(Huff/Post50 is celebrating Grandparents Day, September 9, with a series of special stories and essays. William C. Gould, is the author of the new book "Grandpa, Were You Young Once?")
A grandson may think grandfathers are just old fashioned and afraid of technology, but they should be careful. Grandfather has seen all this stuff before. Every generation, without fail, changes the name of things, increases the speed, and even changes the shapes of simple devices. (For example, a Porta-Potty is still just an outhouse.) But as every grandfather knows, the basics remain the same. The basics of life, the ones that matter -- love, friends, finances, family, good music, laughter and personal skills -- have ageless ground rules. Most everything else is fluff. However, physical things do change.
The old guys right arm is a bit sore now, but he remembers throwing out a runner at the plate in a city championship game, on a field that once fed cows, and the baseball uniforms were old jeans. Those knees that creak and pop now once carried him for miles as he delivered morning newspapers, walked to school and later to work, slogged through the jungles of a foreign country, or climbed any mountain in sight.
He gets tired pretty early in the evening now, but in his day he worked 60-hour weeks and then partied into the wee hours. Of course, that was when work was really work -- bare hands and muscle, and not just pushing paper. Those battered hands dug gardens, rebuilt homes and cars, carried an M-1 rifle, and built a better future for his family. No wonder those hands are sore after all these years.
And underneath those gray hairs, tucked in the corners of his mind, are more memories than any computer can hold. There you can find the lessons of a lifetime and the values that carried him through life. He can tell real stories that define true friends or the pitfalls of both poverty and wealth; he has experienced the importance of loyalty, of self-sufficiency, and of personal responsibility; and he realizes how large a role a few people can make in one's life. In fact, his memories are better than any DVD on history, because he was part of the real story. It was men like him that made past leaders great, not the other way around.
Of course, he really misses the old cars, but things like gapping spark plugs, popping a clutch, or peeling rubber don't fit in with today's computerized models. He might also miss the old-fashioned neighborhoods, farm-fresh foods, Saturday at the movies, understandable music, family Sunday dinners, lazy days of fishing or unbridled patriotism. They were all part of his world, one he thinks of as the good old days or the ones before drugs and credit cards.
He is perplexing to a grandchild, however. Grandfather said that he does not care two hoots about Twitter or Facebook. He only checks his email once a day at best, still delights in finding a penny on the sidewalk, still watches classic movies and listens to Frank Sinatra, prefers Bob Hope to current comedians, tries to avoid debt and refuses to trust any politician of any party in any country.
However, grandfathers usually worry that kids don't want to listen to their stories. Of course, if pushed, he will admit that he never listened to his grandparents either. He got caught up in dress codes, rock bands, pin-up girls, crew cuts, and other important-for-the-minute things, just as kids do today. Grandfathers also went out and repeated the same old mistakes their parents had perpetuated and even added a few of their own. Maybe that is why our country is struggling again, and maybe that is why grandfathers should unite and learn how to share their stories with their families. Maybe, grandfather's can make a difference in this memory-impaired world of ours. Help is certainly needed.
Perhaps we need a committee. We can call it "Grandfathers Against Repeating Old Mistakes," or GAROM for short. Just kidding -- I already learned long ago that working committees never work. But what might just work is if each grandfather tries to help achieve the GAROM objective. Remember, it only took a few special people to overcome our nation's past problems. Maybe, if we grandfathers become better storytellers, one of our grandchildren will listen to our stories about the lessons we've learned and go on to become that special leader of the future. Now that would be the perfect present for any Grandfather's Day.
William C. Gould, is the author of a new book for seniors called, "Grandpa, Were You Young Once?" which is a conversation with a grandchild about the way things were, how they have changed, and what may happen in the future. The goal of the book is to help grandfathers share their own stories with their families, thereby creating a legacy, bridging some of the generation gap, and helping improve our grandkids' lives. The other goal is simply to provide a fun read about the good old days. The book is available at Amazon (including a Kindle version) and at the author's website: www.backwhen.com.
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