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July 10, 2012 / Maleesha Kovnesky

A Letter I Hope to Write One Day

Dear Grandchildren,

My time on this earth is almost over, and I am fortunate to have lived long enough to write you this letter. You see, your world is a wonderful one – the future has never looked so promising. I see hope sparkle in your parents’ eyes; wonder and enchantment in your own. The world you live in and the country you were born in…why, this place is a shining battery of light and gratefulness. But it wasn’t always this way.

You’re surprised? It’s true. In fact, there was a time in my own life when my family, friends and I weren’t sure how much longer things could continue on their destructive paths. There were wars. Summers were unbearable hot. Winters were dry. Food stopped growing, and water stopped being a thing just a silver faucet away. Too many people to count got sick and died. Many of us thought humankind was on the brink of an unrecoverable disaster. People lost hope, and when you lose hope, you lose everything. So I will tell you about some of the ways life got better. It took time, certainly. But things, life, got better.

I’m not writing this to depress you, or make you feel sorry for my time here. In fact, I consider myself one of the lucky ones who held out to see humankind patch itself back up. There were so many hard times- so many wars, so many fights, so much corruption. Poverty. Sadness. Children dying all over the world. But we stuck it out anyway. And I am writing this down so you (and your children) don’t forget.

– In the earlier part of this century (I don’t recall the year), people started to realize just how destructive consumerism was. It stopped being “cool” (sorry for the old slang) to buy a new car every couple of years. People started hanging on to the things they purchased, everything from tools to dishes to clothing. No one thought it would last. But it did! The only thing that sold were products of quality, so that is what all of the manufacturing companies started to make.

That’s why when you go to the store today and buy an electric drill, you never have to buy a new one. Sure, maybe you have to take it in to get it fixed now and then, but that’s easy because you can take it over to your town’s hardware store. And to think we almost made the hardware store extinct! Can you believe we were so stupid as to throw things away, month after month? It was half a century before the ocean was cleaned up, but better late than never.

– My own parents and grandparents didn’t have the option to go to the doctor when they were sick. It was just too expensive, and doctors had their hands tied much of the time. It took a great many deaths before the collective country got fed up with the system. Drug companies used to spend a lot of money to put big, fancy ads in the papers and on TV, but we outlawed that. So drug companies stopped focusing on fixing boners and dry eyes, and instead they had to go fix the increasing problems of cancers and disease, because that was now where the money was. Once we got rid of the ads, it wasn’t long before they cured cancer, malaria, and wiped a handful of nasty ails right off the planet. The research team who finally unlocked the universal cancer cure enjoyed fame and fortune, and it was well deserved since they had devoted their life to the job.

-Speaking of fame and fortune, can you believe we used to fall and fawn over TV and music performers? It’s almost embarrassing to talk about, but it’s true. My friends and I could easily spend a hundred – a hundred dollars – to go to a concert. Musical talent was no longer discovered but produced. Can you believe it? If a young person had the right “look” they could alter their voice and create an overnight “star”. It was an awful time for music. And eventually, people’s interests changed.

Record company executives did everything they could to mass-produce musical groups, but it was of no use. People who were naturally talented at music and entertainment found new fans on the internet. And some savvy manager-type folks who didn’t demand the billions of dollars the old record execs demanded, they managed to start a new paradigm of entertainment. So if you weren’t talented, then nobody watched you. You’d have to go find a different career. Period. That’s why your music today is so amazing. I’m not kidding, this really happened!
-For a while, it was “cool” for girls to be dumb…even when this old grandma was in high school! And we girls caught on and realized we were getting a raw deal, so we stepped it up. And then it became “cool” for the boys to be dumb…as long as they dressed snappy and had a wad of cash in their pocket. But that went out of style too. You see, “dumb” is boring. Once the money is gone and you’ve outgrown the hairstyle, it really matters whether or not a fellow human can carry a conversation. Girls got bored with the “dumb” guys and that was the end of that. It was then fashionable to educate yourself. And not only a traditional education came back as a trend…something different was all the rage. It was a little something your ancestors called common sense.
We had a saying that ‘common sense isn’t very common’…and let me tell you it wasn’t. Now listen up, grandchildren. This might be the most important lesson I pass on to you. Common sense is vital. It’s what tells you that you car isn’t going to run forever, so you better check the oil (I know you kids don’t use oil anymore, but you know…check your filters and your belts just the same). It’s what tells you that your water bill is due at the end of the month, so it’s probably not a good idea to spend that money on a nice vacation. It’s what tells you to be suspicious if that “nice man in your restaurant” is inviting you on a nice island vacation and you’ve never met him before.

The return of common sense…that is what signaled the end of the old dark days and the return of true freedom and independence. Hard work and intelligence became valued again. We found ways to bring jobs back from China to our own country, once those folks wised up and demanded the same salaries and benefits we had in this country to start with. Liars and cheaters never prospered….especially if they were in leadership positions. Teachers, policemen, firemen, and small farmers were paid what they deserved. Oh, I know you know these things were all true today…but they weren’t for a long time. In fact, teachers of children were paid a paltry wage, but baseball players demanded millions upon millions and still were unhappy about it. Thank goodness we lost interest in sports…until the players went back to doing it for the game. Lord knows that helped the parents in the little league stands to back the hell off.

-We reached an energy crisis about halfway through the century. It was a nightmare. Finally it was decided that every evening for two hours, just before the sun went down, all of the electricity in the country was just shut off. No one, young or old, single or corporate, had electricity of any kind for two whole hours. People panicked, and protested, and tried to sue for infringement of rights. But the order passed, and one fine June evening a long time ago, the lights went out with a whirrrrr.

A funny thing happened then. People had to start depending on their neighbors again. We got really good at preparing for the evening shutdown, but sometimes we would forget the meat or the mashed potatoes, so little by little we asked each other for help. We slowed down…we hadn’t even realized just how alone we had become. Pretty soon we were playing cards with other families or sipping ice water in the common areas of the neighborhood. Kids would play in the field, kicking a ball around like it was the 1950s (look up the 1950s sometimes, that is when my own Mom was a girl). And we liked the sense of community so darn much that when they turned the power back on for good, we chose to go outside and visit anyway.

Kids, I could go on and on. I don’t want this to become “tl;dr” like we used to say. But you need to hear these stories. They might seem like insignificant events to you now…and taken one by one, they are. But add them up over time, and society starts to wither and crumble. A man once said “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” May all of our mistakes never happen to you, or your children, or your children’s children’s children.

I’ve had an amazing life, so don’t be sad when I am gone.

Your grandmother

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One Comment

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  1. David / Jul 11 2012 6:29 pm

    Wonderful post Maleesha. I mean granny!

    I hope/believe/pray that you’re right about this awakening collective conscience.

    Just watching my granddaughter taking her early steps right after Independence Day, with the concluding chapters of book 4 of the gunslinger series (thank you so much for recommending this to me- ) reverberating in the brainpan, pondering this unfolding century, this post of yours is a perfect little crystal to focus some of these thoughts.

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