Jackson at Three

You are three today and you are every bit the young lad I knew you could and would be.  In the past year you have become pretty sophisticated in so many ways.  You are starting to count and your ability to tell a story is getting more detailed every day.  And remember, storytelling is an important part of your Wundrow heritage.

This summer you went to Lake Tahoe and met many of your cousins for the first time.  While you were there, you taught them how to play “pool ball”.  They didn’t understand at first but by the end of the weekend they were in the swing of it.  I think you have a little bit of teacher in you too.

But all of this, as important as it was, pales compared to your new role.  You are now a big brother and you are proving every day how prepared you are for this new role.  Never has a little sister been watched over, cuddled, cared for and oh so loved as your Adela is by you.

You told me you had decided to call her “P” before she was even born.  When I asked you why, you explained it was for Pi.  Now having done this before she was born, how could you know she would come to us on Pi Day?  I guess when you are a brother, you just know these things about your sister.

I will look forward to the two of you growing up.  I hope that you will always take such good care of Adela and for that matter that you will treat all girls and eventually women with such respect.  Being a gentleman in this world has huge advantages.  Being respectful makes you a real man.  But more on that later.  We will need to talk again about this before you take your date to Homecoming.

You are three and ready to learn so much.  I for one hope to be part of those lessons and I hope that you will always be my buddy and come to me when you have those big questions.  You know, like “why is there air?” and “where did all the water in the ocean come from?”  I can’t always promise I will have the answer but I sure will enjoy exploring the possibilities.

Happy Birthday Jackson.  Know that you were always my first grandchild and that makes you just a little more special.

Stay curious.

So who will you be for Halloween?

Halloween, that one day holiday where we dress up and celebrate All Saint’s Eve.  The history of the holiday is a whole story of its own but that’s not what I am focused on this morning.  You see I just returned from our Sunday morning church service and having dressed up as everyone was asked to do, this revelation found its way home with me.

Our minister had posed this question “If you could dress up as someone, who would it be?”  He had chosen Batman and had explained why that had significance in the moment and for him personally.  You know, super hero, good guy.  His point was that we all are someone else behind the mask we wear.

There I was sitting in the pew, dressed as the picture above shows.  It dawned on me, that if I looked in the mirror, it would be my father’s reflection that I saw.  On further contemplation, I also dawned on me that it was a more subliminal choice of costume than I had realized.

My father was by many an account, a relatively quiet person.  He went about his business and quietly made his way in the world.  He raised six children, ran a dairy farm and held multiple odd jobs in government and labor.  Even though we probably had far less money than many we knew, we never felt poor or wanting.  All the while, my dad was a man of service.  Service in the positions he held, service to his farm community and service to his church.  The quiet man left a huge footprint.

It was fitting that I had without thinking about it donned the clothes he would have worn and in that moment of contemplation, I had come to realize more than ever before, how much of an impression he had on my life.  So many things that we do in life, so many mannerisms and characteristics can be traced back to someone who left their imprint on our life.  I believe that with that realization comes a better understanding of who we are and maybe even who we are meant to become.  We reveal the someone behind the mask.

My question for you this Halloween is who would you dress up as?  No matter who it is, take a little time to consider the significance of your choice.  Then, remove the mask and try to become that person. My hope for you is that your choice will be some super hero with super powers and that you will strive to use those powers to become a super you.

Happy Halloween and thanks for reading.

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.

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.