Sunday, September 16, 2012


My grandfather, Opa, was a good man.  He and my grandmother Celia raised five sons and two daughters in their adopted country (the USA).  Their seven children went on to be a part of the WWII generation, said by some to be the best generation ever.  I can't speak about other families, but I know that Opa instilled certain values in his kids that were passed down to his grandchildren.  One of those values was molded into a simple sentence.

At the right moment during our frequent family gatherings (usually when we were eating), Opa would say, " I wonder what the poor people are doing today?"  Being the curious tike in short pants that I was, I believed that Opa was making a joke about the homeless and destitute; so I asked him.

That day I vividly remember.  It was in late summer and my family had gathered to pick fruit for our fall wine ( yeah, we did that and drank it too!).  Opa sat in his favorite outdoor chair and like a military field commander, directed the fruit selection while my Oma (grandmother Celia) took care of the food preparations.  We kids took care of the lower branches while our parents dealt with the higher ones.  And if you missed a spot, Opa happily made you aware of the error.  Opa's pipe was ever present.  It was one of those long stemmed things with a big base that he had brought with him from Austria.  I do not remember the brand of tobacco that Opa smoked, but I can tell you that the aroma was terrific.  When dinner in the orchard was finished, I took advantage of Opa's available lap.

Opa adjusted his pipe as I climbed into his lap and then asked him about the poor people stuff.  He chuckled at my question but it was not a laugh of derision but one of understanding that needed to be addressed.  Opa told me about what is true wealth and what is fool's gold.

To Opa, the "poor people" in his statement were the insanely wealthy.  All their wealth, he told me, blinded them to what was really true and important:  family, love, friendship, togetherness, and peace of mind.  In my Opa's head, those insanely wealthy folks could not enjoy the real wealth that is had with a simple life; their monetary wealth blinds them and thus, they are poor, and lack the knowledge of real wealth.  Does that mean that we should not strive to improve our lives and that of our family?  Absolutely not.  It really means that we should not take to heart all that glitters and sparkles as real, true wealth.  Keep in mind that that kind of wealth can be fleeting; easy come, easy go.  Real rock solid love, family, and friendship does not.  When the money is gone, it's gone; when love and family are true, they're still there.

That piece of wisdom and more was given to me by a really smart guy over fifty years ago.  Maybe it's time for me to get a pipe like Opa's and start dispensing the same.  The thing is, who will listen?

                                                 Copyright @ 2012 Terry Unger            


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