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Learning Family Values From My Grandchildren

Every time I hear someone say our nation is going to hell in a hand basket, I think of my two grandchildren.

There is a major disconnect in hearing a national discourse towards Armageddon and seeing children develop through the eyes of a grandparent.

In my eyes, Lauryn, 10, and Adam, 8, will not be burdened by a national debt passed onto their shoulders by the hapless decisions of their elders and others before them.

Rather, they will be responsible human beings carving out a life of their own and making the world less wicked. Of course, this is a loving grandparent’s dream who has seen war from afar, racial strife up close and personal and economic downturns forcing desperate but bad decisions. Yet, we remain optimistic.

How can one believe otherwise when at their tender ages they know and live the basics: Love and respect for their peers and elders.

Only now we are judging from glimpses of their actions a rosy future that is good and wholesome and the essence of family values.

A year and a half ago, Lauryn set out to achieve her first goal in life: Earning a junior black belt in karate. Trust me, it was not given to her because of 100% attendance and her parents paying class tuition.

And, yet, when you ask how she feels about it, a one-word answer follows: “Great.” Her eyes say much more.

Lauryn still is a scrawny, pretty little moppet, faster than a speeding bullet and equipped with tools of the trade that can knock a grown man to his knees.

Pity the first bully she encounters at school and in a few years the first pimple-faced teenage male who puts his hand on her against her will.

Adam arrived in this world the shape and durability of a refrigerator and the inherent speed of a snail. At 8, his world is changing with swimming, karate and flag football. “He’s my meal ticket,” his father jokes.

Like most lads, at six he mimicked  perfectly how his grandfather appears to him walking with a cane. At seven, he learned fractions from his grandmother by following recipes and whipping out tasty meals.

Actor, chef or football star, Adam has a future of which I am certain.

In the classroom both Lauryn and Adam are in the top two or three of their class. As a grandparent, I worry the academic challenges may be lacking and turn both their brains lazy for lack of competition followed by diminished curiosity. Over the dead bodies of both parents, I am assured.

Children are amazing as well as sneaky. They have an innate ability to act like they see and hear nothing when you talk to them. In fact, they are sponges.

Late last August, I told Lauryn I would miss her birthday party because that day I was having laser surgery to remove the cataract from my left eye. She listened politely but said nothing.

Two hours later as I was leaving to go home, Lauryn came to hug me goodbye and with no coaching from either parent, said:

“I hope the eye surgery goes well, Grandpa.” When I got home, I cried.

As a grandparent, I am not a bearer of presents and bribes for love and attention. They accept me for what I am as well as a simplistic understanding of medical challenges I am confronting.

Several weeks ago, their grandmother called to say she and the grandkids wanted to meet me for lunch at a restaurant of my choice at the sprawling mall a mile down the street. I told her to let Adam and Lauryn decide.

They selected a Mexican restaurant across the street from my seniors apartment complex. Their parents had taken them to that place once about a year ago. Neither rate Mexican food No. 1 for eating out. But it was close so grandpa didn’t have to travel far in his power chair. I arrived home with tears in my eyes, not from devouring the hot salsa.

These are family values as I know them. They no longer are words in a political campaign.

It is ironic, I suppose, that it takes a tragedy or a dish of diseases to bring true meaning from family and friends what family values really mean.

“We talk a good game about brotherly love,” my brother Larry said. “Now, we are living it and understand its true meaning.”

Grandpa Jer at Lauryn’s karate awards ceremony

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