News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 30, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Old age is in email of the beholder

Liz Ciancone
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — My Best Friend isn’t much for writing letters, so email has opened a new world for him. He can dash off a few words to a high school friend or his college roommate — now living in Florida and Washington State, respectively. A few words come easy and he often gets a quick response.

Jim, from Florida, recently sent a lengthy communique. It didn’t feature his own adventures, but it involved a grandmother responding to her grandson’s questions about her age.

She rattled off a list of all that had not been invented when she was born: Penicillin, television, clothes dryers, credit cards and, of course, all those electronic gadgets which her grandson surely knew more about than she did.

She went on to explain that “making out” in her day had to do with passing the history exam rather than getting a few extra snuggles on a date. She added that “pot” was something her mother used in the kitchen, “grass” had to be mowed (with a hand-push mower!), that “hardware” could be purchased at a hardware store and “software” wasn’t even a word.

The letter from Jim was illustrated by pictures of the hot cars of grandma’s day, and the whole thing went on at considerable length.

I decided that grandma was at least as old as I and maybe old enough to have dated Teddy Roosevelt — although she could not have voted for him. All those inventions and conveniences she spoke of were things I have known all my life and I probably could have added a few for grandma.

But, the punch line was that grandma had been born in 1961! If my math skills are still good, that would make her only 51 or 52 in 2013. By the time I was 52, I was married and had two children of my own. I did not, however, have grandchildren. I was a late starter, although Number Two son once suggested to his third-grade teacher that she ask me to talk to the class about the Civil War, “because Mom was there.”

Age is no distinction. Sooner or later the grandson of Jim’s email, along with the grandchildren of all of us living today, will look back and remember all the conveniences we will never know. I hope their comfort will grow as ours has.



Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to opinion@tribstar.com.