I remember the discussions I used to have with my grandfather when I was a young boy. I loved going over to my grandparent’s home – less than a mile or so from our home on the south side of Chicago. He taught me about patience and how someday, as the oldest child, I would eventually be the patriarch of the family. And so my training started at an early age – all directed at the fact that it was my responsibility to take care of my mother (my grandfather’s and grandmother’s only child) at all costs. As my grandfather used to teach me, “You only get one mother to a lifetime…”
This was particularly poignant as Grandpa’s own mother had died when he was about ten years old and I don’t know that he ever recovered from the loss. He left home several years after that, at the age of thirteen – his Dad remarried and the blended family had many children. Since my great grandfather was an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was financially impossible for him to support all the kids. So my grandfather, as a young teenager, struck out on his own to relieve some of the financial burden on the family. He put himself through school and graduated with a law degree from Northwestern University. The law was his passion and provided an income for the family that included my grandmother, great aunt and mother.
He was driven to do everything he could for family. He took it as his personal mission to prepare all three of his grandchildren for life as adults – I got extra special training and education as the eventual head of the family.
Our kids are almost a generation older than my brother Doug’s children and we already have our oldest grandson turning eighteen this December. Additionally, our other three grandsons are fifteen, fourteen and ten. So, by now, I bet you think this post is about the lessons that I learned at the knee of my grandfather. But, that is not the case.
No, this post is about recalling the lessons that I learned from Grandpa that have now prepared me to pass on those lessons to our own grandsons. When I was young, I was caught up on learning as much as I could, but now that I am on the other side of the mountain, as the grandfather and not the grandson, I am looking at things from a very different perspective.
There doesn’t seem to be much training to help me through this part of life. There are still some basic truths. I tell the boys that they only get one mother to a lifetime, and to take care of their mothers (our daughters) at all costs. And I admit that I probably learned my lessons at an earlier age than others as Grandpa was very intentional about making sure that the family was well equipped to handle the future.
The things that I hadn’t counted on are the changes in technology and the aspects of social media that make communicating with our younger generations more difficult. But, on reflection, I imagine my grandfather said the same thing about the challenges he faced trying to interact with me. Nonetheless, I find it energizing and refreshing to engage in deep conversations with our grandchildren. And I think that it is having some impact.
For starters, when anyone in the family gets in trouble, they usually call me. They know that I am reliable and in their corner. Sometimes, though, they are a little slower to be completely honest with me as I pretty much run the straight and narrow road – and somethings they don’t like that level of scrutiny regarding their behavior. But the family has been taught to be authentic, direct and not afraid of engagement with others. We support each other and drive one another in the context of our family. And our grandchildren have learned some very important truths – never go against the family – and the family is stronger because we can leverage our differences to strengthen all of us.
And, this is important, we support one another and close ranks should anyone attack any one of us. It would be my hope that every family would have that kind of cohesion. Each family dinner, I tell stories about the past that I hope will stay in the minds and hearts of the kids; and their kids. But the teaching will never end – even if it is something like how to wire a lamp or change a leaky valve on a commode. These teachable moments are best done when engaged in some sort of regular, average project. It even occurs to me that the best lessons I learned from Grandpa were at his knee while we were doing some boring project – something I wouldn’t change for anything.
Our verse for tonight is from the Old Testament book of Proverbs. We are told, in Proverbs 3:1-2, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” My encouragement this evening is that we are expected to pass on our knowledge, and to train, the coming generations. I was a great example of someone who received this kind of training from my earliest recollections. My prayer is that we all may hold steadfast to teaching the lessons that we have learned throughout the years of our lives, making sure that we stay relevant and that we earn the trust of our younger family members so they will receptive to our lessons. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…