My grandfather (Poppa) turned 103 this weekend. In his lifetime he lived through wars, prohibition, the depression, the first moonwalk, the invention of talking motion pictures, Penicillin, television, credit cards, and so much more. He also held over twenty jobs in his lifetime including taxi driver, mechanic, and he even ran the player piano at a local roller skating rink.
Poppa was lucky enough to be of sound mind until he was about 101. Even today he remembers things from his youth with the clarity of someone much younger. Once I was old enough to understand how fascinating Poppa’s life experiences were, I began to ask probing questions hoping to spark a story. “Tell me about making home brew,” I would ask. “Did you know any gangsters, members of the Black Hand perhaps?” These questions would start Poppa down an enchanting path full of characters named Zig Zag and Gooch. He told of hiding men in barrels, smuggling them out of town to safety and of high stake poker games behind iron doors in Pittsburgh. He also spoke of a time when men were kings.
When Poppa ended a story with “but that was when men were kings” the story sometimes involved accounts when women were considered less than men. Stories about a time when men expected their wives and children to walk behind them when they walked into town. Stories modern women would consider shocking. However, more often his “When Men Were Kings” stories were about how hard everyone worked and how respect, kindness and chivalry were fundamental qualities that men possessed.
My work and lifestyle enable me to meet many new people, sometimes up to fifty or sixty a year. The more I meet, the more I notice the lack of fundamental qualities men possess that, in my eyes, make a man a king.
Things like really listening to the person across the table – the conference room table or the dinner table. Complimenting how someone looks. Taking an interest in someone’s life, or friends. Treating people with genuine kindness and dare I say, even displaying a bit of chivalry. Opening a car door, paying for a first date, leading a lady through a door, not cursing like a sailor and dressing like a man, not a boy, for a formal occasion are things I find less and less the norm.
Please understand, I know there are many men out there worthy of a crown. I know a few personally. I’m simply making a broad observation. It just seems that genuineness and chivalry are slowly becoming obsolete and sometimes I wonder, should I ever have a daughter, will she encounter a king or will she only find them in the tales I tell of time when men were truly kings.