Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with a 93-year-old man who lost half of his hearing in World War II and has continued to play and teach music, and specifically the trumpet, to children for decades.
It was truly inspiring to learn that music could continue to be such a large part of his life and that he so willingly, and without charge, shared that gift with younger generations.
He and his wife and I spoke at length about his life and experiences, especially when it came to World War II and his five years serving overseas, and throughout the discussion I kept discovering phrases and words he used that seemed so out of place.
He would often refer to “the Germans” or “the Russians” in describing his activities in Europe. The way he said it was not racist by any means, but it definitely had a different inflection.
It made me realize how differently everyone viewed the world 50 years ago and how much has changed since that time. It also made me realize how much younger generations can learn from those who lived through what we read in history books.
Certainly we can get a lot out of history class in school, but I for one know it’s not half as much as I could learn by simply sitting down with someone who experienced the Great Depression or John Kennedy’s assassination – even something as simple but unique as a large storm, such as we’ve experienced over the last few years. Fifty years ago, the technology and responses were so different than we have today, and I’d be curious about how they dealt with a disaster. Or how they viewed the economy, the president, music, deforestation, etc.
My grandfather was a week away from 100 when he died and I was only 14. There are many things I remember from the time I spent with him, but I imagine there was plenty more that I could have learned from him had I gotten the chance.
He was stricken with Alzheimer’s years before he died, so the last ten years of his life it was difficult at best to speak with him. I imagine often what he could have told me.
Once we reach a certain age that things we watched on TV are spoken about only in text books, I’m sure we’d be more than willing to share our experiences with younger generations. I, personally, can’t wait to be able to tell my grandchildren that I’m older than the internet and watch their heads explode.
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