Thingish Things

Lessons of Our Fathers; Bad News for the Economy

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jul• 11•11

I’m no economist.  But I know how I spend.  And if that is any measure, it is going to be long time before this economy fully recovers. Decades possibly.

There is nothing President Obama or Congress can do to change that.  Like so many Americans, I have been burned financially and it has forever altered my thinking, in ways large and small.  

Take this weekend.  A niece and nephew came to my house on Saturday for a slumber party with my youngest daughter. “Where should we bring them?,” my wife asked. “How about we stay here,” I replied. It was purely a financial decision.  Did we really need to go somewhere?  Little kids will have fun together anywhere.  Why pay for what they will have for free, each other’s company? (Okay, we broke down and took them out for ice cream.)

For me to think that way – and I think that way all the time now – is a big problem.  I always have been lousy with money, a retailer’s dream. But less and less so now.  In fact, I don’t think I will ever spend money the way I once did. It would seem wasteful, immoral even.

I know that thinking.  I was raised with it. My father was a product of The Depression and we were raised not to waste.  Whenever my family went somewhere – to a park, a high school track meet, or the movies – we never bought the extra thing.  We were fortunate enough to go the event itself, but we never found ourselves at the concession stand.  Not once.  Saying “no thank you” was ingrained in our vernacular.  It was automatic everywhere we went, as was finishing every pea on the plate.  We went out to dinner once a year – on Mother’s Day, with my Scottish stepmother complaining all the way.

My father started life in solid circumstances.  His father was a banker and his grandfather was a prolific author and an ambassador under three U.S. presidents.  They were of the fortunate and educated class in 1923, when my father came into the world.  But his father’s untimely death from Parkinson’s Disease, followed by the Great Depression, cleaned his family out and indelibly changed his view of the world.  My father was the only one of his siblings able to finish college. He won a scholarship to Notre Dame, where his grandfather once chaired the English Department.   His older brother had to leave Georgetown to support the family, and other siblings went right  to work. After graduating from Notre Dame– and some heavy combat in Europe – my father won another scholarship, this one to Harvard Business School, but he could not accept it.  He needed to work to chip in for family expenses and to stay alive.

And work he did, unfailingly providing everything and more for his family.  But he never wasted money.  He still doesn’t at age 88, because he knows better.  He remembers.

A generation later, one of his children forgot that lesson for a while.  He remembers it now and will not overlook it again.  I suspect there are a lot of me’s among today’s 312 million Americans, people who temporarily forgot the lessons of their parents and grandparents.   

It is going to be long time before this economy fully recovers. But heck, we’ll survive. 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.