Everyone who knows me well realizes that I have always loved young people. When Mike and I moved from our home of over thirty years several of my friends suggested that we might enjoy being in a senior living community. I quickly squelched that idea because I knew that I would miss the sounds of children playing. We chose a house in a neighborhood where there are mostly young families and that is the way I prefer it to be. The most pleasant part of my day is watching the kids boarding the buses for school and then returning safely in the afternoon. I like that I can hear the joyful noises of the children next door as they play in their swimming pool. The most difficult aspect of retirement has been the loss of the glorious hordes of students who populated my life for so many years.
Of course I have my grandchildren to satisfy my need for youthfulness but they are often quite busy, which is as it should be. Tutoring is almost a selfish hobby for me. It allows me to stay young and keeps my mind vibrant. Mostly it provides me with an opportunity to be around the young people who keep my optimism soaring. Our hope and our future is always to be found in them. They see the world through different lenses than ours. It is important that we pay attention to what they have to say because what they are thinking will ultimately shape the course of history. Thankfully I have been quite blessed to know many hundreds of youngsters who are already assuming the reigns of leadership and it soothes my heart to know that we are in such good hands.
Every grandmother believes that her grandchildren are the most special angels on the planet. I am fortunate enough to have proof that my assessment of them is absolutely true. All seven of them are eagerly embracing life’s challenges and striving to be their personal best. Most importantly they are truly good people. They are reflective souls intent on doing what is right and just. I have to give their parents credit for guiding them in the right direction but I am unabashedly proud that they are of my flesh and blood.
There are other special children in my life and chief among them are Alan and Sean, two young men who are the grandsons of my dear friend, Pat. It still saddens my heart that Pat died before her sweet boys ever had a chance to really know her. They would have loved her so, just as those of us who were her friends did. I have had several wonderful opportunities to spend quality time with Alan and Sean and I treasure those moments as much as I would if they were my very own grandchildren. As an added bonus Sean is my godson and it is a special treat to be his godmother.
Four years ago I first began writing this blog during a time when I was watching Alan and Sean while their parents traveled to Germany. They were already delightfully well behaved young gentlemen so my task was quite easy. I wrote while they were in school and the three of us played when they returned home. I delighted in their joyfulness and the profoundness of their intellect. Alan being the eldest is the more serious of the two. Sean is a little sprite whose laughter and impishness is contagious. The week that I spent with them galvanized my love for them and I have enjoyed watching them grow like weeds and find their individual voices.
Alan, like my twin grandchildren Ian and Abby, will be a seventh grader in the fall. He has already grown taller than I am. His deep voice signals that he is becoming a man. He is a thinker and a bit more cautious than his brother. He is mostly quiet but when he speaks there is so much wisdom in his words that it boggles the mind. He has a sharp wit and a photographic memory. He loves history and has the ability to cite people and events to support his ideas.
Sean is close in age to my youngest grandson William. He will be in the fifth grade in the coming school year. He bears a continual smile on his face and seems to be filled with boundless energy just as his grandmother always was. He enjoys a good joke and laughter is his constant companion. People appear to be naturally drawn to him and he to them. He somehow manages to make every occasion just a bit more fun.
I was blessed recently when Alan and Sean’s mother asked me to be their chaperone while she attended a conference in Boston. For four days I romped around that glorious city with them and enjoyed some wonderful conversations, all while having so much fun. There is an adult way of touring and another that sees things through the innocence of childhood. I learned that Alan is leaning more and more toward a passage into maturity while Sean is still one hundred percent little boy. I enjoyed my time with both of them and it was wonderful to realize that they, like my own grandchildren, are already well on their way to being outstanding keepers of the flame of integrity and wisdom.
Sean and I shared a touching moment while we were waiting for the Red Sox game to begin at Fenway Park. Alan and his mother had left us in our seats as they searched for food for our dinner. As the two of us sat admiring the stadium and the gloriously beautiful evening I remarked that my mother loved baseball so much that she watched an Astros game on the very day that she died. Sean whose birthday is only one day later than my mom’s smiled and asked how I thought my mother might enjoy being with us. Of course I knew that she would have been thrilled as long as she didn’t have to root against her beloved Astros. Sean then asked me with all earnestness if I thought that my mom’s spirit was with us. I told him that not only did I think that she was there but that his own grandmother was smiling on us as well. I felt that they were both happy that we were having so much fun. He grinned and there was a knowing look in his eyes. For a second I was torn between laughing and crying. I chose joy because it was truly a grand night and I believed that our departed angels wanted us to celebrate life. A bit later a photographer took our picture and froze our wonderful memory into a precious keepsake that I will value for all time.
It would be easy to fall into a pit of cynicism and despair given the tenor of the world today but the children that I meet teach me time and again to be ever hopeful. As long as we have all of those glorious young people showing us how to remain optimistic we don’t have to worry about making any place great again, it already is. Our young remind me over and over to choose life and love and laughter over bleakness. They are our ultimate salvation. It is in them that our ideals live on and take us to infinity and beyond.