An Era Not Unlike Our Own

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The O’Donnell family is going through the pantry of the family matriarch, Mary O’Donnell. “Throwing out that food is a sin, don’t you know people are starving?” she says.  Some of the canned goods tossed into the trash carry expiration dates that go back as far as the early 90’s.  “You know mom I also think that dying of botulism is a sin too,” her son Steve responds.  Steve and his family, which include his wife and two teenage sons, have just moved in with Mary, more often called “Gramma O’Donnell”.

Mary O’Donnell is 82 years old.  Since the passing of her husband, Myles, she had lived a lonesome twelve years alone until just recently.  Sure, she had her family come for visits, actually quite often, but the hole left by the loss of her husband was a tough one to fill on those normal, boring days with nothing to do.  The addition of her loved ones has helped fill this void a great amount, but there were also new conflicts that arose from living with a family of another generation.

In response to his mother’s reluctance at the throwing out the expired cans, Steve said, “I mean, she wanted to give these old things to the poor, at the very least.  She’s a child of the depression, a living example.”

Mary can’t remember much of that dark period in American history known as the Great Depression, but one memory remains fresh in her mind.  “I remember when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, when the soles of my shoes would wear out, my mother would stuff the holes with newspaper so we wouldn’t have to buy a new pair,” she recalls.  Though the overall memory of her life during the Great Depression remains hazy, the attitudes and lifestyles she formed during those times have stayed strong with her even while living in the modern world we know today.  It was these attitudes that made her so against throwing out those cans that were as old as her grandchildren.

Sometimes, the boys complain to their parents about how “old-fashioned” Gramma O’Donnell is.  Even though in some areas she can be considered to be old-fashioned, the boys take for granted in how many areas that their grandmother differs from her generation.

Mary is a devout Roman Catholic, raised that way from birth.  She attends mass regularly, and also sometimes works in the office at the parish she attends.  While being firmly rooted in her beliefs, Mary doesn’t let this get in the way of believing that all people should be equal.  She is a pro-choice supporter, and also supports the legalization of gay marriages, based on her simple belief that “Love is love”.  While her generation is often labeled as a largely conservative demographic, Mary proudly voted for Obama this past election, hoping that he pursues his policies like he said he would.  The boy’s parents try to make them understand how much Gramma O’Donnell differs.  Thea, Steve’s wife, often says to the boys, “Your grandmother is actually a pretty cool old lady.”

Thea is pretty accurate in this statement when you look at the way Mary lives her life.  She always puts love in kindness ahead of everything else, while also taking into account the logical solution to a problem.  In a time where adjusting to new technology is such a burden for the older generations, Mary is completely comfortable surfing the internet in her office space at her home that her son helped arrange.  Mary is an interesting anomaly when you consider that she is familiar with both the generations of her youth in the Great Depression, and the modern world we live in today that faces similar problems to those back then.

When questioned about how much she can compare the Great Depression to today’s economic situation she was somewhat ambiguous.  While saying she saw similarities in the way people were despairing about the crisis, she also stood next to her opinion that the Great Depression was far worse.  However, she also stated that today’s recession can digress even further, except in another direction.  “It’s very sad, but I think at one point in the future, which isn’t far, you may need a gun every time you walk out your front door,” she said.

One shouldn’t be misled to think that Mary is a pessimist because of the grim prediction she made is the worst case scenario.  She also thinks it can be avoided.  Mary has lived through many generations, but notes how the current one has the greatest lack of values.  Under Obama, she hopes the American people can come together and live a life filled with decisions made through peaceful consensus and honorable agreements rather than endless arguing and fraudulent practices.  She hopes that America’s values will return.  She hopes the world can be made into a better place for everyone.

In the meantime, Mary continues to live her life the way she always has- with love and kindness.  It’s hard to think of a world where animosity has no hold on all humankind on Earth, but if everyone would try living in a similar way to a little old grandmother who ‘s loved by her family, maybe, just maybe, it could be possible.  Maybe, just maybe, the collective woes of our planet can be solved through a combined movement based not on wealth, power, or fame, but another ideal so cruelly forgotten in this day and age- Love.


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