly webinars I think about great-grandma and she keeps me sane. She worked in the coal mine with grown men making a nickel a day and I get to lounge in my Italian leather office chair with lumbar support doing, honestly, less than an hour of work a day. I realize I am getting too soft, but Iíve been thinking about buying a handmade vintage wooden chair from a decommissioned lighthouse to use at work─that could toughen me up. Although it may make my sciatica flare up. Maybe Iíll just watch a tutorial on YouTube about wood working. †
Thinking about older people and how hard they had it has really helped me to gain a lot of perspective when interacting with others in public as well. Just the other day, I really wanted some good coffee, so I went to Starbucks and ordered a soy latte but the barista gave me a latte with whole milk. I thought about getting upset but then I stopped myself. I thought about all those GIís in World War II, thankful to have a cup of anything after being stranded for three days in a foxhole somewhere in the south of France; all they have to look at is the fear in each otherís eyes, smoke and ash filling the sky, and what was left of Tommy─some punk kid from Brooklyn. Then suddenly, after thinking about this, I am fine with whole milk.
Most importantly, remembering the sacrifices of my forefathers has greatly improved my marriage and appreciation for the misses. Today, so many couples are turning to divorce or infidelity and many other folks find marriage repulsive. They would rather live their lives chasing fleeting passions in the arms of one-time lovers rather than hold true to the tenants of pure sacrifice: loving one woman for the rest of your life. No matter how terrible their relationship became, Papaw and Granny stayed together. It didnít matter that he drank too much and gambled away his pay checks. It didnít matter that they stopped having sex at the age of 30 when Uncle Frank was born. It didnít matter that granny once threw a knife at him and prayed he would die. My great-grandparents stayed together. So when I come home from work after a long day at the office I am happy to do whatever it takes to keep my marriage together. Even if that does mean shaving my balls twice a week because the sight of hair on my scrotum grosses out my wife.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I donít mind it when the store is out of Miracle Whip and I have to buy mayonnaise. I am ok with having to leave my house when my wifeís yoga instructor comes over. I can make it through life without another season of Firefly because we all have to make sacrifices. Let us have hope knowing that these sacrifices make us better people and that if the Greatest Generation could do it, so can we.
Jared Bennett is an educator in West Virginia.