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Friday, October 17, 2008

"What Would My Grandfather Do?"

Posted by Melinda
One Green Generation

Hi everyone! We're working hard to create an informative, exciting, and nurturing place here for us all to learn and grow. I'm so pleased with the amazing posts and comments here so far. And I encourage all of you who are shy about commenting, to venture out and leave a comment today. We'd all love to hear from you!!

This is a post I wrote a few months ago, that I'd like to share with the new readers here. I hope you enjoy it!

"What Would My Grandfather Do?"

In The Garden of Their Retirement Home

Every Wednesday I take my grandfather and his wife out to lunch. "Wait - his wife? Isn't that your grandmother?" you ask. Well no, she's his second wife. On Sunday the whole family got together to celebrate their 10th anniversary. They're 97 years old.

Yes, when they were 87, they called both families together, paid for a lovely dinner, and then at the end of a wonderfully eloquent speech about the family and how much they loved each of us, they said in unison, "... But, we wanted to let you know that we're spending your inheritance!" And for the next five years they literally traveled around the world together.

She now has Alzheimer's, so she has good days and bad. Her quality of life is pretty good, though, because she has him. And my grandfather? He is still smart as a whip.

Yesterday we went down on the waterfront and had lunch composed of mostly local food: seafood and salad with berries. It was a beautiful day, we sat and watched the water and discussed how to change the world. Surprised you, didn't I? Yes, every week there is a new topic to tackle, a new problem to solve. It has ranged from homelessness to climate change to the recession to our problems of garbage (Seattle ships garbage hundreds of miles to Portland, Oregon... long story). Last week it was peak oil. Yes, peak oil. He knows about it, and understands it, and tries to figure out how to solve it. Of course he doesn't know the term, but who cares about the term - the concept is what is important.

Yesterday's topic was the bank crises. My grandfather built a couple of savings and loans from the ground up in the 70s and 80s. And he knew when to get out, too - a few years before the savings and loan crisis, he sold all of his shares and retired, because he saw it coming. Anyway, my grandfather mentored a guy named Kerry Killinger - gave him his first start and taught him everything he knew. Until recently, Killinger was the CEO of Washington Mutual. My grandfather says, with the shake of his head, "he knew better than to take those risks." But that's another topic. I want to get to the title of this post!

On Finding a Check Register

So, the other day I took my grandfather to buy a check register. It's #12. The same one he's used for 50 years. And he's bought it from the same guy for 50 years. So we drove to his old neighborhood in Ballard, turned down a few side streets and then an alley and finally pulled behind a tiny run-down building where the guy's shop was. It was closed, so my grandfather walked around and talked to the other businesses there to find out if the guy was still around. It was like walking through another era. In this little building there were three small businesses, all had been around forever, were run by the business owners themselves, and had people coming in as they had been coming in for years.

Well, the business owners said the man who sold the registers had retired, but it turns out one of the shop owners was the son of an old friend, so the two chatted for some time. Then the guy pointed my grandfather to Office Depot, where we did find the register. It was weird for my grandfather to go into that place, sterile and all, asking questions of people who worked there who weren't invested in the store at all. But they had the register! I leafed through its pages: the design, shape, style - all have remained the same for at least 100 years. And it fits into the same leather cover my grandfather has had for 50 years, and it lasts for about 10 years: "It will last longer than me!" my grandfather said.

And that got me thinking on the way home. I realized that over the past year or two, since I've really been thinking about living sustainably, I've found myself asking on several occasions, "What would my grandfather do?"

My Grandfather, His Grandson, and His Great Great Grandson

What Would My Grandfather Do?

I can't decide which item to buy: the inexpensive one or the nice one. What would my grandfather do? He'd first decide if he really needed it by making sure he didn't already have one, and then figuring out if he could make do with something he already has. If he still needed to buy it, he'd buy the one that will last forever.

I have a family member who is hard on his luck right now. What would my grandfather do? He'd help him get back on his feet, any way he could.

I have a friend who is ill. What would my grandfather do? He'd go visit, and he'd bring some nice home-cooked food for the family.

I need to write something down. What would my grandfather do? He'd take an old envelope from a bill and write on the back of it. (He wrote our wedding toast on the back of a card we'd sent him months before - he liked that it was so pretty and thought it added extra meaning to the toast. Then he gave it to us after the toast as a keepsake.)

I don't need these dishes any more. What would my grandfather do? He'd give them to someone who really does need them.

Should I go out to eat or stay in? What would my grandfather do? Stay in, unless it's a special occasion. And going out to lunch once a week with a granddaughter who has been out of town for 15 years is a special occasion.

The economy is going south. What would my grandfather do? Stop spending, plant more food in the garden, make sure all of his money is insured and in no-risk cds, and check to be sure everyone in the family is doing ok. If they're not, he'd help them. After all that, he'd try to figure out in his head how to turn around the economy, and how to help others in need. Then he'd put any extra money into programs that help others in need, and he'd bring up those problems to fellow board members at Kiwanis and other boards on which he serves.

It's big things, and small things. I don't know if these qualities come from growing up in the Depression, being a hard working man, not growing up in the computer age, or just learning to be a good person. But for my grandfather, every decision matters, to ourselves, our family, our friends, our communities, and the world as a whole.

Supporting small businesses, bringing family and friends together and being there for them - without fail, living a frugal and conscientious lifestyle, making himself aware of what is going on in the local and national economy and political arenas, and enjoying life to its fullest... These are things he does well. And for all of these reasons I often ask myself, "What would my grandfather do?"

Toasting At Our Wedding

What do you think?

Do you have someone in your life like this? Do you think about the "old ways" of doing things? Am I too nostalgic for a time when these things mattered to most people? Will we all live this way again: deliberately, happily, frugally, sustainably?


Caryn said...

Oh that is so sweet! No I am sorry to say I am without Grandmothers, Grandfathers and even my own Father.

Everyone should have someone to look up to and admire and count on.

I am happy to hear you have that in your life.

I wonder, shouldn't we strive to be that person.

I was walking with one of my sisters, 2 of my neices and one of my daughters and we were talking about my other sister(no not in a bad way!lol) and I made comment that she was the "fun" Aunt who did all the fun stuff that all the neices and nephews were nuts about and that I was the "Call Cricket if you need to throw up and need a ride from school Aunt, the sew and work the wedding Aunt, the bake the cake Aunt" not the fun popular one and my neice said "Yes, but you are the one we knew we could always count on to do what you said you were going to do."

I was so shocked and so happy she said that.

Maybe I can strive to be your Grandfather!

claudia said...

I go to my dad. Sometimes I hesitate to go, because I think he won't like what I have to say or ask, but wehn I eventually go to him I wonder why I waited at all! He is kind and always wants to help, and he knows so much about what needs to be done and how to do it properly. He grows some of their own vegetables, fixes everything he owns over and over, never going out to buy new, cause the one he has is broken. He taught me how to fix things and how to save things, because there may be a time when you need it. I woork in a hardware store and when I am asked how I came to know so much I tease and say my dad brought me up in the garage! They always get a kick out of that.

KPiep said...

Hi There! I found this site through Soule Mama a few days ago, and it is already one of my favorites.

The thing is, the good old days have a lot to teach us - but in many ways they weren't the good old days. It's important to remember as we strive to relearn self-reliance, frugality, discipline and good old do-it-yourself inventiveness that it is hard work and can sometimes come at great personal cost. There are many, many grands out there who look back at the old way and shudder because life was so very hard, and so very frightening.

Anyway, I don't want to be a huge downer - I just want to remind everyone that there's always another side of the story. We are greatly privilaged to live in a world where we can take on an 'old-fashioned' lifestyle because that is our choice.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. Mostly because we are all in dire need of more of these grandpas; that is, we need to be looking to our wise "elders" that are so worth admiring for their character, and learn from and emulate them! THESE are the folks that should be showing us how to tread through life, NOT advertisers and reality T.V. shows. Because without that chain of knowledge and insight passing down through the generations, we really won't have a lot to give to the ones coming after us! I think that the happiness, frugality, sustainability, and common sense you mention all partly follow from living a life with dignity and empathy that come from within a person who has CHARACTER and a sense of connection with the world around them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your grandfather with us. He reminds me of my late grandfather and my 97 year old grandmother (who we are blessed to still have with us). They have so much wisdom to share! I hope that we do learn from their generation and go back, at least in part, to their way of life. (Although I must admit I like my computer!)
You are definately right on. Thank you for reminding us, through your grandfather, what is truly important in life.

Shannon, Monmouth, OR

sara said...

Thank you for this post. It gave me so many things to think about. You are in so many ways already following in your grandfather's footsteps- writing posts like this and making time each week to go out to lunch with him. Thanks for the smile.

Bovey Belle said...

What price wisdom? I think your grandfather should be declared a national treasure. He sounds imbued with common sense - a trait which appears not to have been handed down in some families. Great post.

Willow said...

I really enjoyed reading your post, it gave a lovely insight into your life and shows how important it is to pass wisdom down through the generations. I worry about kids, especially teens, who don't have a wonderful role model like your grandfather ... I feel so sad for them. I think we have lost that sense of community in alot of places.
Willow x

Eilleen said...

Thank you so much. Your grandfather is amazing and a great role model.

Carolyn said...

Great Post. All summer long I have been learning to do things the way Grandma used to. I taught myself how to Can!! It has been fun to remember and learn all of these things. I hope you can visit me at


Desiree said...

I thought about it for a few minutes and realized that I don't have a single person like this in my life, but rather, a collection. If I was to combine a handfull of my family memebers together, I could probably come somewhat close to your grandfather, but still not quite. He sounds like a wonderful man. But I think my goal is to become more like him, so that someday, I can be that person that my family looks up to.

For the past year and a half I've thought about doing things the "old way". For this reason, I would say you are not too nostalgic, but rather in the process of becoming more aware and reasonable. These things should still matter to us, and yet we've lost the connection to our family, neighbors, environment, and world. To be able to think like this is a gift, something more of us should do. I think we can live this way again, but only if we choose to. By working hard, opening our minds, and consciously thinking about every aspect of our lives, we can live more deliberately, frugally, and sustainably. Happiness, of course, is what you make of it. And although I believe you can be happy, no matter what, so long as you choose to be, changing our lives to live this way will easily bring more happiness with it.

Love the blog, stumbled across is a few days ago and will continue to read.


Nancy M. said...

I don't have anyone in my life like this now. But, I do think back to what my parents would have done.

Great post. Loved the pics of your grandpa!

Anonymous said...

My grandparents are gone. I see a whole movement of people trying to live the way they did; growing their own food, sewing, knitting, reusing, reducing. I have wonderful memories of canning and gardening with them, and listening to their stories of surviving the Depression. My children are not connected to anyone who even remembers the Depression. Their generation was born during a "boom" and I think their distance from the cautionary tales of that era is to their detriment. I hope I can keep my grandparents skills and values alive for them. That simple wisdom would serve them well.

mamahicks said...



Diana said...

Reading your post brought back many wonderful memories of my grandfather. He was a wonderful man and very much like your grandfather. Now I look to my stepfather for guidance. He was a young boy during the depression but has a wealth of information about how to live simply and within our means. I feel so blessed to have someone like him in my life!

Shari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shari said...

I love what y'all are doing here! I've been reading since Rhonda linked to it, and can't wait every day to see what we're talking about today. Thank you. As for this post, it really hit a nerve for me. I've lost all my grandparents, you see, and I wish I'd realized how great they were when I had them. My Grandpa was in his late 90's when he passed away, and I find myself wondering what he would have said or done, as we are struggling through homesteading, and having to figure out all these things he could have taught me, if I'd only thought to ask. The biggest compliment I've had in a while was the day my mom stood near my veggie garden, and told me He would have been proud of me. I think that's what I truly am trying to do here. Make all those great people smile up in heaven when they see what we're trying to do. Thank you for this lovely glimpse into your life, your Grandfather sounds wonderful.

Notes From The Frugal Trenches said...

What a wonderfully moving post! I do have my own inspirations, as I've just blogged about above!

Frogdancer said...

I loved this post. I'm bringing up my boys on my own and when things need fixing or big jobs need doing I call my Dad. On two levels it works really well... Dad loves to be useful and the boys get to see what he does, and they learn to think around a problem and to be ingenious.

Lina said...

Wow, really beautiful post. Thank you.

jan m said...

I love your post. Throughout my married life, when times were tough, I began to think, how would my grandmother manage this?
The dishwasher my mother-in-law gave me many years ago recently gave out, and I was happy to go back to handwashing the dishes, as I feel closer to my grandmother when I do. Whenever I am tempted by some new kitchen gadget, I talk myself out of it, thinking that Grandma managed fine without it, and so can I.

white_lilly said...

Thank you for sharing your Grandfather with us he is truly a wise man and what a strong and inspirational post.

Melinda said...

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments! It's good to hear from you, to hear your perspectives. I will be back to read more of your comments - they're just wonderful!

Melinda said...

KPiep, Thank you for your interesting comment and I'm so glad you all are here! Just wanted to say that it's a good point you make. I agree with you completely, that it is not the old days but the old ways that are important to remember.

You are right, that living through the Depression was a very tough time. But it did teach many people to be grateful, to be strong, and to do much with little. Our generation has not been through a time like that, but we can learn from those who have.

joolzmac said...

Hello Melinda
Thank you for this lovely post. It made me think a bit about the older members of my family and perhaps including them in my life a bit more.
Loving the Co-op!


Art Mama said...

Aww, I love your granddad and I don't even know him. You are truly blessed that he is yours.