My grandfather died suddenly in the depths of the Great Depression when his son — my father — was 5 years old.
It was the second time my grandmother had been widowed. Later, in the eighth grade, my father quit school to go to work to help support her. At 17, he joined the army and eventually earned a GED.
My mother’s father also died in the Great Depression, when she was 4. She completed high school while her mother — my other grandmother — worked in a gun factory.
My parents eventually worked their way into the middle class and helped their four children earn nine college degrees.
My father was, and my mother is, extraordinary by our standards, but they were not unusual for their generation. They survived the Great Depression, saved the world from the Nazis and won the Cold War. They raised large families and still produced the greatest prosperity in history. In their spare time, they put a man on the moon.
They were rightly dubbed the “greatest generation.” Their hard childhoods made them rugged adults. They were grown-ups, sometimes even before they grew up.
My own generation — the “baby boomers” — were the beginning of the end. We did produce the best popular music, before or since, but not much else. We did manage one first: we were the first Americans (unless you count the Confederacy) to lose a war.
But if my generation was the beginning of the end, the current generation — the “millennials” — are the end of the end. Continue reading