Tomorrow I go up to Brisbane (Australia) to see my dying grandmother.
She was born in the first decade of the 20th Century, and was a young mother during the Great Depression. She remembers hearing her first radio and seeing her first car.
I was born the year man walked on the moon. I remember seeing my first VCR, and watching the first Space Shuttle mission. It’s not exactly the same thing as major technological changes go.
She grew up and got married in a time when the husband paid all the bills. If the bills weren’t paid, the tradesman who came to shut off the gas expected that Nan didn’t know the bill hadn’t been paid, and would come back tomorrow to see if she’d managed to get money from her husband. That was normal. When my grandfather divorced her, she had to be taught how to write a cheque. Later, she had to learn to cope with ATMs.
I’m a programmer and a writer. I earn my own money, negotiate my own contracts, and know the difference between stocks and bonds. If my bills aren’t paid, it’s my problem.
By the time she was my age, my Nan had two daughters. She would have two more, later. Her parents helped her choose her husband, and she would have had no financial security if she hadn’t married.
I have access to reliable, reasonably safe birth control. I am married, but if I had not chosen to, noone would have even raised an eyebrow.
She doesn’t know how to use a computer, and even if she were well enough, probably wouldn’t try.
I’m writing a book that neither she nor any of her children will understand. Some of her other grandchildren will, though.
She’s proud of me.
I’m proud of her.
I’m also grateful to her and her generation, and to my parents’ generation.
Nan supported Grandad, in an era without takeaway food or washing machines. In an era when drying the clothes in winter meant putting them in front of the fireplace even if everyone was cold.
Grandad helped develop the towns and cities that I have lived in. His generation built irrigation systems, road networks, rail networks, and housing that I rely on now.
My parents’ generation built electrical infrastructure, and improved on the systems Grandad and his contemporaries put in place.
Now its our turn. We’re relying on our parents and grandparents’ work. We’re building communications, and turning it into infrastructure.
And thanks to our parents and grandparents, we can do it without tying half the population to copper washbasins and wood stoves. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather be coding!
I love you.
Die peacefully, and know you are loved and will be missed.
I am interested in discussion of the legacy our parents and grandparents provided us, and on building on that legacy.