July 7, 2015

Stella, here’s some advice from Grandpa

Dear Stella: 
     By the end of your first birthday party, I had taken 87 snapshots.  Looking through those digital
images, three things made me smile:
  •    We waited 38 years to celebrate another pink bow in our family.
  •    You are as beautiful as we could ever have imagined.
  •    With a big brother and six boy cousins, you’ll be a well-protected princess.

     Even as smart as you are, it’s a little early for you to be reading Charles Dickens.  But one day, you’ll open the pages of A Tale of Two Cities and read about “the best of times and the worst of times.”  The statement from that 1859 novel also describes the era in which you were born. 
     America and the world are teetering.  Emotions and actions are as unbalanced as I’ve known in my 66 years.  With each sunrise, I wonder: “What crazy thing is going to happen today?”  The persistent challenge is not to lose optimism.  Collectively, we have more intelligence, more ability and more tools than ever to make this a better world.  The question is: “Will we use those advantages in a positive way?”
     You are much too young to get caught up in all that.  Instead, here’s some everyday advice that I hope will be useful in your life’s journey.
  •    Family and friends are the only true wealth you’ll ever accumulate.  Honor those dear to you and guard that beloved circle, just as soldiers protect America’s gold inside Fort Knox.  Never forget that to get respect, you must give respect.  And as Wynonna and Naomi Judd sing: “Love can build a bridge.”
  •    Your great-grandmother NeSmith is in Heaven, but she left behind this message: “God keeps us in a swivet to keep us humble.”  Take pride in yourself, but never think you’re too good to escape the swivets.  Stay calm.  Have faith in God and yourself.  Use your gifts.  You will prevail, just as “the little engine that could.”
  •    Your great-grandfather NeSmith is in Heaven, too.  Still, he’d want you to know that no matter how poor we might be, we can always afford to be a lady or a gentleman.  Good manners, he believed, will get you to places where money never will.  And if he made a promise, that was a debt that must be paid. 
  •    Another great man in my life was Dr.  J.W. Fanning.  His motto was: “May you stay alive as long as you live.”  That’s what he did for 92 years, and that’s my wish for you.  Be curious, ask lots of questions.  Embrace education: read, read, read.  Don’t be afraid to dream or chase those dreams.  Be different, if you choose; just always strive to make a difference.  Have courage to say “no,” with authority.
  •    Make sure you enjoy your childhood, because in old age those happy memories are often better than medicine. And when you get as old as I am, you’ll find that you’ll be repeating yourself more and more.

     So, Stella, I repeat: “With a big brother and six boy cousins, you’ll be a well-protected princess. “ I am not too worried about that, but still you might want to talk to your Aunt Emily.  When the boys start bringing you flowers, she can confirm that I am a skilled Grand Inquisitor.
     Please send those fuzzy-faced rascals to see me.