GenerationsPosted: January 19, 2010
This past week my mom and grandparents came out from Wisconsin to meet the newest (great) grandchild. It was a full, mind expanding week for these small-town Midwesterners. At one point I introduced my mom to some co-workers who apologized on behalf of the smoggy, cold Salt Lake weather. My mom replied in our heart-warming accent, “Oh, nO, this feels like spring tO us. This weather is great. We are just trying tO get Used tO all these big buildings. Da barns in WiscOnsin are nOt this big.” (I think she was joking, but that line still makes me chuckle. My mom is actually very well traveled).
Later that weekend I sat between my grandparents with my laptop and showed off some videos and photos from my work’s website to help them get a better idea of what I do. After the science-loving show-and-tell the following conversation ensued:
Grandma: “Harold, ask her to show you Moji Port.” (I learned that’s where my grandpa had been stationed in Japan during the Korean War, and just recently one of his closest buddies from that period of his life called him up saying that he could go on the internet and see photos of that same port).
Grandpa: “Oh, no, she’d need the internet for that.”
Me: “Actually, I am on the internet right now.”
Grandpa: “Well, do you have (pause) The Google?”
Me: “Why yes, I do have The Google!”
I proceeded to show my grandpa (who has never touched a computer in his life) the wonder that is Google Earth. We zoomed from satellite images of the farm where he grew up and raised his own family, to the other side of the globe where he served as a soldier 50 some years ago. This quiet man, who is usually just observing from his lazy-boy, kept pointing and telling stories, which trailed off in mutterings of “I was there… Gosh it’s changed a lot….” We found more photos of Moji Port on Flickr, which stirred more memories. I think we were all marveling at the wonders of modern technology and the impact it was having on my grandpa. After some time of silence my grandpa threw out a seemingly random question, “So, does anyone know what DNA looks like anyway??”
“Oh Grandpa, we do! Let me show you!” My grandparents only have high school degrees, and by the time the double helix had been discovered they were putting in long hours on the farm; DNA was familiar in name only. Using images I found on Wikipedia, I attempted to help my grandparents understand how it is possible to trace a strand of hair back to it’s original owner, and how it is possible to tell just from DNA samples how closely related two people are. My grandma was asking, “so the same exact DNA that in in my toe nail is also in my eyeball?”, when my little 2-year-old niece turned to show me something. She was playing a game on her uncle’s i-phone. While my grandpa will likely leave this world without ever using a computer, his great granddaughter will never know life without them.
The wonders did not stop there. That Sunday I witnessed the crumbling of a 30-year wall. When my mom joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, her Catholic parents were furious. They threatened to disown her as their child. She was the oldest of ten kids, raised in a home where holy water can be found at each entrance of the house and where a cross hangs above every door frame. While my mom continued to return home and we grandchildren were embraced with loving arms, we all note the silent tension when religion is spoke of. My grandparents didn’t attend our baptisms, strictly forbid other children from attending worship services with us, and frequently gave my mom anti-Mormon literature. In fact, my grandma would fly out to Utah only on the condition that they went to Mass on Sunday.
Last weekend, I was assigned to give a 10-minute talk on Christ-like Service during church, and I gave my grandparents an open invitation to come listen to me speak. When Sunday morning came, we attended Catholic Mass with my grandparents, and afterwards they joined us for Sacrament meeting, so they could listen to my talk. So simple. And so beautiful. That simple act of openness and love is still blowing me away.