A Disconnect Between My Elder and Me: Older Generation We Need Your Help

February 14th, 2008 | By

My Grandfather loved to get drunk. I could remember getting to his house about 10 a.m. and he would already have a drink in his hand. As a kid, I hated it. I knew about 4 or 5 o’clock, he would be wasted and story time would start. He would holla and scream until all the kid’s were gathered at his feet.

He cussed, a lot. That’s what made the time worth it. We were allowed to ask any question and our mother’s could say nothing. We had a little power and that was cool.

No matter the subject, we always got back to self-responsibility. No matter how much someone has wronged you, it’s only important what you do after the fact. This was a lesson real important to my brother, my sister, my cousins and me.

Not one of us came from a “complete family” where both mom and dad were present. Every single one of us had issues with abandonment. He didn’t care. It wasn’t an excuse to fail in school, disrespect your elders, or to dwell in your own self-pity. Your job was to move past it and live your life. Because he lived his life everyday, to the fullest.

Now, another perfect example is my Uncle Pop. Boy, is he a piece of work. We sometimes look at our elders like they are just old. We don’t realize they were once the pimps, whores, squares, and everything in between.

Uncle Pop has the philosophy that if a man works, nothing else matters. As long as he pays the bills at home, what he does in the street is his business. And that’s how he’s lived his life. Bringing hurt and pain into the lives of his family members and not caring because the lights were on.

Yet, he is biggest advocate for self-responsibility. I don’t talk about politics around my family. They are liberal by default. No research, no news, just follow the blind. On New Year’s, he stands up in his drunken stupor and starts talking about the bail out of the Banks. I was shocked.

He said as long as he has his health, he can make a dollar and everyone should be held to that standard. It was so funny. If it had been me, they would have argued and yelled. But because it was him, they all sat and listened. Just as I had my entire youth.

So, what’s my point.

Most of us, still hold a lot respect for our elders. I’m scared not to. My mother passed but I still fear her presence for disrespecting someone older and wiser than me. The rule was as steadfast as not singing at the dinner table.

I got a funny question for you. In all the movies we watch, why does the main character always return to Grandma’s house? Is it because she is always cooking something good? Maybe it’s because we really need the advice of someone older? Or maybe it’s because she’s the only one guaranteed to still be in her home!

See, Grandma wouldn’t take out a second mortgage to have a down payment for a car. Grandma would drive the wheels off the car she already has. Grandma didn’t buy brand name clothes, unless something big was happening at the church. Grandma would shop at yard sales and discount stores. Grandma wouldn’t spend extra money going green. She already had a garden in the back that would supply her with all the fresh, organic vegetables she needed.

So, even though Grandma wasn’t rolling in the dough, she always had the money to pay her bills. She was responsible so you would always have a place to come back too.

While we praise Obama, we need to give praise to our older family members. Those that watched us as our parents struggled. Those that propped us up when we struggled. Those that have maintained a place where everyone can call home. Thank You.

Having said that. Some times you love us too much. In that same movie, the child that comes home takes something invaluable from the Grandmother. She is so willing to help her kin, she forgets exactly what helping them is. She gives up her house, her savings, or the sentimental piece of jewelry she’s always had and the child learns nothing until further in the story.

That’s where we are. I will take nothing away from the pride felt by older Black Americans to see a black man sworn in as President of the United States of America. From your perspective, I could understand you not believing you would see it in your lifetime.

The surprise and elation was lost on me. I wasn’t surprised a black man could run a successful political campaign and capture the heart and souls of all class and color of Americans. I have pride and belief in our people, their success doesn’t surprise me.

That’s the problem.

We are two very different generations. Our grandparents caught the best and worst of our struggle. They had to deal with the injustice of segregation but they also experienced our most prevalent time of self pride. People cared about their neighbors and communities. They picked up trash voluntarily, offered assistance when they were barely making it themselves, and kept each other in good spirits when they were experiencing so much hate.

Our generation, not so much. For the sake of argument, I’m going to play conspiracy theory. Suppose the government did drop large amounts drugs into black neighborhoods. We got that, torch and pitch forks to the government.

Where is our strength to get past it? Like my Grandfather used to say, “What are you going to do to fix your situation?” We have a refusal to take a step above victim. That is our problem.

It has nothing to do with government or color of the president’s skin. It’s what do we want and how do we go about getting it. We want everything, now. We aren’t willing to put in the work to acheive a goal, we want it handed to us on a silver platter.

Why aren’t our elder standing up and saying, “That’s not how you do it baby. If I had mortgaged my house on what I thought your mother was going to become, neither of us would have a place to live right now. Instead, I struggled to keep it together so your mother could have a chance at a better life. It was her decision not to take advantage of it. Just like it is your choice not to take advantage of the opportunities you have in front of you.”

A simple message but full of lessons to be learned.

  1. The importance of keeping your star player in tact so you have the ability to help those you love
  2. The importance of making wise money decisions
  3. How important it is to keep going, no matter how tough time gets
  4. Doing your part and realizing that’s all you can do. You can help someone that doesn’t want it.
  5. The importance of self-responsibility
  6. The importance of learning the mistakes of others before you have to endure them

These aren’t empty words when they come from a matriarch or patriarch. These become life lessons to follow.

Because my generation is living by a whole new set of rules. We don’t respect anyone or anything that blocks our instant gratification. We don’t care if it brings the detriment of our entire community, including the elders that still demand it is the system’s fault. You are fighting for us, and we are fighting for nothing.

And that’s where we need to meet. One of my brother’s was kicked out of school for fighting. A white boy called him a Nigger and he put the boy in the hospital for a month. He was sent to Juvenile for 6 months. My grandma asked him if it was worth it, he said yes. She never mentioned it again, at least not to my knowledge.

That same year, she jumped on me everyday because I was getting a ride to school with a boy. Everyday, no stop. I was very self aware. I knew what boys wanted and it was my job not to let them have it. Her wisdom did little to effect my outlook.

But my brother. He needed someone in his face telling him to take responsibility for his own actions and there was silence. There was no sticks and stones talk or look how much it cost you talk and my brother still walks around like the world owes him something. When in trouble, he still runs back to Grandma’s for assistance.

I’m like, when is it time you start assisting her? But she will have none of it. My brother can do no wrong. Even when all she wants is to see her great-grandchildren on her birthday, he is the only one not to show up. Family pictures always remain incomplete.

We need the assistance of an elder population that realizes we were not brought up with the same morals and values as them. We need help realizing our dreams are not assured because those before us suffered. We need to know that it is our time to stand up and take our place.

Silence is just as bad as excuses. It’s right above enabling. Silence either means you understand or you don’t care. Both are equally as dangerous to a mind with little hope for a bright future. If you understand than they find acceptance in excuses. If you don’t care, why should they. And if you only speak when it benefits you, we are not dumb, we realize the placation.

So what do we do? Hope my elders can give us some help!

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