Some ruminations on going through Dad’s things

So I’m in Richmond, Virginia, heart of the Confederacy, where locals will vocally remind you that it was The War of Northern Aggression. And the tour directors at the Jefferson Davis Mansion get quite exorcised when you mention that it wasn’t ‘servants’–it was slaves. Other than that, locals are fairly friendly. And the local chain restaurants are serving up fare that will keep healt prospects poor.


In checking through things, one thing is clear–mom and dad had very different work lives than the people of Generation X. Big fat generous pensions that were defined-benefit, not defined contributions; medical care in the same category; relatively stable (if boring and bland) jobs that paid a college graduate enough to afford a house (my parents weren’t in the GI bill but got tuition-free state schooling, with responsibility for room and board and books–currently, the same in-state education costs at least $12K per year). A lot of those things were taken for granted by their peers.


Different landscape now, and it’s been changing quite a bit. Maybe it’s their small-town roots that made much of this possible. But in 1966 my dad had the sole job, didn’t have to work crazy hours or weekends, drove home every night to see his family, and they didn’t want for much. Mom could stay home and feed Beef-A-Roni to the kids. They didn’t have a new car, but they had one that was road-worthy and stayed put together (it was before GM started constructing cars that fell apart) and a second one for schlepping kids to the doctor’s office or the playground.


None of my contemporaries have anything like this arrangement now. And the adult children of my contemporaries are (mostly) paying college loan fees on the level of a mortgage–mom won’t be staying home to serve vegan-a-roni to the kids once they start procreating. All this change happened in a single generation.


To look through my father’s old paperwork is to look at a time machine. And there’s no way to go back.

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