My mother’s father died 10 years before I was born, so the only grandfather I knew was my dad’s father. “Granddad” resembled in every respect someone you would think of in an individual who carried that title. He seemed old yet wise, frail yet strong, and he had our collective respect as grandchildren. I can remember how he would ponder answering a question, as he looked upward through his spectacles with smoke curling from his pipe. He was born in 1895, the same year as the radio, but before there were cars and airplanes. He likely did not remember crossing over into the 20th century, yet he would live to see many of the marvels from that century. Like many of his generation, he did not finish high school, instead going to work as an itinerant sheet metal worker. At the age of 22, he joined the military as part of America’s entry into World War I. A newspaper report at the time said he would probably go to work in the Navy shipbuilding yard, but in actuality he was assigned to a machine gun company in the 148th infantry, and saw action in the Argonne Forest and on the Flanders front in Belgium. While there, he was hospitalized for a few days after being “slightly gassed”, and suffered a bullet wound in the arm while in Belgium. When he came home from the war in 1919, he bought a sheet metal and roofing business that is still in existence today.
Recently, I became a grandfather for the first time, and so now it is that the torch has been passed. I think of the world my granddaughter will grow up in, and one thing I am very sure of. Whatever I imagine it to be, it will likely be very different than that. When my grandfather saw his first car, I doubt he envisioned the day when such cars would race around an oval track at speeds in excess of 200 mph. Similarly, when he saw his first airplane, I doubt he could envision that this invention would lead to supersonic flight, travel to outer space and a manned landing on the moon. So I can only extrapolate the adult world my granddaughter will inherit based on what we can envision today. She will probably be the first generation to never get a drivers license, as most likely all of her cars will be driverless. Perhaps she will become a regular globetrotter, the beneficiary of hypersonic suborbital flight. As mayor of a small town in Kansas during the 1950s, my grandfather made the first official call over that towns direct distance dialing system. Today, we are in the dawn of the IoT, and only 10 years into the widespread use of smart phones. Based on the speed of technological change, I would hate to venture a guess as to what the world of information technology will look like when my granddaughter becomes a grandmother. When my grandfather was born, his life expectancy was about 50 years. Given today’s nutrition and medical technology, my granddaughter may well usher in the 22nd century when she is 82. She will be in good company, the earth is projected to have 11 billion inhabitants by then, up from about 1.6 billion when my grandfather was born. She will surely remember me as the grandfather in the wheelchair, not ever remembering a time when I ran around the park with her, kicked around a soccer ball, or drove her to get an ice cream cone with grandma. I hope however she will see the day when spinal cord injuries such as mine are a thing of the past, either through a direct cure, or an easily managed workaround device. The idea of having a successful career with less than a high school education will surely seem quaint, hers will be one of lifelong learning. She will likely get many, if not all of her clothes through whatever online device will be prevalent in her day. What do you know, some things may not be that much different!
Just some musings from someone who seems old yet wise, frail yet strong – Makayla’s grandfather. Welcome to the world little one!
Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org