I did something impulsive and silly last Sunday. I, a 50-year-old man, while walking down the wide center aisle of our local Target store, began skipping down the aisle. My daughter and I were there looking for supplies to create a Christmas cartoon. We were walking hand in hand when I just started skipping, and Elizabeth joined me. The two of us going back and forth:
“You’re copying me!”
“Nuh uh, you’re copying ME! I started skipping first,”
“Nuh uh, I did. I’m telling your Mama you were copying me when I take you back.”
“Nuh uh. I’m telling my mama you were copying ME.”
We found what we were looking for, paid for the purchase, and skipped out of the store, through the parking lot to our car; back and forth all the way about who was copying who. We received more than a few looks from other customers (and a few smiles). I hope that encourages some of those other people to do something spontaneous and silly too. I saw a sign once that said, “we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.” Maybe, and maybe that is why older parents seem younger than some of their peers. Or, maybe it is just because we have not been through those teenage years with our children yet. Who knows, but does “why” really matter.
This morning (Monday morning, while waiting for school to start) my daughter said to me, more of a statement than a question:
“I can’t tell anyone about yesterday, can I?” a small frown on her face.
“The skipping? Sure you can.”
Her principal was nearby; he was the first one she told. He pointed out that the security cameras probably caught us on tape. She smiled big at that thought.
There are several unrelated reasons why I am telling you about this. First, it put a smile on my daughters face and did not cost me a dime. She smiled when I started skipping, and when she joined me. She smiled when we skipped out of the store. She frowned a little when she said she shouldn’t tell anyone, but the smile came back in spades when I said she could, and even grew as she told her principal about our escapades from yesterday.
I also believe doing silly, unexpected things with people you love not only makes them smile (or should), but it strengthens the bond between you and them. I know it does for me. I can remember telling a story about my grandfather at his graveside. There were people, who did not appreciate me telling such a story at such a somber moment (I wrote about this in my e-book A Grandfather’s Legacy), but I saw a few smiles and it made me smile again. I think my grandfather understood my tears, but I also think he would have liked the smile that was there too. I hope that when my daughter stands at my graveside she remembers skipping through Target with her daddy when she was 7 years old. I hope that a little smile accompanies her tears as she remembers that moment.
We will all die one day, and some of you believe death is the end, there is no afterlife. I believe in an afterlife, you do not have too, but I do. Even if you do not believe in an afterlife, your influence does not stop at the grave. You still love the people you have lost, that does not end at the grave.
One of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum, has this quote from the storytellers creed in a note to the reader at the beginning of his book “ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN”.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
Amen, Mr. Fulghum. I did not ask his permission to include that, but in this case I do not think he will mind (hey I’m not making money on it, and maybe some of you might check out his books too).
My daughter knows both of her great-grandfather’s. My Maternal grandfather died in 1977 and my paternal grandfather died in 1995. Elizabeth was not born until 2005, but she knows them both very well. She has seen their photographs, my maternal grandfather’s gold pocket watch, and the small table that sat in my grandparent’s house since before I was born (it now sits beside my bed). She also knows what my grandparents kept in each of this small table’s two drawers.
But those are just symbols of the man, something we can touch, something they touched. More important than the “things”, she knows their character. She knows you tell the truth and do the right thing, even if you have to pay a price, because it is good and right to do. She knows that my grandfathers did this and taught me to do this. She also knows some of their failings as men. No one is perfect. But, what she has learned from them, through me, is that when they made a mistake they did not let the mistake define them. Their mistakes did not become their new character, they apologized when it was called for, and held true to their integrity.
Elizabeth knows her great-grandfathers were great men (though neither of them would consider themselves great men). She has received a great gift from her relationship with them. Their gift to her is a knowledge of the greatness within herself, compassion for others, and permission to be an imperfect person. She knows that it is ok to try and fail, but we should never stop trying. She knows that when you tell the truth or do the right thing, you do that for yourself and the people who love you, as much as for other people. This is why it is important to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. She got all of that from two men that she will never be able to hold hands with, but she holds them in her heart.
When you see the influence these two men have had on my daughter, can anyone say they are dead? No, they will live in the heart of Elizabeth all the days of her life. So it is with those people around you, your friends, family, and people you will never be able to hold hands with. Do not doubt me; I know I am correct about this. You see your own faults, and sometimes that is all you see. Others see your gifts, strength, and heart as well. Even if I am wrong about you (and I am seldom wrong about people, a gift from my grandfather), you can do something about that. Tomorrow has not yet happened, and you decide who you will be tomorrow.
Next year will be a year of great opportunity for you. There will be trials, but learn from them and move on as quickly as possible. Thomas Edison said he did not fail at making a light bulb 1000 times, he just learned 1000 ways not to make a light bulb. I promise you (and I never make promises), whatever your new career is next year, you will become the success you were always meant to be long before you go through 1000 learning experiences.
Just do not forget to be silly once in a while along the way. It lightens your heart, puts a smile on your face, and makes memories for people you will never get to meet. Happy memories, memories that will make it possible for those people to go through their learning experiences and become the people they were born to become.
You are great and no one is insignificant. Be thankful in this season of thanksgiving, I am. I am thankful for my grandparents, my daughters, my friends, all those I love greatly (and the ones I do not love greatly), and I am most sincerely thankful for you and the time we spend together for a few minutes on Sundays.
Have a great week and thank you.
- Parable: Own Your Surroundings (fixafool.com)
- My Grandfather’s Clock (patriciastuartministers.com)
- Remembering (mistheword12.wordpress.com)
- A Second Chance At Fatherhood: The Story Of Grandfather (madamenoire.com)
- Ghosts In My Kitchen (lizthechef.com)
- Look of the Day: A Hop, Skip, and a Jumper Away (fabsugar.com)
- Sorry, But This 72-Year-Old Chinese Man is Way Cooler Than All of Our Grandfathers (gawker.com)