This is a story about a great grandfather and a great grandson, but before it is told, I think a little background is in order:
Through modern science, the ultrasound revealed that my eldest daughter One’s second child (“1.2”) would be male. The all female streak (daughters & granddaughters) was at an end. There would be a first boy cub.
Great grandfather Michael was my widowed mother-in-law’s second husband – a wonderful man who was loved by all. A man who knew a lot more than higher education could ever have taught him. Michael had a practical engineer’s curiosity. True Statement: He never stopped figuring things out.
Michael and 1.2 bonded right away. They really did. It was special. They did all kinds of things together. As 1.2 became more aware, with Michael showing him, he became fascinated by ceiling fixtures. At family functions, I vividly remember Michael carrying 1.2 room-to-room where they would stop underneath the ceiling fan or light and 1.2 would point up to it. They would each in their own way analyze it for a time and then move on to the next room.
As it subsequently turns out, thus far, 1.2 continues to exhibit an engineer’s curiosity. So perhaps there was a certain instinctual and/or even metaphysical connection between the two of them. They were virtually inseparable when in the same place.
Being faithful parents, my daughter and son-in-law made arrangements, as is done amongst protestant churches, to dedicate 1.2’s upbringing to the Lord. They were attending at the time what I could best describe as a very large church, perhaps not a mega-church, but a very large church nonetheless. The Sanctuary was well appointed with an excellent stage having good sound and lighting. Their services were ably produced. Many people attended.
1.2 was almost one and a half years of age at the time – still way too young to comprehend everything happening around him. As is true of children of that age, most language was beyond his understanding as was the full meaning of the ceremony that he was the subject of.
The pastor who presided over the baby dedications was perfect for the job. He combined earnestness in his role while still being amiable and a nice enough guy. Children generally reacted well to him. It was his duty to publicly confirm with the parents their intent to raise their child within the beliefs of the faith.
Along with that, the pastor would address the child directly, among other things making note of the meaning of the child’s name within its religious context. At the point when the pastor was mentioning to 1.2 that he too had some obligations in this matter – to be a good, obedient son, respecting his parents and being faithful to the Lord above…
…1.2 raised his hand and pointed straight up to heaven.
The congregation collectively gasped in amazed reaction at having seen the hand of God move through the hand of a child. It was on TV and streaming on the Internet. 1.2 had no idea of how far his reach exceeded the length of his small arm!
Michael and I followed 1.2’s upward motion and realized what had happened. 1.2, perhaps not giving the pastor his full attention, had noticed the colorful stage lighting above his head and reacted to it. Michael might just as well have been holding him on that stage at that particular moment. Most thankfully, someone took a picture:
I was sitting next to Michael. I looked at Michael. Michael looked at me. I think…I am pretty sure that wry smiles appeared on both of our faces. Nothing was said between us, words were needless – it was truly an amazing moment in time. In a crowd of well over one thousand, he and I, along with a few family members, knew what 1.2 was up to. To the rest, a religious act of some magnitude had occurred right in front of their eyes, and well, who am I to say, perhaps God does move in mysterious ways…
I was on my way to take my last college final exams…life had other plans for me.
It was 1981. It had been a little over four years since I had joined the United States Air Force. Almost five years since we had married. During that time we had two children. I had just received an Honorable Discharge from the military. I had been going to college full-time as well.
I had acquired an early ‘70’s Volkswagen Square Back that needed an engine overhaul and other work. Living on the coast of California, the surfer dudes were always wanting to buy it – perfection for their purposes. I received numerous offers, but held on to it.
I have never been all that mechanical, but the VW engine is not a very complicated affair. It took awhile because of the scarcity of time and the ever present lack of money. All indications were that my rehab work was adequate, but there seemed to be numerous other mechanical issues that required solving.
Deb and the girls had flown home. I rented a moving truck and with my father’s assistance drove our worldly possessions while towing our MG back to Buffalo. I then returned to California to stay with friends for a couple of months while I finished my last semester of college.
It had been four very long years away from the land I was born, raised and grew-up in. I was ready to go back. I was very much looking forward to being a civilian again. I was anxious to be with my family once more. I had been around the sun 24 times and was eager for new adventures.
The VW ran well enough for me to use while I finished my courses. I had to tinker with it a bit, but I tested it with a couple of small trips and all systems were “go” to drive it back to New York once I was done. I had grown attached to it. It was my escape vehicle. I had been the one who brought it back to life.
So, the day of my last finals came and off I went to be tested. I had no way of knowing the real tests I was facing. Midway there, the VW spewed an oil slick that James Bond would have been proud of. I left it on the side of the highway and hitch-hiked the rest of the way. Not the glorious ending to my college career that I had anticipated…
I managed to get the VW to a friend’s and pulled the engine. I did a quick tear down and then put it back together. Not being sure of what had happened, I took it to the local shop and they replaced an oil gasket as I recall. It was functional once again.
With haste I would soon regret, I loaded the VW with my stuff and left Vandenberg AFB (a little north of beautiful Santa Barbara) and headed home. I didn’t get too far. I was near San Bernardino when the final engine meltdown occurred. I got a small amount of cash for the VW. I gave away the possessions that I couldn’t economically ship home. I was devastated mentally and emotionally. My homecoming drive was a disaster.
To make matters worse, then President Reagan, my former Commander In Chief, was taking a stand against the air traffic controllers. They were taking a stand against their work conditions and were on strike. The nation’s airlines were basically shut down for a brief period. The exact period I was in serious need of the services they normally offered.
I got a bus out of San Bernardino and once again began my trip home. Adding further to my difficulties because of the lack of air travel, the buses were full up with travelers. I and my sadness over what had happened were closely packed with other humans who no doubt had stories of their own.
I vividly remember what happened just before the bus left the Las Vegas station. A woman with two young children came aboard. The woman got the children seated just in front of me, told them to be good and walked off the bus. Just like that. The kids looked scared. The brother was about seven, the sister about five. I could feel a lot of interest in them generated by the other passengers on the bus. Some of that interest didn’t feel so good.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes, in our own bad times, we intersect with others in even worse situations?
I was handed a mission that I could not refuse. Certainly not a mission that I wanted. I had my own troubles, but I knew that those kids needed someone to keep them safe and on course from Las Vegas to their destination in upstate New York.
I moved from my seat and began talking to them. I told them that I had children of my own, that they could trust me and that I intended on helping them along the way. I made sure that the other passengers on the bus could hear me well enough to know that the kids were no longer fair game – they had a protector.
And I took care of those kids. I made sure that they ate, went to the bathroom and slept safely. During stops along the way, I took them on walking expeditions to explore the surroundings and have some physical exercise. We talked. We laughed. We had a few occasional outbursts. I read to them. We played silly child games.
Over the course of the next few days, our route took us through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania followed and then New York. My final stop was Buffalo. I gave the bus driver primary responsibility for the kids’ safe passage for the not long rest of the way to their destination.
As it turned out, parting from them was not so easy. I have the feeling that those kids helped me more than I helped them. That’s life, ain’t it?
I think of them from time-to-time. However it has happened for them and wherever they are, I hope those kids have had good lives.
The problem with youth is that it is wasted on the young, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw.
But does it need to be that way…in today’s age?
I think that most of us who survived our youth have said something like, “If I only knew then what I know now.”
Ah, there’s nothing quite so compelling as 20/20 hindsight.
Perhaps, just perhaps, today’s youth can have a better opportunity to enjoy their youth, if we let them.
In 1910, about 100 years ago, average life expectancy was 49.2 years.
If you were born in 2009, your average life expectancy is 78.7 years.
So, in a century we’ve added about 30 more revolutions around the sun to the average person.
It wasn’t that long ago that it made sense to be married and have a child by age 16, but those days are fortunately behind us.
Luongo – “Young Mother With Child”
We are living longer. We should thoughtfully consider letting our kids grow-up longer.
I think that with the exponential advances in technology, we will soon be able to add another 30 years of life expectancy to newborns. Could well be more. Seriously.
But the exponential rate of technology is not without its cost. There is a lot more to learn now than there used to be.
Yet, it seems that we are trying to push all the new knowledge into the same time frame that older adults were subjected to when they were kids.
That doesn’t make sense to me.
I see parents today vying to get their kids into the best pre-pre-school. I know that they mean well, but it reminds me of the horrible images I have seen of children’s beauty pageants.
As a parent I find this painful
Frankly Francis suggests that we should let kids be kids a little longer than we used to.
With longer life expectancies and more to learn today, let them take the time to absorb it.
And give them the time to enjoy the process. We have it to give. We will all be the better for it.
True story. A good story? I hope so. It works for me so I thought I’d share:
A few years ago. Out with a few guys for dinner/drinks. It is work related, but social. I’m low man on the totem pole. We end-up at main guy’s house for a last soda…or many. Sitting outside. Fire going. Mondo stars.
One of the guys looks at the rest of us and asks, “If you could only tell your children one thing, what would it be?” Conceivably, not a light-weight question…
…If you could only tell your children one thing, what would it be?”
Being the restrained guy that I am, I instantly blurted out, I would tell them, “Just be who you are!” The words were leaving my lips and I was listening to them. Just came out of me. Like a spontaneous combustion response.
Had time to think about it and, I stand by it.
There are lots of things to say to our children. All kinds of advice to give. The passing on of life lessons is important. Active parenting is critical. However, for me what’s paramount is not deciding my kids’ way, but being there to help guide them on the pathway of their own choice.
I trust that as a parent (and myself, as an individual) I have lived-up to that.
I’ve seen too many people transformed into something they are not. So many that are what others want them to be. So many that are not fulfilled in their employment. So many that are not what they really wish for themselves.
Just Be Who You Are
Who else can you really be anyways?
I have three daughters, and though they have given names, I prefer to refer to them by their numerical birth order. Thus, my daughters are One, Two & Three.
(From left to right) Three, Two & One
My Dad turned me on to Charlie Chan movies (the black & white days), and Charlie always referred to his eldest son as “Number One Son,” so that is probably where my numeric system comes from…or perhaps it is that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t escape my background in accounting.
I think this is also a very practical way to talk about my kids with anyone else. Why burden other people with the responsibility of remembering your children’s names? My numeric name system to those outside my family is clear and easy. And from my experience, seems to work well.
So as you can figure, in discussion, if I inadvertently say my child’s name, my listeners usually tend to ask: which kid is that? One, Two or Three?
When One became pregnant, I had to consider my numeric nomenclature.
The answer was not difficult to arrive at. Since One is my first child, therefore her first child, in relation to me, is 1.1. Ah, the joys of fundamental mathematics.
My first grand child, 1.1, is two years old now, but she is still too young to be informed of her designation yet. I can’t wait.
Now the plot thickens, but the methodology holds up. Daughters Two and One are presently simultaneously pregnant, in that relative order. A first child for daughter Two and a second child for daughter One.
According to my system then, One is having 1.2 and Two is having 2.1.
1.2 and 2.1 makes for reciprocal grand children – what a delightful coincidence!
And maybe, I just have too much time on my hands…but most certainly, I have very understanding daughters.