It was a foolish fantasy that we would all live close by and I would see all of you weekly. I imagined you dropping in for cookies and milk on your way home from school, or sometimes just coming over to hang out and help me in the garden. Sometimes I imagined you coming over for help with homework or a project, and sometimes just coming over to get an old man’s perspective on something that was important to you. I fancy myself knowing a few things, and I am always very willing to share what I’ve learned with those whom I love. And since I probably won’t be asked, I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you anyway because I think my advice is of value.
You’ve probably all seen Toy Story 3, and if you haven’t, I urge you to do so. It’s really an entertaining film that says a good deal about what I and some other people of my generation are thinking and feeling when it comes to getting old. Here are toys that are still perfectly good, still loved, but have been “outgrown” by their owner. They’re still good toys, but what do you do with good things that are old and out of date?
Some elderly people feel very much the same way those toys felt when it comes to our children and grandchildren. Some parents feel that too when their children start to become independent. But for as long as we live, parents and grandparents do not see ourselves as obsolete, nor do we think that what we have to offer is no longer of value.
Some people may argue that the experience of an old man or old woman has no bearing on this modern generation, but such people don’t understand what those of us in my generation have to offer.
Grandparents are the repository for family history, personal experiences during a particular period of time, culture, religious traditions, and ideas that we think are still of value. We also carry with us values that may or may not be valued in a technical society, but the values taught at home and synagogue, may ultimately be more important to being a happy person than what the greater society values.
So firmly believing that we continue to be of value, we are eager to share our lives with you even if you don’t have the time to sit and listen because of your busy lives and the distance between us.
So now, this Grandpa/Zaydeh and teacher is offering unsolicited opinions and advice because of his abiding affection for you, and his need to somehow feel that you will be safer considering my words. You can read this at your leisure as you grow older.
Again, these are some of the things I would have wanted to teach you or say to you over the years you’ve been growing up and in the years that are to follow that I will never have the opportunity to say, I will say to you here. As you mature, you will hopefully find these comments useful.
Knowledge and wisdom should be cumulative and passed on. In this way you wouldn’t have to waste time in relearning things on your own that you might have learned from me.
Of course, I have lived long enough to know that children don’t often listen to parents and grandparents, and I have no illusions that you will listen to what I have to say.
Hopefully, something might stick.
Some of these ideas you may not need for years, but I might not be here to offer them when you need them. This will be an ongoing effort for as long as I am ongoing. So here goes.
Lovingly and intrusively yours,
(Leonard H. Berman)