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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, May 11, 2007

Three Generations

It takes two generations
to bring along the third
for the echo of truth
is sometimes heard
more clearly than
the words first spoken.
A cord of three strands
is less likely broken
than one or two,
and perhaps equally strong
is a chord of voices
intent to pass along
what matters most
from age to age.
The older voice can gently lead
and help confirm the page
the father reads
is worth the ink
and worthy indeed
to make man think
beyond his lifetime.
The family tree, it’s true, will grow
new limbs and leaves of green,
but the aging trunk that holds them
is held by roots unseen.
Some say "it takes a village,"
but more often than is heard,
it takes two generations
to bring along the third.
© Copyright 2007, TK, Patterns of Ink
[Mom holding her newest grandson, Benjamin, my younger brother's 2nd son. Happy Birthday, Jim!]
Today was Grandparents Day at the school I oversee. It's a wonderful tradition each spring. We had over 300 guests registered to attend. They're not all "related" grandparents--some are close friends who fill the role for the day. These guests visited classes, had a "picnic" style lunch in the gymnasium and on the grounds, then watched the Elementary grades perform "Pinocchio." We began the day with a general assembly where I'm usually on the agenda for about ten minutes of "opening remarks."

Last night, I knew what I was going to say, but I woke up at 4:12 AM, scribbled down the lines above, and went back to bed. When I got up at 6:15, I read them again. To my surprise they still made sense when read with conversational meter. So this morning we printed the lines on narrow bookmarks to give to our grandparents and guests. As I was speaking about our school's mission, heads nodded with supportive understanding, etc.

I talked about a picture of a three-arched bridge that hangs in office and how those three strong arches symbolized the gist of the poem. But just as it came time to read these lines, I saw a man and wife sitting on the aisle who have gone through a life-changing trial as they've carried out this third- generational role for their grandchildren. While horseback riding with a granddaughter, my friend was thrown from his mount, breaking the same vertebrae as Christopher Reeve, resulting in the same paralysis and wheelchair. It’s been well over a year, but this grandfather has a marvelous testimony and the same smile I saw the day we met seven years ago.

I got a lump in my throat, but I don't think anyone noticed. I decided to pass out the bookmarks without my reading the poem... as if that was my plan all along. Maybe I could have read it; maybe not. It's not that the lines themselves are that "emotional," but in that moment they were too fresh in my mind to know if I could read them without getting misty-eyed. That's pathetic, I know, but it's hard enough to see through the bottom of my Varilux lenses when my eyes are clear. So why risk it? The older I get the more often I have such moments.

It was a great day. We have a choir and band concert tonight followed by what promises to be a sunny weekend.

Sunday evening follow-up: Having read some of the comments and after visiting with some of the grandparents (who commented about the bookmark at school), I want to say that just as Mother's Day does not evoke the same memories and emotions for all people, thoughts about grandparents or being a grandparent vary for family to family. The lines themselves make no mention of "grandparents" per se, but rather of generations. It's possible that you may represent the first "strand" in the kind of cord we're talking about. The thing we dare not forget is that current "young people" have much to gain from those older than their parents in their lives. It's possible that you may extend or accept such a relationship beyond your "family tree."

By the way, I've joked in the past about being a poor speller. On over 300 bookmarks, I spelled the word cord "chord," While I was embarrassed by the mistake, until that moment I never made the connection between a "chord" of three notes and the three strands twisted in standard "cord" or rope like the one below. I later revised the lines to make use of this mistake. =)

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Blogger leslie said...

What a wonderful post! At the school where I taught until last June, we always have "Grandparents' Day" and it's the best day of the year. We never planned any "real" lessons that day because we wanted the kids to be able to just get up and show their grandparents around when they showed up and to take them on a tour of the school. There's also a performance of some kind to entertain them after their "tea" at recess time while the kids go out to play. There are always so many smiles that day and everyone always looks forward to it. We hand out flowers or bookmarks or some little handmade token to each and every person who attends, whether they're a "blood" grandparent or not. So much fun!

11/5/07 5:29 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tom, this is such a touching post, the poem, the bookmark,the hands, and your Mom's picture with Benjamin (that's my sons name too)! I think the misty eyes are admirable and a sign of a true man with a heart. I love my husband's misty eyes moments... and as he ages, they happen more often too (look out wedding day for both of you)! Enjoy your weekend!

11/5/07 8:02 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Tom, what a wonderful post. I can relate to it in so many ways, on so many levels. On the first level, I was blessed, until the age of six, with two sets of grandparents, two great-grandmothers, and one great-grandfather all living and involved in one way or another in my life. I have wonderful memories of my paternal grandparents. Until I was 12, we lived right behind them. I spent many hours at their house. It was my second home. Sometimes it felt like my first home. I have mentioned to you before about the mulberry tree that was in their yard and how I would swing from it on the rope swing and stain my bare feet on the fallen berries squishing the berries between my toes with delight. My paternal grandfather thought the sun rose and set in me, and I knew it.

On the second level, I can relate because I remember how much my parents and my husband's parents adored their grandchildren and what it meant to our children to have grandparents. Our children were very fortunate to have lived so close to their paternal grandparents. For about 7 years while our children were in grade school, we lived like the Waltons. My husband and I had purchased several acres out in the country and we invited his parents, who had just retired, to join us on this little farm of ours. They bought a trailer and parked it behind our house. So, our children had the pleasure of being that close to a set of their grandparents and of getting to see them every day. I have a series started at my blog called "Life on the farm." I intend to add stories to this series as time goes on.

On the third level, my husband and I are grandparents to 14 grandchildren now. What a blessing it has been to have them to love and to be involved in their lives. Ten of them live within five minutes of us. The other four live 45 minutes away which is still close. We get to see all them often. Each one is special to us. It has been wonderful.

Your photos of the generational hands struck a chord with me, because I am fascinated by hands for some reason. I know people's hands nearly as well as I know their faces.

Finally, when you said that the older you become the more you are prone to get misty eyed, I immediately thought of my husband. He is the same way. Not long ago he asked me if I thought there was something wrong with him for doing that, for getting all emotional and choked up about certain things. Of course, I told him that was one of the reasons I love him. My father was the same way. I can't tell you how many times I would glance over at him during touching moments only to find him reaching for his hanky in his back pocket to wipe away his tears.

11/5/07 8:03 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It was a great day. Next year, we may move the evening concert to Thursday night. Our schedule was pretty full right up until 8:30. That's tiring for the staff let alone the grandparents. =)

Benjamin's middle name is Thomas after a certain uncle. I haven't seen him yet, but can't wait.
I have strategically not thought too much about "how I'll do" at the wedding. When I have, I'm sometimes okay with it--like the feeling I used to get on opening night of a play, and sometimes, I think--I don't even want to say, but I think I'll be okay once we get down the aisle.

As you know, my mom reads here and she is going to love your "Waltons" reference. I don't know if I've ever said it at POI, but the homestead where she still lives was like our "Walton's Mountain." My sister lives on the front acre (we all had lot options, but jobs dictate where we live). I've never actually "read" a single book by Earl Hamner Jr's, but I've seen the movie Spencer's Mountain and grew up with my family gathered around "The Waltons." I have a post draft that explains how my mom used that show to "inspire" me to write. Look someday for a post called, "Me and John Boy."

SQ and Nancy,
I'm so glad to know that "my misty-eyed condition" is common and shared among men who are loved and respected. It will help me next time the opportunity to make a blubbering fool of myself arises. Take my daughter's wedding, for instance, I'll just pretend your husbands are there saying, "Grab a handkerchief, Tom. We're right there with ya. Who cares!" ;)

12/5/07 7:43 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

This is such an awesome post! I am sitting here with tears in my eyes as I remember the grandparents who had so much to do with the person I am today. When I was younger my perents did not attend church even though they were both raised in the church. But, almost every weekend my moms mom and dad would have me overnight on Saturday just so they could take me to church on Sundays. Sometimes they would even drive across town on Sunday morning to pick me up to take to take me to church. I know they wished that my parents would maybe say "hey we will come too." But, it never happened. Not until we were much older and my dad quit drinking for good. Only then did he admit that all along grandma and grandpa had been right and he had been wrong. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away before I got married. But, I had the pleasure of actually living with my grandfather for several months before my wedding. What a great time of getting to know him. We would stay up sometimes till 1 or 2 in the morning talking about when he was young or the war or whatever. My mom and her siblings were always amazed at some of the things he would talk about with me, since he would never give them straight answers. For instance, he was wounded in the war and had a large scar on his arm he had told any child, including his own, that it was from a giant mosquito bite! When I asked, he told me exactly what it was the first time I asked at a very young age. We were very close and just grew closer when I lived there. He was able to come to wedding in October. He died just a few months later.

Now that I am pregnant with my third, I can't help but wish my kids had the chance to know them. I wish they had had the chance to hold my babies and see just how my life has turned out, in large part, because of them. They always believed in me and never criticized. They held true to their beliefs and it was my grandma would led me to Christ. Thank you so much for your post. It helps me remember the kind of person I want to be.

Thanks, Julie

12/5/07 10:51 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

This post is so beautiful. I didn't know my grandparents very well, but my daughter knew hers, and I try to be very involved with my Munchkins. They don't have a "Grandparents' Day" at their school, but on May 29th is their International Day, where they talk about all the countries of the world, and serve food from every country. This year Freddie is doing a presentation on Germany, which was the country assigned to him by his teacher. So he has to research it and then give a small presentation, and then everyone shares food from everywhere. I am taking the day off work so I can attend.

Don't be embarrassed at showing your emotions. I think it's wonderful. And your photographs on this post are gorgeous. Your Mom's picture with Benjamin is lovely.

What a nice post.


12/5/07 11:12 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Before I say anything let me say this; I am not angry.

I have a grandchild, had one for seven years, eight in December and that is how many times i have seen her seven. Would have been six but I got to see her twice while her great grandmother was on the way to crossing to the house of sleep.

I guess there are a convoluted mixtures of reasons for this attitude of my daughter and her husband, one of them being they don't want her south of 8 mile is the only one I know for sure. But I do know that I have never been invited to any birthday party, first communion or anything else to celebrate the child; but have yet to forget a birthday or holiday that gives me the opportunity to send her something.

Maybe because I skipped the wedding (I had my reasons)but still paid for it., maybe because from the time of 3 years old my daughter was raised by another man (a good man), maybe because when they were old enough to start all of their extra curricular activities I didn't insist on my court ordered visitation. Maybe because I only sent them money (my bio kids (2) for their birthdays (never invited to any of those events either by my ex)My daughter is following the same pattern.

All I know is I never go where I am not wanted but in my will all of my writing is left to my granddaughter who by the time I die will be an adult herself and she will know me that way.

Misty eyes are good they wash away the dirt of a troubled soul, maybe I will go watch a John Wayne Western and have a good cry myself.



ps Tom actually you live closer to her than I do just to give you an idea of how it was just far enough away from a man working two jobs to get there to pick the kids up after the afternoon shift ended, which I did anyway until they started school. This is my son and daughter I am referring to.

13/5/07 4:05 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Sometimes it's the generation two ahead of a child that does the rearing. In some respects that was true of my mom. (Read "A Good Ol'Irish Beating" in March.) It's so nice that things eventually turned out better with your dad.
Julie and I were able to take care of her grandfather during his dying days and were with him to the very end. Years later we were at the bedside of another "adopted grandparent" as he died. Look for a post someday called "Dancing Eyes." It's a sad one.

I've read about your munchkins. We actually had International Day Friday, too. All around the gymnasium during the picnic lunch were different countries. There was a real hippo foot at the Ethiopian table--that was strange. We had a Korean girl serving fish and chips at the Australian table. That was cute.

There are reasons for our choices at the time we make them. The biggest regret of all is to treat all choices equally, to not separate good from bad, regrettable from commendable. It sometimes helps if we focus on "being" rather than "doing" in those moments when your lives intersect.
It's never too late as Julie above has said.
As for John Wayne. I'm a big fan of the Duke and his last two movies, "The Shootist" and the one about the little boys who help him with a cattle drive (he gets killed in that one) are actually "misty eyed" movies. =)

13/5/07 12:53 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I have those moments when my glasses fog. If you care for people I guess you will.

13/5/07 7:08 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Tom, I know that I have made many wrong turns on this path yet not all choices are rectifiable except by silent waiting, which in the case of my daughter I do. I asked to have the child visit twice i was refused due to different reasons. I will not ask again.

By not asking I will not have to make my daughter come lie to me by making an excuse up.

Good choice of mine or wrong choice, only time has the answer to that.ulowzny

14/5/07 11:31 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Last April 2006 I wrote a piece called "Still Loved." That title may not seem like it ties into this subject but it begins with
“Sad that some things can’t be mended
(in a world that's likewise broken)”
It’s about how some lives seem like "broken glass," too sharp to pick up, but in time they can be smoothed like beach glass. You're right. There may be nothing you can do but wait it out until all else is restored.

14/5/07 9:52 PM  

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