My granddaughter is transcribing this correspondence, as I rarely use a typing keyboard these days. I hope nothing is lost in the process.
I will probably lay claim to being your eldest contributor, as I recently celebrated my 90th birthday. I read your Old Money Book and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a gift from one of my children.
From this vantage point, I’ve seen a lot. Many things have come and gone, from passing fads to more important lost traditions. Innovations and improvements, and some things that were replaced or made redundant that now leave a hole in our society, an absence in its richness.
I have attended the weddings and funerals of too many friends, colleagues, and even people who, in life, were what you’d consider my adversaries. You learn to respect the other side. You learn the inevitability of it all.
I attended boarding school here in the east, then a small college that retains even today a certain patina among those who know. My grandfather was the first to go there. He tutored the wealthier students to pay his way. My father was second, and I was third.
The place was blessed with brilliant, passionate professors and hungry young minds. There were also the pompous twits born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths and a sense of entitlement that seemed permanently lodged somewhere else. We looked down on them even more than the parvenus because they should have known better. By we, I mean the students from upper class backgrounds.
I went to Wall Street after graduation and did well. It was a hollow existence, though. After a few years of success (dubiously defined), I left and went to India. I didn’t buy anything for two years. I learned to be quiet and get my ego out of the way. I would be a vegetarian, but I like clam chowder and pork chops too much.
The young lady I was courting waited for me, and I was grateful.
I returned with a distanced appreciation for the material world. I went back to work, married and started a family. For a time, I was well-known. It was a pleasant experience, but when it faded, I welcomed my anonymity with open arms. I made money, and then went for A Bridge Too Far and almost lost it all. By that I mean, money. I regained my footing in due course.
Material things have not endured. The ones that mean most are just sentimental in value. Relationships have ebbed and flowed. My marriage was the best. My children are a treasure. My grandchildren, well, the jury’s still out of them. (haha)
Only my principles have stood, and only as well and for as long as I have stood behind them. They have been shield and shelter, barricade and baton.
I derive a great deal of pleasure now from mischief. I wear pants that are very colorful to lunch with my family. (The clothing shop calls me when the latest and loudest new style is available.) I tell the waitress that my children are trying to poison me. I tell my children that the waitress is trying to seduce me. I tell my grandchildren not to have children. Just look at this mess.
And then I wave my hands around the table, and take in all the smiling faces.
You’re going to throw weight on one side of the scales or the other: for good, by productive and compassionate behavior, or for bad, with destructive or hateful actions. It’s your call, and a pretty easy one to make. You’ll live with the results. Good luck.