The Generation Gap

November 16, 2008
By Timothy Smith, Toled, OH

“Hello, Anthony.”

“Hi, Grandpa,” the boy said, leaning in to embrace the uppermost branch of his family tree. Simultaneously, the venerable man thrust his hand forward with a stern look in his eyes, and Anthony, embarrassed, stepped backward and likewise presented his hand. “How are you?” he added, smirking as he considered his grandfather’s musky odor and extraordinarily high pants.

“I’m well, Anthony,” he responded while musing over Anthony’s pungent fruity scent and disconcertingly low slacks. “Your grandmother’s in the other room finishing up dinner. Are you ready to eat?”

“Oh, for sure. I’m starving.” He had been dreaming of a juicy turkey dinner all day.

“Right, you had quite a long trip up here. Why don’t you go ahead and wash up,” he implored with a gesture toward the bathroom, “and then we can get started on that green bean casserole.”

“Ugh,” he thought. Irate with the situation but earnestly interested in respecting his elders, Anthony acquiesced. “Um, okay, I’ll do that.” He then turned and headed quickly toward the restroom. By the time he returned, the moss-colored casserole was sitting on an oaken table.

“Come sit down, Anthony,” said a voice from the next room. “Dinner’s ready. And make sure to grab yourself a drink and some silverware.”

Accustomed to the constant assistance of his mother-maid, the boy was somewhat vexed with the idea of finding his own utensils. Regardless, the trim, fair-haired boy did as he was told.

“We should say grace now, Merriam. Anthony, would you like to do the honors?”

“No that’s alright Grandpa,” said the little skeptic. “We never pray before meals in my house, so I don’t know if I feel comfortable saying grace here.”

“I see, well we won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to…” His pious grandfather was clearly upset, and his grandmother’s new grimace evinced her disappointment.

At this, the sinner shuttered. “No, I guess it’s okay, I can do it,” he reconsidered. His grey-haired grandparents smiled, and Anthony muttered a prayer to the best of his ability. He then sat back down and placed his napkin over his lap as soon as he remembered the emphasis his grandfather had always placed on table manners.

“So, Anthony,” his grandmother began, “have you decided where you want to go to college yet?”

“Not yet, but I was thinking somewhere out east. I am looking for a good liberal arts education.” The intellectual youth then paused for a moment before continuing, somewhat fearful of how his conservative family members might respond. “I think I might like to write for a living.”

“A liberal arts education? You want to write? I thought you were smart,” his grandfather snorted, causing his grandmother to laugh.

The boy responded with an unconfident stammer: “W-Well, I like studying the arts, and my teachers say I have a talent for it.”

“Right, but I have always thought that smart kids become lawyers or doctors or engineers or businessmen,” his grandmother said.

“Yeah, well, my parents thought it would be a good idea…” Anthony’s voice trailed off in a direct relationship with his loss of confidence.

“Hmph,” his grandfather grunted. “Seems like a waste of two hundred grand if you ask me, but, oh well. I’m sure you’ll do fine, no matter what you do.” His grandfather then changed the subject in an attempt to discuss something more palatable. “How has football been going this year?”

“Oh, um, I didn’t play this past season, actually. I thought my Dad told you that already.”

“Oh yes, he did. I forgot. Do you not enjoy it? You used to love it, Anthony.”

“Yeah, I used to, but I don’t find sports that interesting anymore.”

“No, no, of course not.” He frowned and began to consider how best he could find common ground with the dissimilar adolescent. “What have you been up to instead? Have you been going to those disco dances or whatever it is you kids do these days?”

“What?” Anthony was taken aback.

“Honey, these kids don’t go to disco dances anymore. They listen to that hippity-hop music now,” his grandmother explained.

“Oh, like Poof Daddy and Snoop Salty Dogg?” his grandpa inquired.

“Exactly, dear.”

“What? No, we listen to…” Anthony began, but the catchy melody of a popular song soon cut him off.
It starts with my toes, and it wrinkles my nose. Wherever it goes, the feeling shows. Boy you make me smile, please stay for a while now…

“Anthony!” his grandfather bellowed. “Why are you playing the radio during dinner?”

“Sorry, sorry, that was my girlfriend,” he said, quickly depressing a button on his cell phone to stem the flow of the sound.

“Oh, Anthony, your girlfriend is a singer on the radio? That’s amazing! And she has such a beautiful voice.” His grandmother seemed genuinely impressed.

“No, no,” he laughed. “That was my cell phone.”

“Your cell phone is a radio?” his grandfather asked.

“No, it was playing a ringtone. Like when someone calls, a song plays… you know.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Oh, well, ah… nevermind.” Anthony felt no desire to enlighten his grandparents further.

“My you are acting strange, Anthony,” his grandfather insisted. “Whatever it is, please don’t play it again during dinner. By the way, did you take that girlfriend of yours to the prom this year?”

“No, not this year. She was out of town, unfortunately.”

“Unfortunately?” his grandma interjected. “Good riddance, I say. With the girls dancing like they do these days – like a bunch of harlots – you’re better off not going. You get enough sexual temptation by watching those revealing lingerie ads that are on the television all the time.

“Agreed, Merriam. They have no taste, those ads, they’re just like a – like a porno!” his grandfather shouted.

“Oh, I know, honey, I know. They’re disgusting. But anyway, dear Anthony, how do you feel about politics these days? This was the first year you could vote, right?”

“Yes, it was. Um, I suppose I’m sort of liberal like my mom.”

“Oh, that’s too bad, dear,” his grandmother said, perhaps forgetting that Anthony was still in the room.

“Yeah, well, I just think it’s important to care about other people, you know,” Anthony continued in a futile attempt to justify his position. “I support policies that can help more than just the privileged few in our country.” He paused like before to consider how he might best continue. Inexplicably, he ultimately decided to say, “I don’t think it’s so bad to care about other people.”

“I see,” said his father’s father, clearly upset by the boy’s comments. “We more ‘traditional folk’ care about other people too, especially little children and babies who can’t defend themselves. Some of us just vote with a stronger conscience than others do, I suppose.”

After this, the boy felt embarrassed. He knew he had offended his father’s parents and touched a nerve his own parents had warned him to avoid. Accordingly, dozens of silent seconds accompanied only by soft crunches of crisp green beans followed this divisive topic. Luckily, someone eventually decided to restart the conversation.

“Would anyone like some pie?” His grandmother inquired, joyful after having peacefully broken the silence.

“Absolutely, yes!” Anthony said. Nothing made Anthony happier than a big piece of pie.

“Well that’s good, Anthony, because I have an apple pie waiting patiently over there.” She then strolled toward the counter and returned with a steaming apple pie.

“Oh, that smells gooood,” his grandfather rejoined, salivating over the dessert’s flaky golden crust and gooey center.

“Well, that’s something we can all agree on,” remarked Anthony with a sense of relief. All three of them laughed. From there, the three distinctive family members cut their portions and chewed with similar smiles on their faces.

“It tastes great, Grandma,” interjected Anthony after several bites.

“Thank you, Anthony,” she returned. “I spent hours slaving over the stove to make it earlier today. I’m glad you like it.”

“Mmhmm - It’s very good. This is the first time I have had a great homemade pie. Still, though, do you think that it was a good use of time? I mean, I think you could have bought an equally fantastic pie from a store…”

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