By Lyle R. Hill
There are nine of them altogether but no two are alike … and for the most part, not even similar. Each one is uniquely different. Not just physically different, but different in attitude, aptitude, appearance and general outlook as well. A couple seem to be musically gifted, while others do extremely well in academics or athletics. Numbers eight and nine are still pretty young so, at this point, I don’t know which way they’ll be going. They are, as they regularly refer to each other “The Cousins” and they are also my grandchildren. Six boys … three girls. As The Cousins get older, I try to spend one-on-one time with them. I want them to know their grandfather. I did not get to know either of mine.
It was a warm and sunny afternoon when I got the call to pick up number seven from school and hang on to him until his mother could claim him. Number seven is 6 years old and had just completed his first full week of school as a first grader.
“So, number seven,” I said, “how was school today?”
“Grandpa, my name is not number seven.”
Sometimes … actually, most of the time … I have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I am nine times a grandfather. Please understand that it’s not the title that I struggle with, but the fact that it happened almost overnight.
“I’m sure you’re right, but your grandpa has had a rough day and sometimes I confuse you with number six. Could you give me a hint?”
“I’m Ryan, Grandpa.”
“That’s right … I knew that.”
Ryan is one of those kids that looks like he’s up to something mischievous even when he is not. Or perhaps, he is always up to something mischievous.
“So, how was school today, Ryan?”
“It was okay.”
“So tell me then, did you learn anything new today, number sev…I mean, Ryan? Did anything special happen?”
“We had a special letter today, Grandpa. Do you know those?”
“No, I don’t know anything about special letters. Tell me about them.”
“Well, Grandpa, each day Miss Holt … that’s my teacher … has a special letter and then we talk about it and learn stuff about it.”
“Wow, Ryan, Miss Holt sounds like a very good teacher. So what was today’s special letter?”
“Today’s special letter was ‘W,’ Grandpa.”
“That’s a great special letter, Ryan. Water starts with ‘W’ and so does window. In fact, Ryan, the word word even starts with a ‘W’ so I think Miss Holt really picked a very special letter for you guys today. Can you think of any more words that start with ‘W,’ Ryan?”
“No, I think you got ’m all, Grandpa.”
Not wanting to bring this meaningful conversation to an end, but not wanting to drive the little guy crazy either, I stopped asking questions and waited. I have learned that there are times when silence is an okay thing. Sometimes when I am sitting on the back porch, number eight has been known to come and sit next to me in total silence, apparently just wanting to hang out. He’ll look at me and I at him and at some level, without speaking a word, we are communicating.
“Grandpa,” Ryan began after a few minutes had passed, “do you want to know what else I learned about ‘W’ today?”
“Sure, Ryan. What else did you learn about ‘W’ today?”
“It’s the hardest letter in the alphabet to burp. Did you know that, Grandpa?”
“No I didn’t, Ryan, so thank you for telling me about this. Did your teacher Miss Holt tell you that ‘W’ was going to be the hardest letter in the alphabet to burp?”
“Actually, Grandpa, my friend Joey told her and I don’t think she knew it because she really acted kinda surprised.”
We learn some things from those who have the job of trying to teach us, but we often learn just as much by simply being around those who know things that we do not. No matter how long you live, how many books you read, or how many degrees you earn, there will always be something new to learn … often from someone who you might not think knows as much as you. And if you doubt this … just ask Ryan, a.k.a. number seven. Or better yet, see how well you do with “W.”
Lyle R. Hill has 50 years of experience in and around the auto glass industry. At one time, he operated 71 auto glass retail shops and a wholesale auto glass distribution center. He is currently the managing director of Glass.com®, an information portal that connects those selling glass products and services with purchasers.
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