GUEST OPINION: If grandpa could only see us now

TIM TIMMONS | Guest Opinion

I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. There was an older man and little boy in front of me, and the little boy was chatting a mile a minute. The older man was smiling, nodding his head and not talking much.

It made me think back to riding in the front seat of my Grandpa’s old pickup on the way to the grain elevator in Jefferson, Ind. He had a cigarette in his right hand that rested on top the huge steering wheel. His left arm was cocked at the elbow and on the door frame with the window rolled down. His hand was curled around the open triangular vent that he always had open, at least a little, no matter what the weather was. With his shirt blowing in the breeze, I could see how dark and red his skin was below the sleeve, and how starkly white it was above.

Being the inquisitive kid I was, I talked all the way there and all the way back (and knew not to talk when Grandpa and the other farmers talked crops, weather and how the St. Louis Cardinals were doing — what was the expression we all lived by back then, children were to be seen, not heard). I never really thought about it, but now I’m wondering if he didn’t let me ride in the truck bed once in a while just to have some peace and quiet in the cab?

The memory made me smile. How long ago was that, 60 years? At least.

Then I looked down in my cart at

A case of bottled water

Frozen dinners

Pre-packaged salads

Frozen breakfasts

Chicken salad

And canned goods from Del Monte

That made me think about paying a ridiculous price for a bottle of water, a cup of coffee or iced tea. It brought to mind the hours and hours we spend on social media and electronic games.

I looked at my cart again. Pre-packaged frozen meals and salads? Even buying green beans and corn? Chicken salad? Heck, I remember Grandma telling my Mom that chicken and ham salads were ways to make sure nothing went to waste. Pick the meat off the bones, put it in the grinder and add some chopped up veggies and eggs and such and voila! My grandparents grew and made most everything they consumed. They stored dozens and dozens of Mason jars with canned corn and beans and such in the root cellar. Paying a dollar for a plastic bottle of water — or more? Paying several bucks for a cup of coffee? Heck, on the rare occasions they did go out to eat, their entire meal probably didn’t total $5.

What would they think if they could see our society now?

After getting out of the Army, Grandpa worked two jobs for a while — and later three. I was told that he slept where and when he could. By the time I came along in the 1950s, he was back down to two jobs, farming and working as a mechanic. I remember one Christmas when I was home from college. I got a hand-held electronic football game. You remember those? The screen was only a couple of inches in size and small electronic dots and dashes represented the players.

My Dad and I took turns while my grandpa looked on.

Later that day, as he was pulling on a heavy coat to head out to tend to something in the barn I was still playing. I remember he shook his head and said something about wasting time.

Obviously, he didn’t get it, I thought. This game was the future (if only I knew just how much) and Grandpa was old and stuck in his ways.

Today, we spend far more time on electronic devices. There are actually recognized disorders for the panic people feel when they lose or can’t use their phones. From games to TikTok to Facebook, Instagram and a gazillion other social platforms — we spend a huge amount of time … and have what exactly to show for it? What do we accomplish during that time? Hey, cute kitten videos have value, but they’re not putting food on the table or a roof over our heads.

My Grandpa has been long gone … but he spent his extra time driving a truck, repairing the tractor, working as a mechanic at Dorner’s Garage. Idle time for him did not mean “liking” the most recent post from one of the Kardashians.

What would my Grandpa — or yours — think if they could see us today? I bet we have an idea.

Tim Timmons is a newspaper veteran who owns a small media company in Indiana. He is helping the Brown County Democrat temporarily while the search for a new editor takes place.