When I first entered our quaint suite, I was convinced I had taken a wrong turn into some woebegone corner of the Sterling Memorial Library. My newfound suitemate, who had just magnanimously tipped two upperclassmen for carrying his luggage, emerged from his room with a gramophone he’d brought to avoid “whatever garbage the kids listen to these days” and laid it by a mahogany rocking chair he assured me “had stood the test of time” for several decades. 

He introduced himself as Thomas, but humbly insisted I call him Gramps. Upon immediate questioning, Gramps revealed his refined cultural palate to be a product of the “life-changing” backpacking trip through Montana he’d taken in the summer of his gap year.

Utterly floored by this pillar of ancient wisdom, I begged him to be so generous as to share his bountiful insight. I struggled to hear him through the muffling sound of the long white beard he stroked at repeated intervals, but I was fascinated by the black-and-white photographs he unveiled and gestured to with his wooden pipe. 

“When I was your age,” he began, “we knew real struggle. You young’uns don’t know how good you have it. All this coronavirus hassle for nothing—in my day, a manly man died from cholera with his head held high. You’ll understand this one day. For now, just focus on your studies and find yourself a wife.” 

Where had this voice of reason been my entire childhood? I promptly asked him to join me at the Schwarzman Center for lunch. However, he wisely advised against challenging his arthritis and retreated to the comfort of his four-poster bed. There was a twinkle in his rheumatic eyes as he spoke of his high school years “so far behind him now” and a maturity in his tone when he reminisced over lifelong friends from April. 

It brings tears to my eyes that brave men like him slave a career away for “three months as a Target cashier over the fall” to no recognition from today’s youth. And I was beyond confused when he was immediately carded on our first night outside campus for a beer. 

J. Mansfield