The generation gap

As Keith sat in the den looking through two open doors into the sun room, a smile flickered across his face.

His Dad, John, home for the holiday weekend from the nursing home, sat on one end of the leather sofa, his walker parked nearby.

Keith’s daughter, 15-year-old Nancy, sprawled on the other end. Both faced the picture window that framed an ancient barn and farmland that stretched into the shallow valley – fields that Keith had quit farming 20 years ago to take a job with a regular salary.

“Look at the two of them,” he thought. They are like bookends to the generation gap. Both without cares in the world, leaving everything to me, the middle generation. I guess I get a certain pleasure being the breadwinner.” 

Grandpa John stared uneasily at the barn.

“I shouldn’t just sit here,” he said aloud and shifted forward in his seat. “I should get out and help Keith with the cows.”

Almost immediately, he leaned back and tapped his fingers against his right temple. What is the matter with my old brain? Haven’t had cattle on the farm for 40 years – not since Keith was a little shaver. He shook his head and fixed his eyes on the old barn. “Look at it,” he thought. “Good thing we have no cows. If one rubbed her butt against it, it’d fall down.”

Grandpa John sent his brain off in another direction. He remembered bringing Martha to the farm as his bride. He remembered the struggles of those early years, of the long days of hard labour getting the farm paying.

He stared past the barn into the distant fields. He remembered how Martha would bring him afternoon coffee; they’d sit in the shade of the old John Deere for a few minutes before he returned to plowing and she to the kitchen. He shook his head as he recalled how they’d worked side-by-side at harvest time – she could outwork any hired hand they’d ever had.

Suddenly uneasy, John glanced back and forth across the room, his thoughts going into panic mode.

Aloud he said, “Where is Martha?” Then to himself, “Didn’t she come with us from the nursing home?”

Again, he settled back, tapping his temple. “There I go again. Martha has been gone for seven years. Dear Lord, it’s no fun getting old. I miss her so.”

Nancy, accustomed to hearing Grandpa say funny things, had ignored his outbursts. Besides, she had thoughts of her own.

“I’ve got to get out of here. Mom and Dad act like jailers. All day long I hear ‘Nancy do this, Nancy do that,’ and ‘Get out of bed or you’ll miss the school bus. And stay away from Jeff, he’s no good.’ ”

Nancy sucked in her breath wondering if mom or dad had any idea what she and Jeff had been up to.

Her thoughts raced, “What if I got … They’d kill me. No, before they could do that, I’d run away with Jeff. If he wouldn’t go with me, I’d kill myself. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll kill myself. It’s no fun being a teen.”

Keith turned his gaze from the pair in the sun room, pleased that he had his family and life under control.


Ray Wiseman