|Bree with Great-grandpa at the zoo!|
Today our daughter Bree's Great-grandfather turned 84 years young. Happy Birthday! He is part of a dying breed, and like many of our children's Great-grandparents he survived the Great Depression while learning the meaning of hard work and how to provide for himself on the farm. He served his country in the military during a time when people did so because it was the respected thing to do - not because of economic circumstance.
Back then, people knew who their neighbors were, and their kids played together in the streets until the sun came down without fear of some asshole shooting them with a Glock. There wasn't any Smartphones, Fox News, Jersey Shore, or Honey Boo Boo. Great-grandpa Charles Kleis raised his kids during a time when one man with one income could buy a house, a car, and provide for his entire family. His time was a place where respect, fair pay, hard work, and golden rules were normal.
My generation grew up in very different times. We were playing Oregon Trail on Apple computers at school, and coming home to Mario on the original Nintendo. We grew up watching Ridley own a bunch of acid bleeding aliens, and watching Bart getting choked out by Homer on Fox television before being forced to finish our homework. Though I appreciate a lot of things about my childhood, it's becoming more apparent to me that the 80's are when the societal shit started hitting the fan.
My grandfather was acutely aware of that fact. It was this that inspired him to be one of the positive guiding forces in my life from a young age. "Now Jon Henry Kleis, remember what grandpa told you? don't drink, don't smoke, and don't do drugs", is what he always used to tell me when he would visit. And guess what? I have never been drunk, I don't smoke, and I have never done drugs. My relatives, immediate family, and good friends know that being proud of the decisions I've made and continue to make define me, and are what make me a happier person. Without grandpa in my ear telling me it's ok to be myself and not to conform to societies new normals who knows where I would be.
Charles Kleis's story is relevant because it's a lesson in how the things we do now greatly effect the future's outcome. Obviously the, "treat your body and yourself with respect" line stuck with me, but what I've been discovering lately through his stories are that his passion for fishing over 60 years ago correlated with my becoming a flyfishing guide today. Of course back then he was crappie fishing from a boat with my father while using cane poles and crickets, but it's clear to me that he started something. He passed that passion for fishing down to my father, who then encouraged me, and now I share that passion with others.
Great-grandpa Kleis you are one of the many reasons I truly believe we can still have a positive future. If enough good people with the guts to be the change they want to see in the world put themselves out there, maybe that's enough to start a revolution. Thankyou for being the person you are, for all your flaws, and all your inspiration. We love you!