For about the last five or six years, my life has been one crisis after another – or maybe the whole period could be classified as a single crisis. In any case there is light at the end of the tunnel, so I have decided to write about a long ago crisis that probably shaped my whole life. Our family crisis occurred during the depression when my grandparents on both sides of my family lost their businesses and their homes. Overnight they went from prosperity to poverty. I learned at a very early age that wealth can be here today and gone tomorrow.
My maternal grandparents came to live with us in San Francisco when I was two, moved with us to Chicago when I was three and a half, and then moved with us to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, when I was five years old. An early tragedy in my life was when we had to move to Germany as part of the American Occupation and they moved on to live with other relatives in the States. During those years, in all three places, my grandmother was the wise presence sitting in the rocking chair and telling me things such as, ” If you can’t say anything nice, just keep quiet.” That, in my mind (but I have no idea if in her mind), translated into, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I learned so much from her in those early years because she lived with us in our very small home.
My grandfather, on the other hand, was always a kid at heart. He approached every day with enthusiasm and optimism, and he was truly my best friend during those years. In San Francisco from our Twin Peaks neighborhood we could walk to a vantage point and look down to the bridge and the bay. In Chicago we could walk a block to the drug store for my favorite cherry phosphate. At Ft. Leavenworth, when I was sad at having left behind my kindergarten and my friends, he told me we could go out exploring and that we would find new friends – and we did!
The depression was truly a crisis of huge proportions, but for me it meant a chance to know my grandparents, and I will always be grateful for that. The older I get, the more I realize how much influence they had on the person that I am. Now I am searching for the silver lining in my current crisis, and I am sure, given time, I will be able to find one. My grandfather is telling me that.