Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One: Heroes and Wise Men
My grandfather was a wonderful role model.
Through him I got to know the gentle side of men.
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.
If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
A Grandfather's Wisdom
The Wisdom of making sense of life and appreciating what I've accomplished.
The Wisdom of understanding, and loving my family without judging.
The Wisdom of maintaining integrity regardless of today's social mores.
The Wisdom of accepting circumstances I'm powerless to change.
The Wisdom of preserving my own personal identity, and high esteem.
The Wisdom of adapting to life's cycles and a new generation.
The Wisdom of sharing the pride of roots and traditions.
A Hero for All Seasons
Forget about all those overpaid sports stars. A real hero is someone who transcends all generations. John Glenn is such a man.
John Glenn, seventy-seven, grandfather, senator, and astronaut, who was born when men took to the skies in rickety biplanes, is no publicity stunt. What he has been, and is once again, is an authentically American, can-do kind of hero, a profile in courage, whonow also ranks as a role model for an aging American society in which seniors won't and don't have to settle for a rocker on the front porch. He is a living example of "You're only as old as you feel."
Glenn's flight on the shuttle Discovery not only tested the limits of space but also powerfully validated what older Americans can do and the contributions they can make. It showed us that it's never too late, and that dreams can be pursued at any age.
Once again the veteran TV newsman Walter Cronkite, eighty-two, covered the event, and Glenn's wife, Annie, and their two children looked on, just as they had in 1962, except this time they were accompanied by Glenn's two teenage grandchildren.
Glenn was forty when he first flew into space thirty-six years ago. Doctors who examined him before this flight said he had the heartbeat and other medical measures of a man still in his forties. That's a tribute to the physical regime Glenn and many seniors -- including myself -- are following these days and which contributes to vitality and longevity.
Glenn's second launch captivated America as no space mission had for decades. "I don't think grandchildren are ever going to look at their grandparents in the same way again," said Robert Butler, one of the nation's foremost gerontologists, and at seventy-one, director of the International Longevity Center at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Maybe I'm oversentimental, but I think America owed John Glenn this ride. His courage, his energy, and his indomitable spirit remain an inspiration not just to his generation but to all generations. Godspeed, John Glenn! The best is yet to come.
No braver knight ever sat at King Arthur's Round Table than the man sitting at the head of the family dining table.
Grandfathers are gentle but strong;
to children they are like a port in a storm, warm and secure.
Like a father, a grandfather can preach a better sermon with his life than his lip.
I love to listen to Grandpa's stories.
He's a living history book.
Tammy, age nine
Remembering Grandfather Chin
My paternal grandfather, Grandfather Chin, was the only grandparent I ever met, since my mother's parents died before I was born, and my other grandmother never left Hong Kong. Ah Yeah, which translates into "father of my father," was the kindly and humorous old gentleman I remember.
When I was between six and eight, my grandfather ended up being my surrogate parent because of the long hours my parents worked at their restaurant in New Jersey. I recall that he was of slight build and rather hunched, making his short height even more marked. It wasn't until years later, upon seeing his photo, that I realized he had blue eyes -- quite remarkable given the Asiatic genetic trait of brown eyes! I somehow later pieced together that there was some definite mixing somewhere along the generations.
I recall the feel of holding his hand as we walked down the street, watching his intense, mischievous eyes, and his walking me home from the restaurant at night. There is a special trust and comfort that I had with him and a sense that he was old, yet not really. He was part of my young life that became memorable, and perhaps that is in some measure why I have been so committed to intergenerational activity -- to assure that continuity and caring and value from one generation to the next.
Jennie Chin Hansen
My grandfather always taught us that the first step of wisdom is silence, and the second step is listening.
It is the malady of our age that the young are so busy teaching us that they have no time left to learn.
My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people:
those who do the work and those who take the credit.
He told me to try to be in the first group;
there was much less competition.
When my grandfather speaks, everyone listens.
Jason, age ten
My grandfather grew up with a passionate love for aircraft, but I can't say that as a kid I was fascinated by airplanes. I did not grow up dreaming to be a pilot. At the age of twelve, I had my sights on becoming an electrical engineer. It wasn't until a few years later that I began to think about flying. I admit that my grandfather's role in military aviation helped tip the scale a little, but I never felt pressure stemming from his accomplishments. I love what I'm doing. I love serving our country. What an opportunity. They pay me to go out and challenge myself, fly state-of-the-art equipment, and have a good time.
The world today is a lot scarier than when my grandfather dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. We knew who our enemies were. Today, anyone could be our enemy. We don't know who's going to want to take us on next. When I entered the Air Force Academy, Mother Russia was our enemy. It's a much more uncertain world out there.
As for my grandfather, it's an honor to have his name.
Paul Tibbets IV
We all know grandparents whose values transcend passing fads and pressures, and who possess the wisdom of distilled pain and joy.
Grandfathers are for telling you what it used to be like, but not too much.
My grandpa reads his Bible all the time.
I wonder if he's cramming for his finals.
Laurie, age nine
Grandfathers impart information, ethics, and values that children learn nowhere else.
Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Are our grandfathers' heroes our heroes?
Only once in a blue moon, an individual makes such an impact on our society that his name is passed down through generations. Joe DiMaggio was such a man. He will live forever in the hearts and minds of baseball fans, young and old alike.
They called him Jolting Joe and the Yankee Clipper, and when Joe DiMaggio died in 1999 at eighty-four, a style and an era ended.
New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin once wrote, "Baseball isn't statistics; it's Joe DiMaggio rounding second base."
He was a larger-than-life celebrity. Hemingway fictionalized him, Simon and Garfunkel immortalized him, Marilyn Monroe romanticized him, Mr. Coffee commercialized him, and a fifty-six-game hitting streak made him a national sports treasure. The record endures as the last great sports record still to be broken. In 1955, Joe was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.
While Joe played thirteen seasons with the New York Yankees, his heroics were not limited to baseball. He was involved in many philanthropic causes. A modest and private man, he preferred to keep a low profile, and did his best work anonymously. Many people don't know that in 1992, he donated his name and time to raise money for a children's wing of Memorial Regional Hospital in southern Florida. The result is a state-of-the-art, 150-bed facility. True to Joe's philosophy, no child is denied treatment because of inability to pay.
Joe, a grandfather of two and a great-grandfather of four, was really involved and a frequent visitor at the hospital. You could tell how much he loved kids by the way he interacted with the young patients. Several years ago, my grandfather and I were visiting my brother, who was a patient, and had the privilege of shaking the legend's hand and talking a "little" baseball. My grandfather bragged about the encounter with his sports idol until the day he died, and my brother, who is now a first baseman for his high school team, will always remember the man who was his inspiration and role model.
After DiMaggio's death, former Mayor Ed Koch summed up Joe's life perfectly:
"He represented the best in America," Koch said. "It was his character, his generosity, his sensitivity. He was someone who set a standard every father in the world would want his children to follow."
As a grandfather, I'm entitled to a few words of sage advice to the young:
I would spend more time with my children.
One of the odd things about ancestors, even if they are no older than grandfathers, is that we can scarcely help feeling that, compared to them, we are degenerate.
Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.