My grandson Ty is on Spring Break. I wanted to spend some time with him because he is 18 and the window is closing fast for that sort of thing. Soon, he will be moving on to adulthood and the pursuits of ambitious young men.
Most of Ty’s formative years were spent living under my roof. His parents went through a rancorous divorce that left him in the care of his Mom, my oldest daughter. She and Ty moved in with us when he was four years old and stayed until he was 12 or 13. We became his family, immediate and extended, and there are few blessings in my life for which I am more grateful. Those years were filled with action figures, America’s Funniest Videos, shooting baskets on the driveway, aunts and uncles and great-grandparents, big Thanksgiving meals, merry Christmases, and love and investment from his people like few kids get to experience,
Ty David Woolgar is partially named for me, his grandfather. His middle name is my first name. That makes me proud. He didn’t know until I told him yesterday that the name David is prominent in the Strother lineage, going back generations, and at least four centuries. The name of my favorite bible character, the name of my father, and the name of a famous Civil War writer (David Hunter Strother, aka Porte Crayon) could not have been entrusted to a more worthy wearer than Ty David.
It is not just because he is my grandson that I say this. Others observe it, as well. He is well-mannered, respectful, loving, teachable, fun, funny, loyal…a great, great kid. Unlike his grandfather, he is 18 and never had a run-in with the law or his actions in a newspaper for the wrong reasons. He is quiet in a crowd, but the voices in his head are loud. He has plenty to say if you give him the space.
Yesterday, I did. I took the afternoon off and took him to do some things. This is what I learned.
He was watching and listening all along
So many times it felt like he didn’t see us. Kids live in the environment we create for them and they seem to take it for granted. I was always fine with being taken for granted. I wanted him to count on certain things from me and get them. No fanfare. No fuss. Just a fact of life.
I bought him his first bicycle and taught him to ride it. I bought him a Red Rider BB gun and watched him shoot out his Aunt Lacey’s passenger window with the first pull of the trigger. I took him to Bahama Buck’s for the best dang snow cone in America and to Kinkaid’s for the best burger. He counted on me and I counted on him counting on me.
But yesterday, after I concluded a call from a friend who wanted to talk my ear off, Ty said, “You are a man of few words sometimes, DooDah. You don’t like to talk a lot. but you do say a lot.”
I had to hide the fact that tears were welling in my eyes. This boy I love saw me. He observed me.
He has loved his life
We talked about his Dad, whom he seldom sees and only talks with on occasion, and his other grandfather, who lives nearby and has not called him or seen him in years. We talked about how he has dealt with these things. A boy who has issues with his Dad will be deeply and almost incomprehensibly affected by that.
“I was lucky, though,” he told me. “I had you and Mimi. Couldn’t ask for a better childhood than that.”
That was when we talked about all those things we did when he was a kid. I told him about what a slobber bucket he was as an infant and how the front of my shirt would be sopping wet after holding him for a while. God, I was glad to be wearing the shirt he slobbered on.
He has plans
I am not sure he is sure what those plans look like yet. He has talked about the Navy. He likes cars and wants to think about being a diesel mechanic. He has a girlfriend. He really likes her.
“She is real chill, DooDah,” he told me. “She doesn’t try to tell me what to do or get mad if I do something with a friend instead of her.”
This led to a revisit of the birds and the bees and he didn’t roll his eyes. He listened. And he engaged. We talked about actions and consequences, about respect and really caring for another person, and about how the wrong actions and disrespect can derail plans.
“I’m not gonna let that happen,” he said.
He loves me, too
“I told my girlfriend that my grandfather is a writer and she didn’t believe me. But I have that book you gave me and I showed it to her. She was impressed!”
Two things hit me. First, I had never heard him describe talking about me to anyone else. When he said that he said “my grandfather” I was batting back those crocodile tears again, thankful for sunglasses and having to keep my eye on the road. Second, he read my book.
He says he doesn’t like to read. I told him he should take a cue from his Mom, who is an avid reader.
“You just have to find what you like to read, then it isn’t work. it is an adventure, a better one than any movie or game out there because the words make your mind the theatre. It is your theatre!”
“Well,” he said, “We are reading The Great Gatsby in one of my classes. It is pretty cool.”
“Of course it is!” I said, “It is one of the great American novels. I want you to tell me what you think about it when you are done.”
He said he was enjoying it and told me what he knew so far. He promised to tell me more later.
I told him what Mark Twain said: “The man who will not read a good book has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
That opened the door for me to talk about gathering knowledge and learning things now, while he is young and learning is easier.
“Those nerds who are listening in class, the ones who are actually learning, they will be the ones making a difference when they are adults, the ones doing things they love and making a living at it, while the class clowns the ones who don’t give a sh…you know… are spending their lives doing things they don’t want to do in places they don’t want to be. They will wish they had paid attention to the people who tried to invest in them when they were young, the ones who wanted to educate them and prepare them for life.”
“I can see that,” he said.
I hope so. I really do.
For Ashley, he has been a great son. For, me a grandson. And that is an understatement.
Thank you for investing a few moments in me. I urge you here to Invest what you have and what you are in the lives of your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, or whomever you hold sway with or have the opportunity to influence.
They are paying more attention than you know and more than they are going to be likely to show. Seeds have to be planted, watered, and the weeds tended. There will be no evidence of life at first. Keep planting and watering and weeding and tending.
Harvest will come.