Advice From My Century

Barry Gander
7 min readSep 14

Thoughts for a great-grandchild

My father has just passed away, a few months short of his 104th birthday. I am re-printing this for those who been asking how he was doing. Thank you for your kind comments; he went peacefully in his sleep, searching and happy to the end.

My dad is 103 years old; my grandson is three. Exactly a hundred years separate my father from his great-grandson.

You would wonder what kind of advice my Dad could give his great-grandson to guide his life. So many events pass through an hourglass that large, that finding a pattern in the grains is like seeing a painting made with sand.

Our parents’ lives have been especially complicated…swept up in a blizzard of change that has been fiercer than any other period in human history. The storm has swept humanity’s old comforts away and upended life everywhere.

Human history in a single graph, showing how almost all previous change has exploded beyond recognition with today’s acceleration of technology.

My father confesses that he struggles to imagine the coming world that his great-grandson will inhabit. This is not due to failure of imagination — Dad is an imaginative person; he spent his life as an economist analyzing the future, working in different parts of the world, and helping governments prepare their societies for growth and change.

He has come to some conclusions that he would like to pass on, from his hundred-year gap in ages.

Here are the changes Dad has seen:

He was born in 1920 in a small town in the wilds of northern Alberta. He remembers looking up from his bed in the wintertime and seeing the frost form on the roofing nails. They had no heat, running water, or electric power.

In fact, when his family first got electricity, his mother almost had a heart attack when she got up at night, absentmindedly forgetting the new convenience; light suddenly flooded the room when my uncle flipped the ON switch!

Of course, they had no telephone. When they got one, he remembers serious articles in the papers about how this intrusive device would ruin family life. At the time, phone calls were flooding into homes at an average of one-and-a-half calls per week!

Try that today: ‘here, sir or madam, is your phone with its weekly call restriction of 1.5 calls. And BTW, this is a party line, so the Operator may be listening.’

Barry Gander

A Canadian from Connecticut: 2 strikes against me! I'm a top writer, looking for the Meaning under the headlines. Follow me on Mastodon @Barry