Jackson Turns Two

I want this to be my instruction manual for the up and coming two year old.  I will attempt to impart words of wisdom to the favorite little guy in my life.

Step 1:  Stay interesting.  Girls dig interesting.  The left handiness is a terrific start.  This will enhance your ability to visualize and to tell really great stories.  Not lies, just really good stories.  Or at least the ability to make retold stories even more interesting.  And when it comes to sports, confuse them when you stand on the other side of plate or drive the lane from their blind side.  And golf, well that opens up the whole other side of the course.

Step 2:  Be compassionate.  People gravitate to those who can be compassionate.  Compassionate people take care of others’ feelings.  This opens doors of opportunity.  I know that you have this trait because I saw it and I felt it while I was recovering.  You took care of me and watched out for me.  I see it too in how you share and play.  And I see it in the hugs you give Cayson and Bodie.  Real men can be compassionate.

Step 3:  Be genuine.  Know who you are and be the person you are meant to be.   A genuine man admits when he’s wrong, encourages others, defends principles and leads by example.

Step 4:  Discover, observe and learn.  I marvel at your powers of observation.  You watch and you learn.  We play “booma”, we observe the “moona” and there is no remote that can fool you.  As you grow, treat all new things this same way.  Oh yeah and did I mention, girls dig guys who can figure things out.

Happy 2nd Birthday Jackson.  You are my buddy and my inspiration.  You have rekindled my love of puzzles and my fascination with the moon.  I am already planning our first trip to the observatory on campus and the night we will lay beneath the stars and stare at the heavens.  Not sure how I got so lucky to have your mom and dad gift me with you but I am sure I will not waste a minute of the time we have together.

Adventures await us Jackson.  Follow the steps.




Being a Grandpa on being a Kid


Why was I so afraid to become a grandfather?  Was it the sense of responsibility or was it just the word?  Was the title making me feel mortal as in “Oh my god I’m old enough to be a grandfather”?  I think in retrospect that the later was the case.  So this blog is for anyone that might be feeling the same way.  For me, it was Jackson who taught me how to lose that feeling.

Jackson is my first grandchild and with any luck, not my last.  That is in fact a hint if my daughters happen to read this.  I am Jackson’s Opa, apparently no one goes by the “grandfather” moniker anymore.  Even though Opa is the German form, I think Jackson might be Italian.  He has this knack of attaching the “a” sound to the ends of his important words like booma (puzzles, but that’s another story) and moona, his favorite sight, and so ona.  Maybe its the “a” in Opa.  But I digress.

Jackson taught me early on that my only responsibility, in fact any grandparent’s responsibility is to spoil your grandchild and teach them all sorts of clever but useless tricks.  I cannot wait until I can teach him the many variations I have created for the great card game 52 pick up.

If I was worried about responsibility, Jackson left me know that it was he that was responsible for me.  While rehabbing from knee surgery, Jackson sat with me every day.  He was in charge of my rehab, and in his own little way, cared for me and oversaw my exercises and made sure I was kept fed.  Grapes and cookies can do wonders for the healing soul.

And then there was that fear of being old.  But Jackson sees no age barriers.  When he wants to wrestle, we wrestle.  When he wants to build Legos, so will I.  And then there are the booma sessions.  He will sit me down, get my computer and I will be given no quarter.  We will do puzzles.  Instead of the dread of age, he has taken me back to my youth. Thank you Jackson, for showing me that life really can start over at 60, for I am a grandpa.  I am your Opa and I get to be young all over again.  Lesson learned.

If you are still reading this and are not yet a grandpa, get ready to be born again.  And if you already are …..well you get it.  So pick me up Opa, I’m ready to show you how to play again.

Generation Coffee

Coffee starts as beans and after grinding is run through a filter.  The filter captures all the grinds while letting through the robust flavor of the coffee bean.  No one would ever consider eating the beans and certainly not the grinds.  But the brew, with all its rich flavor, is the morning breath of heaven to the coffee fanatic.

So where am I trying to go with this.  I don’t really work for Folgers, so what is my point.  My point is that generations act like that filter.  Each generation can be thought of as that brew going through the filter.  Our parents give to us the brew of life and the generational filter can catch the grinds, those undesirable traits and habits, while letting through the flavorful brew, those characteristics and values that represent the best of who we are.  If brewed carefully, each generation has the chance to pass through the very best of who they are while leaving behind those flaws and mistakes that they may have uncovered along the way.  We have the chance, no choice, to let our children see our very best, those traits we want to pass on to our next generation.  We at the same time need to be honest about our flaws.  We are human after all and we do and will make mistakes.  We must be a good filter for our children, admit our mistakes, and trust that our filter will keep them from passing into the brew.  Or at least most of them.

The beauty of this theory ….. every generation re-filters the brew.

When did you stop believing in Santa?

It is a simple question.  So why is the answer so difficult?  But don’t give up on me.  For me to tell this story I will go back to the Christmas tradition I grew up in.  Or at least the tradition as I remember it.  When people recall their memories of Christmas traditions, they spring from an amalgamation of memories that magically blend into their Christmas memory.  I am sure as I retell mine, my brothers and sisters, if they are reading, will tell me they remember it differently.  But then, this is my memory.

Christmas Eve always began the same way.  We were dressed, uncomfortably, in our finest clothes.  If you are imaging a fairly nerdy picture, you are right on target.  Once “suited” up, we would all pack into the family Ford Galaxy station wagon, fighting over who would get the “way back” seat, and head to church.  Of course not before my father would find an excuse to run back into the house for something he had forgotten.  Years later it would become obvious to me that this was the moment Santa got the gifts under the tree.  After our performance in the youth pageant at our church, we would receive our gift bag of peanuts and oranges and pack back into the station wagon absorbed in the vision of those Christmas gifts back home under the tree.  Not so fast.  The traditional Christmas Eve visit to my aunt’s house had to be endured first.  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my aunt and she had a great house and tasty treats, but those gifts were just waiting for our return.  After what seemed like an eternity of visiting and Christmas carols played on her incredible church organ, we were finally back on the way home.  Once home, it was the mad cap opening of the gifts and then falling asleep on the couch as we watched “A Christmas Carol” with our dad.  This became a tradition that carried on into my own family and lasted well into their becoming adults.

But back to the point of this story.  This particular Christmas I had placed on my Christmas wish list this incredible, you put it together, metal tabs and sharp edges everywhere, model gas station / mechanics garage master piece.  I and my brother had the year before discovered where dad hid our gifts prior to the big day.  Knowing the secret, how could I resist?  Well I couldn’t and I didn’t.  There tucked behind the furnace, in all its glory, was the beautiful brightly colored box holding my model station dream. The secret was kept and all was fine until Christmas Eve.  There under the tree was my Santa gift.  Yes, you guessed it, the dream model station.  So there it was.  The reality hit home like a bullet.  There really wasn’t a Santa after all.  It was my parents, messing with me all along.

Now this blog could stop here, disappointment, realization, despair.  Okay, maybe a bit too dramatic.  What I learned at that point, besides not snooping around and ruining the surprise, was that my idea of Santa had to evolve.  Now I will tell you that it didn’t happen over night.  I was still a child for Pete’s sake.  It would take some time watching as my younger siblings went through their realization of the Santa process, coupled with enough growing up and observations for me to eventually come to my conclusion.

It turns out that Santa is a belief, no a necessity that lives inside the heart of each of us.  When we feed the imagination of a young child, when we reach out to someone in need, when we give to a charity or give our change to the person on the street corner, when we buy the anonymous gift for a coworker or neighbor, then in that act, Santa lives. We become Santa.

Children need no proof that there is a Santa.  They don’t need an explanation as to how he can visit every child in the world in one single night.  They need no evidence that reindeer can fly .  They just know it.  For me, every time I see an act of random kindness, every time I see someone open their heart and their wallet, I know it too.  Santa lives in everyone of us, and when we get old enough  to question the reality, we need to step into the myth.

Well its almost midnight and my grandson is fast asleep.  Guess I better get those Santa gifts under the tree.  So when did I stop believing in Santa?  Simple answer……I didn’t.