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The Generation Gap in My Family

To find extreme viewpoints, I need look no further than my own family. My family has members whose opinions vary widely. These opinions often result in interesting conversations, debates, and occasional disagreements at family gatherings. The differences in opinions appear relatively minor but often lead to hours of spirited, verbal exchanges. Some of these discussions are nothing more than good-natured kidding which helps pass the time during long vacation trips in the family car. Two contrasting members of my family are my brother and my father. I understand both of them fairly well, but their attempts to understand each other are less successful. My father and my older brother sometimes assume diametrically different viewpoints.

My brother is artistic and creative while my father is pragmatic and technically minded. One of the more humorous differences between them is their taste in music. My brother is a born musician who loves music with soul. He is currently a Jazz Studies major at the University of North Texas. On the other hand, my father is a scientist, has no musical talent, and listens to "muzak." This situation often presents a problem during long car trips. The family often becomes polarized between those who want to listen to Mantovani and those who want to listen to something more tasteful. Compromises are usually reached by our first listening to Mantovani and then listening to something else. My father owns the car and manages to stay in the front seat most of the time. As a result, we hear a lot of Mantovani.

Another often humorous difference between my father and brother is the way they wear their hair. My brother wears his hair down to his shoulders. My father, on the other hand, always gets his hair cut when it begins to touch his collar. A man's hairstyle was not much of an issue in the small mining town in West Virginia where my father grew up. When my father was growing up in the fifties, all men wore short hair. However, my brother grew up during the seventies and eighties when people were more liberal in the way they dressed. The length of my brother's hair bothers my father. This difference in hair- styles symbolizes, for my father, all the contrasting opinions between my brother and him.

During the fifties, as my father was growing up in the hills of West Virginia, he realized that he wanted a life that was different from that of his parents. His father was a coal miner who had never gone past the fourth grade. Most of the young men who grew up in West Virginia continued in their fathers' footsteps. My father, on the other hand, decided that he would go to college. He excelled in mathematics and science and had no time or inclination to study art or music. He worked his way through school and eventually earned a Ph.D. in physics. For my father, a college education symbolized a way to get ahead and provide a good standard of living for his family.

The environment in which my brother grew up was much different from the conservative era in which my father was raised. Our whole society changed during the period between my father's graduation from and my brother's entrance into high school. The styles of music, hair, and dress had changed radically during the years following my father's graduation from high school in 1959. My brother grew up in a more open environment. He was exposed to a variety of opinions during his childhood and had the opportunity to meet people in all walks of life. He studied music at an early age and was encouraged to develop his interest in the field. Although talented in math and science, my brother's true love was music. He was determined, upon graduating from high school, to make a career in music.

Although my brother and father disagree on many things, they manage to get along very well. Both of them are open-minded and can appreciate each other's differences. Though they are different in many ways, they share a few interests, such as fishing and working on cars. They also enjoy lively discussions on topics about which they disagree. It is probably a good thing that all people are not born exactly like their parents. If everybody were alike, the world would be a very boring place. One thing is certain: long car rides would be less interesting without arguments about Mantovani.

--Robert Lacy

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