Nurturing the Next Great Generation

Two Days in Grandpa Bill’s Brain

Publisher’s Note: This lovely post was written by my daughter, Abigail Moore. As a grandfather, it’s wonderful for me to see that even though my father is no longer with…

Publisher’s Note: This lovely post was written by my daughter, Abigail Moore. As a grandfather, it’s wonderful for me to see that even though my father is no longer with us, his voracious mind is a legacy that continues through the generations. 

When my parents broached the subject of organizing my paternal grandfather’s books I immediately volunteered for the task.

They were preparing for a long-anticipated flooring project, replacing the tired, stained, and occasionally smelly carpet in the primary bedroom. This sanctuary had previously been my grandfather Bill’s office, where he spent countless hours in his retirement puzzling over society’s ills and compulsively stocking his bookshelves with annotated and dog-eared volumes on a wide range of topics.

Grandpa Bill cut a formidable figure, running daily up and down the steep driveway of his house in the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont in a very small pair of shorts. This was the only time I ever saw him out of his customary button down shirt and belted khaki slacks, a formal uniform that he wore around the house, attending to his intellectual pursuits in his upstairs sanctuary.

All the grandchildren spoke in whispers about the day when they would come of age, and be summoned to meet with him in his office.

This ritual entailed discussing the evils of nuclear war, his time in the Navy during WWII, and his ongoing goal of ensuring world peace for future generations. My memory of my own conference centers around trying intently to avoid staring too hard at his eyebrows, which wriggled across his forehead like salt-and-pepper caterpillars, and general tween awkwardness and angst about having to discuss such a serious topic with my distinguished and somewhat aloof grandfather. Additionally, the graphic visuals of nuclear war were not for the faint of heart and needed to be approached with a certain degree of serious intellectualism.

In his twilight years, lost to the fog of dementia secondary to Parkinson’s, the office became an alarming representation of his mental decline.

Towering stacks of books covered every surface, some with hundreds of index cards protruding from pages inked with his favorite quotes and ideas. The room had an odor: unwashed clothes, faint traces of urine, and the musky scent of a neglected used bookstore or library. Piles of ladybug and house fly carcasses littered the windowsills and lazy skeins of cobwebs and dust fluttered in invisible breezes. I generally skirted the space, for fear of being drawn into a conversation in this claustrophobic and messy sanctuary that he refused to let anyone clean.

After his eventual passage from the mortal plain, his office and library remained as a concrete legacy of his obsessive quest for answers and information. When they took ownership of the house, my parents toiled for days to transform the space into a bedroom, but left the majority of his books on the expansive shelves. This was the library of a ghost whose presence continued to loom large over the years.

As a person who finds tremendous satisfaction in bringing order to chaos, likely as a coping mechanism for life-long anxiety, the prospect of systematically organizing the books was exciting to me.

We embarked on the project during the final days of February break, with everyone pitching in throughout a two-day sorting, purging, and cleaning extravaganza. Even my two boys, eight and six, dove into the task with uncharacteristic zeal. Brandishing dust rags and a vacuum they meticulously scrubbed and sorted with me for hours, occasionally finding treasures that they pored over together on the floor, heads touching.


The concrete result of this daunting and dirty experience was a bedroom filled with stacks upon stacks of hundreds of newly dusted books organized by subject.

However, a secondary consequence was a great deal of hilarity, discussion, and ultimately reflection about what these books represented about the passions and personality of someone long deceased. After immersing myself in the books for several hours, patterns emerged. Here was a person who had purchased, and hung on to, no less than five copies of On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler Ross.

A preoccupation with long life, health, nutrition, self-diagnosis of illness, and stress was evident from a massive collection of books on these topics (medical texts on Urology: The Complete Series). Poetry, world-religions, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and classic works of fiction were predictable components of his library.

Non-fiction books about WWII and the devastation of nuclear warfare represented his time in the service, and his life-long guilt about his role in the Pacific Theater. A surprising number of tomes centered on gender, feminism, sexuality, and aggression in men (3 heavily dog-eared copies of Demonic Males by Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham).

Here was a man who read The Joy of Sex (volumes 1 and 2) as well as Masters and Johnson (his one bookmark in the Joy of Sex Volume 2: How to avoid mischief makers in a threesome).

He appeared to be deeply interested in democracy, liberalism, and the emergent role of technology and its changing influence on society and culture. He was similarly passionate about evolution, anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

He had a comprehensive collection of works by B.F. Skinner and Maslow. His lifelong friendship with scientist E.O. Wilson was reflected in having multiple copies of his entire collection of published books. One of these featured my grandfather in the dedication, and further digging turned up the original proof of the book that Bill had annotated to share his comments/thoughts with the author himself. At times, I could not fathom how he could have slogged through countless ponderous tomes of economics, government, and comparative philosophy of leadership.

My grandmother, Janet, was evident in aged and crumbling pamphlets with knitting patterns, instructions for metallurgy, and gardening texts.

These were interspersed with books on other crafts that had a more direct impact on my childhood. I had vivid flashbacks to her teaching me how to make baskets one humid summer, and when she presented me with multicultural doll clothes for my American Girl doll (including a burka, which I mistakenly thought for many years was a very sophisticated beekeeping uniform).

There were literary clues to other aspects of their relationship, revealing an unsurprising truth about his reliance on the written word to solve real world, interpersonal challenges (Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin by Ashley Montague; Choice Points: Essays on the Emotional Problems of Living with People, by John C. Glidewell).

Ultimately, I could not help but feel that I spent the better part of two days becoming reacquainted with someone who I had not seen in more than ten years (or twenty, if you consider the devastation of his dementia).

Flipping through the pages, and categorizing the collection, was a more intimate experience with my grandfather than I can recall having during his mortal life. As a person who loves books, and voraciously collects them and categorizes them in my own home, I wonder whether these will find permanence after my own death. In an increasingly digital world, there is a certain magic to a physical discovery of lost words, musings written in a margin, obscure and strange index cards tucked between dusty pages (“The leather coat was a strangler”). These forgotten and newly rediscovered remembrances made me laugh, sneeze, and ultimately wonder, “What the hell was Grandpa thinking?”

Abigail with Grandpa Bill (William R. Page) 1986

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Babysitting the grandsons. Is this my best job ever?

When my kids were little, it seemed like my wife and I were constantly and frantically juggling daycare and illness. There’s no pleasant way to put this, but let’s just…

When my kids were little, it seemed like my wife and I were constantly and frantically juggling daycare and illness.

There’s no pleasant way to put this, but let’s just say there was a lot of vomit involved. This was of course in the 1980s, when the concept of “remote work” was a euphemism for simply not working. So we got very good at making bargains with each other.

“If you stay home him with him today, I’ll stay home tomorrow.”


“If you stay home with her, you can sleep late on Saturday.”

Flash forward to this year when our daughter, the mother of our two grandsons (8 and 6), called to let us know her nanny had given two weeks’ notice.

Our daughter had interviews lined up with a few nanny options, but nobody great had taken the position yet. A few weeks after that, with no nanny on board, we grandparents kicked into gear to help.

First, my son-in-law’s parents stayed with them for a week, dropping the kids off for the morning school bus, picking them up in the afternoon, taking them to lessons, sports practices, and on and on.

Then it was our turn. My wife and I packed up our laptops and headed off, picking up where the other grandparents had left off, kind of like a marathon race with senior citizens running and passing off the baton, except the baton was lunch boxes and backpacks or the bag for swim practice or soccer shin guards or, wait, there was something else, oh forget it the school bus is coming!

In short, the mad dash of our child rearing years comes back full bore, quickly morphing out of memory to a very present and urgent reality.

And here’s the thing: I loved every minute of it. One day one our youngest grandson couldn’t go to school because of a lingering cough. I let me clients know I was going to be in meetings all day and not available for calls. This was true, but I omitted the fact that my meetings were with my grandson.

We visited a graveyard nearby my daughter’s house and played the game of finding the oldest date etched in stone.

Then we went for a long walk by the ocean on a treelined road, the fall leaves showing red and yellow and orange, the sun bright.

I took him to Shake Shack for lunch and we kept talking over hotdogs and burgers.


When we got back to the house, my grandson wrote with invisible ink in his diary, played with dinosaurs, and watched My Little Pony.

Out of all the packed days I’ve had at work over the past 30 years, this was one of my most productive and enjoyable. I’m confident that if I live to be 99, chances are I won’t look back on that day and wish I’d spent it making more money.

It turns out there’s evidence that babysitting grandchildren, at least periodically babysitting them versus full time, has been shown to help grandparents live longer. The researchers don’t know why that’s the case, but the data backs it up.

I have my own theory and it’s pretty simple: Helping our kids with the grandkids renews our sense of purpose.

We like knowing that we’re needed and loved. Just as important, being with our grandkids—even if they have hacking coughs—is a recipe for joy. And joy is a very healthy thing, not just for us grandparents but for everyone.

The next day, my grandson was feeling much better and went off to school with his older brother. My wife and I waved to them as the school bus drove off, then we want back to our other jobs.

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Back on the Trail: My Custom Boot Adventure, Part II

In April I posted about ordering a pair of custom boots with the goal of hiking again. This is the second part of the story, and—spoiler alert—there is a happy…

In April I posted about ordering a pair of custom boots with the goal of hiking again. This is the second part of the story, and—spoiler alert—there is a happy ending.

Leahy Custom Boots’ fitting process was incredibly thorough, with multiple steps: tape measuring, tracing, pressure assessment, a foam impression, creating a fiberglass mold, followed by visual observation of how I walked.

All of this, or course, was just the first phase of the fitting process. In August, Kevin Leahy shipped me a pair of “trial boots.” These were not fully finished but were sturdy enough to wear for a month to assess the fit. Not only could I determine where the boots fit well and what needed adjustment, but once the boots were shipped back to Kevin he could analyze the wear. With his 40 years of experience, Kevin could see subtle things mere mortals could not, like markings on the soles that revealed my unique walking gait and pronation.

My trial boots were made as an interim step to help further refine the fit of the finished boots.


I wore the boots on a short hike up Mt. Pisgah overlooking Lake Willoughby near my home in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (NEK). Getting out on the trail for the first time felt like I’d been let out of jail. I ascended to Pulpit Rock, an outcropping that affords a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding mountains. It would indeed be a fine place to give a sermon, except for the two-thousand-foot cliff at the edge, so the only attendees in church would be hawks and butterflies.

By the time I got home that day I fully appreciated why wearing the trial boots mattered.

I’d developed a blister on my small left toe. I sent the boots back to Kevin with photos and a note about the blister. He emailed back: “Point taken!”

Over the summer I mostly went barefoot. I literally had no shoes that fit me that didn’t cause discomfort or pain, at least for longer walks.

When the finished boots arrived in October I did a silent prayer: “Oh please, God, let them fit!”

I took the enormous (size 16 wide) boots out of the box and was immediately impressed with how heavy and solid they were. Inserting my feet and lacing up felt a bit like strapping into a glove, sturdy and supple at the same time.

Kevin advised me to break the boots in gradually over a month. Each day I’ve taken longer and longer walks, and with each step the boots have grown even more comfortable.

They are, in a word, fantastic.

For about four years my poor wife, Nancy, has gone for long walks without me, often lamenting, “I miss walking with you.” But last week we went for a hike together around Walden Pond in Concord. The fall foliage was near peak, the air brisk, the sky a Maxfield Parish blue.

When I ordered the boots in April I was thinking primarily about what they could do for ME:  get me out on the trail again, enjoy the woods, see the broad beautiful world from the mountaintops. As I held Nancy’s hand along the Walden path, I came to realize what the boots did for US.

On Kevin’s website he describes his early years as an apprentice with a German alpine boot maker in the 1970s. The skills Kevin learned have been passed down for generations.

I hope that some young apprentice has a chance to learn from Kevin and carry on this tradition.

If you want to experience the difference that custom boots can make, check out Kevin’s work. You’ll need to be patient. It can take six months or longer to get them made. And you’ll need to spend a lot more than you would for off the rack boots. But they’re worth it.

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Swimming with the Loons: To Hell and Back with the Healing Waters of Lake Willoughby

In November of 2021 I started experiencing sharp pains on the right side of my groin, a feeling of being stabbed by an invisible force. My doctor ordered up a…

In November of 2021 I started experiencing sharp pains on the right side of my groin, a feeling of being stabbed by an invisible force.

My doctor ordered up a series of scans to “rule out anything bad,” as he put it. When the ultrasound and CAT scan results came back the doctor reported there were no signs of anything that would cause the pain. And yet it kept getting worse. I’ve always turned to swimming and yoga to get through physical issues, but after 20 minutes swimming laps, or a yoga session, I was in so much pain I was literally curled up in a fetal position on the floor, in tears.

I went back to my doctor. “Something’s really wrong,” I said.

He replied that the medical world doesn’t really understand pain. To get me through the agony, he prescribed a drug called gabapentin, a neural pain blocker that doesn’t totally remove pain, but dulls it. I found it also dulled my sense of reality, sending me into a moody dark blue underworld nightmare of drowsiness and depression. That plus opioid painkillers was turning me into a zombie. I started lying in bed a lot more (the only time I wasn’t in as much pain), or taking very long hot baths.

This went on for about four months. Increasingly desperate, I began checking out resources for chronic pain management, including a residential clinic in Florida run by a leading hospital system. I’d have to go and stay in a facility for a month, taking classes in meditation which, combined with drugs, could help me at least survive without going out of my mind.

All of this was also very hard on my wife. She was deeply worried about my trajectory, and at one point asked what she would do if I died.

But she kept seeking answers and never stopped asking questions. “Is it possible,” she asked one day, “that the pain has something to do with the hernia surgeries you’ve had?”

I put this question to my doctor, who suggested I reach out to the surgeon who had done two hernia repairs on me over the past two years. Three weeks later I was in the surgeon’s office. This was in April of 2022. He took one look at the CAT scan done in December of 2021 (the one my doctor told me was totally fine) and said, to my complete astonishment, “You have a hernia in your groin, on the right side. An inguinal hernia.”

I exclaimed, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I had the hernia repaired in the middle of May, just prior to coming back to our place in Northern Vermont near the shores of Lake Willoughby.

The lake is in the heart of a corner of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom, a name coined by Governor George D. Aiken in 1949. The name stuck, although many people in these parts have shortened it to “the Kingdom.” One might wonder who the king is. The answer is anybody and everybody, from the Amish who sell amazing baked goods on Saturdays, to the guys who work at the dump, to the woman who runs the Museum of Everyday Life, to the workers at the Pick & Shovel – a hardware store with the tagline, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

At the South end of the lake are two mountains, Pisgah and Hor, which used to be one before a glacier long ago cleaved them in two. Today, the mountains face each other on opposite sides of the water with steep rock cliffs, like an old couple on their country porch with nothing more to say.

The glacier may be gone, but the cold remains.

The locals say that July and August are just two months of bad sledding, and they’re only half kidding. It’s not uncommon to get howling snowstorms in late May or September. The lake, fed by innumerable mountain streams, never really gets to a temperature most people would call warm. It’s usually just plain cold, a deep five-mile-long expanse of frigid blue water that’s eyed warily by paddleboarders carefully calibrating their balance.

And so, with post-surgical bandages still stuck to my abdomen, I found myself on the shores of the lake on a frosty raw day in May. I waded slowly into the 47-degree water, with each inch of water bringing numbness to my feet and legs as I walked in deeper, coming to a stop after the water was just above where the hernia had been repaired.

In an instant all discomfort was cooled—or frozen—into submission. It was blissful.

I stared out at the green mountains and the dark lake all around me. I felt the cold wind on my skin. I said to myself, I’m going to be ok. I’m going to be great, actually. I’m going to return to swimming and become strong and healthy again, bit by bit. I’m going to be there for my four grandchildren.

I returned to the lake each day to submerge myself as far as possible into the freezing waters. It was a brief yet total respite from all discomfort, and with each passing week I went a little deeper, a little farther.

Once I got the go-ahead from the surgeon to fully immerse myself in the water, I started swimming. This was early June, with water temperatures still in the low 50s. The water and air were so cold that I’d get some level of hypothermia every time I ventured out, with shivering that only subsided after a mug of hot tea consumed next to a roaring fire. I found, though, that there is a switch in my mind that I can flip to ignore the cold, and embrace it at the same time. The first step is to acknowledge that it’s there. The next step is simply to dive in and go as fast as possible, surging ahead through an early morning flat calm or tempestuous afternoon waves.

Being aware of the cold and fully present in the moment opened up a vista of sight and feeling I had not experienced before.

When swimming underwater during heavy rain, for example, the pelting droplets hitting the water’s surface above resemble a scintillating meteor shower. It’s breathtaking.

By the end of June I was swimming about a half mile each day. The sharp pain I’d been experiencing before the surgery had vanished. The surgical site had healed completely. Just as important, my mind was starting to heal. I couldn’t tell how much of my improved mental state was due to the anti-anxiety medication, or if it was due to the absence of pain. Or maybe just being in the water again, moving, surrounded by lake and sky and mountains was bringing me home to myself, the normalcy I had so long wished for.

Along the path of my return journey to wellness I’ve had companions. They are called Loons, common to this part of New England in the summer months.

Loons are common to New England and frequent visitors to Willoughby Lake.

Loons look a lot like ducks, but they are different. For starters, loons are very good at diving deep to catch fish. When I’m swimming along, one eye under water and the other above, I’ll spot a loon pop up to the surface, or dive down. Unlike most wildlife, they seem completely unconcerned with being close to people. Sometimes they’ll fish within a few feet of me, almost as if they’re joining me for my daily exercise.

The most distinctive thing about loons is their sound. Ducks quack. Eagles screek. Birds chirp. But loons make a long, sonorous aria that rises and falls like a wave; it’s haunting and lovely. Living near the lake means always hearing the loons. Late at night in those periods of wakefulness at 3 am the loons can be heard, often several at once. When I’m swimming their music is closer and more intimate.

In my family, we joke about who our spirit animal is. I’ve always said mine was a groundhog, probably because I’ve had to rid my basement of them several times. They want to live in my house as much as I do.

It’s the loon, though, that may actually be my sprit animal.

We have this lake in common, this amazingly beautiful lake. We return to it again and again for our nourishment and health. The cold does not faze us; in fact, it’s part of the lure that pulls us in as we splash and dive. And, of course, we both sing on a regular basis.

Today, I am strong and healthy as September arrives and the cold air returns. The nightmare I experienced is in the past. And yet I know it’s inevitable that some other health problem will occur in time. That’s ok. Now I know where I can go to heal, and who will swim alongside me.

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Beyond American division: Love for grandchildren may be the one thing we all agree on.

Like so many Americans I was completely horrified by the storming of our nation’s capital on January 6th. This, I thought, was the modern-day equivalent of the sacking of Rome…

Like so many Americans I was completely horrified by the storming of our nation’s capital on January 6th.

This, I thought, was the modern-day equivalent of the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths. The end of the American empire, at our own hands, no less. The people throwing fire extinguishers at the capitol police wore red, white and blue outfits. All for the purpose of Making America Great Again, as if this violence was a return to our better days. I absolutely hated the rioters, and still do.

But if I am to be truly honest with myself, I’d admit that not everyone there that day was a violent extremist rioter.

There were moms and dads pushing their kids in strollers. They, too, wore red, white and blue outfits. It was like they were at some kind of picnic, a patriotic event. And why would they think they were not? The President of the United States had told them the election was being stolen and it was up to them to do something about it.

Since that day I’ve done a lot of thinking about the deep divisions in American society and what can be done about it. On issue after issue we Americans are at each others’ throats trying to strangle some sense into the idiots who hold an opposing view.

And all the while these issues have been boiling over, with people shouting on Fox News or CNN, our tribal echo chambers of conservative and liberal media, I’ve been writing for this blog about grandparenting. The purpose of Good Grandpa remains to help nurture the next great generation. It occurs to me that this mission sounds rather lofty, but it’s vague on how to actually get the job done. How do we as grandparents help our kids raise a generation of Americans who can far surpass even “the greatest generation” that Tom Brokaw wrote about in his book; my parents’ generation that lived through the depression and won World War II?

That’s a tall order, isn’t it?

So, here’s a specific thing we can do. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, we can introduce our grandchildren to an extremely important three-word phrase: “I respectfully disagree.”

Try saying that out loud. Let it roll around in your mind. Have you heard anyone say this on cable TV in the last 20 years? No, because ratings are based on conflict, not respectful disagreement.

Just because a Republican doesn’t agree with me doesn’t make them a bad person, and visa versa. If we can get our grandchildren, the 5 and 12 year olds, to take this one guiding principle to heart, it’s something they will bring with them into their adult lives, into the workplace, and into politics. Our grandchildren can be a unifying force, a common American ground.

Instead of a million man or woman march on Washington with people screaming at each other with bullhorns, let’s have a million toddler stroll, with grandparents leading the way as we bring the kids together to celebrate just that. Being together.

If you look at the news you see constant talk of red states and blue states. I frankly think it’s BS. Whether someone is from Kansas or Vermont, if they have grandkids they have something absolutely wonderful in common. These kids are the future, which means they have the potential to be the America they we all have wished for, those better angels of our nature that Lincoln spoke of.

Feel free to disagree—respectfully—but I think we can do this. What say you?

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Fostering the Best Future for our Daughters & Granddaughters

In Walter Isaacson’s wonderful book, The Code Breaker, he describes the life and work of Jennifer Doudna, a scientist credited with the creation of CRISPR gene editing technology. If you…

In Walter Isaacson’s wonderful book, The Code Breaker, he describes the life and work of Jennifer Doudna, a scientist credited with the creation of CRISPR gene editing technology.

If you or a loved one benefited from the COVID vaccine developed at astonishing speed, you can thank Jennifer. CRISPR allowed scientists to rapidly edit the RNA used in the vaccine, and millions of lives were saved in the process.

What really struck me about Doudna’s story, however, was how this Nobel-winning scientist was strongly discouraged from pursuing a career in science. Her high school guidance counselor advised her that “science is for men.” Fortunately for Doudna—and all of us—she didn’t listen.

As a grandfather I think of Doudna when I see my daughter and granddaughters. As grandparents, how can we help them live in a world where nobody, ever, under any circumstances, tries to confine them within boundaries fabricated by men?

I grew up in a traditional male dominated household.

My dad, a chemical engineer and executive with Polaroid, walked in the door at 6:30 pm every weeknight with the expectation that mom would have dinner on the table for all the males: my dad, me and four older brothers. And she did. These days people would say she was a “stay at home mom.” In the 1960s that’s just the way it was.

To my mom, having four sons in a row was a blessing and a curse. She loved us all but really longed to have at least one girl in the family mix. Just one daughter to make dresses for, or perhaps commiserate with about the male-run world. After giving birth to my older brothers mom tried one last time to have a girl, but then I was born and those hopes were dashed. She gave up and bought a girl Labrador Retriever puppy and tied a pink ribbon around its neck. Her name was Holly (apparently this would have been my name if I’d been a girl). To get the full story of Holly and the puppies she would eventually give birth to, you can read my book, The Willoughby Chronicles.

You might wonder, how did a busy exec like my dad commuting home in heavy traffic from Cambridge, Massachusetts, manage to walk in exactly at 6:30 each night?

Because he always stopped at the library, then left there at 6:25 to get to our house on time for dinner. He could have arrived some days at 6 or earlier and helped out, but somehow that thought didn’t enter his mind.

My mom was a smart, creative woman. Her frustration with her lot grew as the 70s and the womens’ rights movement progressed. I often heard her say, wistfully, that she could have done something with her life. In truth, raising five of us—each one gigantic and constantly ravenous—was certainly the most demanding job in the Page household. There was no leisurely stopping off at the library for mom. The vats of baked ziti needed to be cooked for the boys. Or a million other thankless tasks completed.

She did stage some occasional token protests, like the time she complained that my dad didn’t always eat the food she had carefully prepared. “That really hurts my feelings,” she said.

Dad apologized and swore in the future he’d always eat her meals. A few days later she served him a sandwich made with cat food (Kal Kan, no less, a slimy odiferous mush). I’m not entirely sure he realized he was eating cat food. It’s possible. In any case he downed the whole sandwich and thanked her for it.

The present and future I want for my daughter and grand girls is one where all career choices are open, all pay is equal, and no high school guidance counselor will ever seek to enforce limits. If women choose to pursue lives where they are raising kids full time, then that direction must be fully respected as well. “Stay at home mom” should never be a pejorative expression.

So, how can we foster the best possible future? Perhaps it starts with how we play with the kids, because the path towards being something starts with imagining it.

We can have bright plastic kitchen play sets with dishes that both the girls and boys can play with. But have a bright plastic science lab right beside it. During playtime, we could ask a boy or girl if they want to make some pasta for dinner. And we can ask if they’d like to edit genes to invent a new vaccine to save humanity. Let them choose their play, just as they choose the future they will inhabit.

Jennifer Doudna was born with many gifts. She’s brilliant, but also lucky to have a forceful personality that helped her push back against her guidance counselor. Not every kid will have this. We have to work harder, wherever we can, to make career and life paths fully accessible to all.

What are ways you can think of to help our kids help their kids, the next great generation, become who they were meant to be? Post a comment to join the conversation.

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My Gramp (Lessons on War and Youth)

  It was Easter, 1969, a lovely spring day in Lexington, Massachusetts, when my family—mom and dad and my four older brothers, loaded into the station wagon and headed over…


It was Easter, 1969, a lovely spring day in Lexington, Massachusetts, when my family—mom and dad and my four older brothers, loaded into the station wagon and headed over to my grandparents’ house across town for the traditional late afternoon feast of ham, potatoes, peas pies and handfuls of chocolate easter eggs.

I was 10 at the time, while my oldest brother, Calvin, was twenty-one, and Charlie, nineteen. Both draft age for Vietnam. The war seemed far away. Photos taken that day seem inked in pastel hues, all of us in jackets and ties, young and pink-faced.

But the war was not far away, not really. Every night we watched Walter Cronkite on the evening news, and there was always a tally of the men who had died in Vietnam, and often war footage from the dreaded jungles and rice paddies. My parents were very much against the war and were not shy about saying so. Dad of course was no stranger to war, having been divebombed by kamikazes at the battle of Okinawa. He often said war was the stupidest thing he’d ever seen, and Vietnam only confirmed his beliefs. He did his part to serve his country, suffered life-long trauma he did a reasonable job of hiding from the rest of the world, and carried on.

Calvin and Charlie were nervous about the draft; there was a lot of nail biting going on, literally.

Calvin was still a bit on the fence, though, about whether he’d go to Vietnam if his draft number came up. He’d been in ROTC in college and was better prepared than most of his peers to fight. But he also paid close attention to the news and the more he heard the more he believed Vietnam was not winnable, and hence not worth dying for.

And nobody in our family liked Richard Nixon. Mom, who never swore, once shouted at Nixon’s face on the TV, “You’re just a bucket of shit!”

My grandparents, Fred (Gramp) and Harriet (Gram) did however approve of Nixon.

They were Republicans through and through. Even if Nixon had his flaws they would always support the Grand Old Party. Gramp, well into his 70s on that Easter day, had flown a biplane in WWI to help photograph the trenches for intelligence. In WWII he returned to service and rose to the rank of Colonel in the air force. Gramp was six foot three, with an aquiline nose, piercing eyes, and a generally commanding presence. When I worked for him as a teenager to help with chores at his summer rental cottages on the shores of Lake Willoughby in Vermont, he didn’t ask me to do things; I knew they were orders and saying no was not an option.

After we’d gorged ourselves on Gram’s multi-course dinner, we retired to the living room. Somehow the topic of Vietnam came up.

My grandparents never said a word about Vietnam, which is why what Gramp said that day was so astonishing.

While my older, draft-aged brothers and I listened on, Gramp said. “Well, boys, when I went to war the first time, in World War I, they told us it was the war to end all wars. Then came World War II don’t you know, and we had to go back and fight another one. Then there was Korea. And now there’s Vietnam.”

Here he gestured one long hand in the air for emphasis and fixed us with his piercing eyes, “All I can tell you is, it’s always the old men who start wars, and it’s the young men who are sent off to fight them.”

None of us said anything in response, but heads nodded. We knew exactly what Gramp’s opinion of Vietnam was, without him ever having to be explicit or betray his Republican principles.

With war now once again raging in Europe I’m reminded of the truth that Gramp told us that day. Unfortunately, it’s the old men who are in power—one evil old man in particular—and the young men believe they have no choice.

What are your thoughts about war and the power of different generations? How can we create the kind of world where our grandkids will not have to experience war? Post your comment here to join the Good Grandpa conversation.

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