A Great Generation

A Great Generation - September 14, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

While my schedule this week was packed with economic development meetings, legislative planning meetings and meetings with rural fire departments and hearings and consortiums designed to bring awareness to child safety, parenting issues and tobacco education concerns from groups across the entire legislative district, one event gave me pause and time for introspect.

In conjunction with the work that I have done with literacy for children as well as adults, I was invited to participate in Grandparents Day at Grace Living Center. Sandwiched between a meeting with retired educators and a group of professional firefighters and a trip to the Capitol, I had simply agreed to read to the center’s residents.

As I walked through the door, about two dozen senior citizens were assembled in the living area and I was handed the book, Love You Forever, by Robert N. Munsch. I opened the book and proceeded to read. The book is about a mother’s love for her newborn baby and the song that she sings as she holds and caresses him throughout his childhood and into his adulthood.

Despite his antics and quite frankly, sometimes downright orneriness, her unwavering love is embodied in the lyrics, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” The mother continues to embrace her son and sing the lyrics from her heart at times when no one else would. 

Finally, at that twilight point in the mother’s life, the roles are reversed. With the mother so weak that she cannot sing the words, the son takes his aged mother in his lap and sings, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you always, as long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.” 

As I read to these elderly residents, my thoughts and emotions embraced my own mom, who is celebrating her 88th birthday this week and with whom we will spend time together this weekend.

Thank you, Grace Living Center, for allowing me to slow my schedule down and read to this group that is often called “The Greatest Generation.” That phrase is been used to describe the nearly 16 million men and women who fought in World War II since Tom Brokaw’s book of the same title was published. Today, according to VA statistics, those veterans are passing at the rate of about 555 per day.

The VA also tells us that in 2000, there were nearly 6 million WWII veterans surviving and that during 2014, that number will slip below one million.

As I looked across the living room of the residential facility, it became apparent why the women outnumbered the men.  These women had cared for their men and now after a life of sacrifice, it was time for them to be cared for. It was not just the service members who sacrificed, but also their spouses.

My mother did not wear a uniform, but she loved a man who did.  She lived on edge daily dreading the day when her new husband would be deployed.  Her answer came the day that she was hanging out clothes and his squadron flew over, tipped its wings and flew into the endless westward sky.

She, like thousands of others, remained faithful and true while he was in harm’s way and hung onto hope and prayer for the months that he was gone.

Their sacrifice did not end there.  They struggled through college with the help of the GI Bill.  They were finally able to purchase a small farm with the help of a VA loan.

Like thousands others, her personal sacrifice and self-denial was a way of life as she placed her own health and welfare behind the children that she raised and mourning the infant son that she buried.

As I looked out over the group that I read to, I saw my mother in so many faces.

Thankfully, after raising five children, my father’s career teaching agriculture, my mother working for the county health department, and both subsidizing a cow-calf operation, their pensions prevented them from retiring into poverty and allowed them a sense of independence rather than financial dependence on their children.  Let us never underestimate the value of the current pension systems in not only sustaining life but also maintaining dignity of our seniors.

In the end of Munsch’s book, the son returns home to his own newborn daughter, picks her up, caresses and rocks her and sings, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be” as yet another generation will be blessed with this cycle of love.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.