Grandfather says his preparing for retirement boiled down to supporting and, to the extent needed, enabling the family members (particularly the wife — permanent fixture — kids, temporary) to live the lives they wanted to live in their best moments. That just continued, only more so. When he retired, they got more of his time, which used to be hired out to “the other man.”
Wife and one child wanted a cat but Grandfather is a dog person. Dad (now Grandfather) saw to it that the family had both; so the Sovereign reigned cats and dogs.
Wife had a strong inner drive to teach and play accompaniments on the piano, so Grandfather built her a studio and sang bass in the local community choir, which she accompanied on the piano.
Honorable Number 2 son (of three) was very bright, but a loose cannon during adolescence. One day he was sent home from school for pulling a schoolmates jacket up over his head and beating on him through the jacket. His deportment in class was confrontational.
A wise school councilor evaluated the boy at length and opined that the boy is “just who he is” and will be fine. He recommended that we go lightly with discipline and give him his head, as much as possible (permission to murder someone presumably excluded). When the boy came home and reported that his treatment by his classroom teacher was as bad as ever, I phoned the Councilor and said, “You know, as a result of our conversation, I have changed my approach to my son’s discipline 180 degrees. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the school system now didn’t do the same?”
The boy reported thereafter that the teacher had told him he was free to do things his way, so long as he passed his tests and did not disturb others. Well, come to think of it, that was exactly how I had behaved in elementary school, as soon as I could read. It’s the subject of an earlier “Grandfather Says” article on the importance of self confidence and independence.
When he was midway through high school taking easy “science” classes, he asked me out of the blue: “Dad? What should I do if I want to go to college?”
I told him to take the two hardest courses they have and pass them both. West Virginia public schools had open enrollment in those days maybe still do, but I doubt it. Geniuses in Washington DC with their “core curriculum,” etc.
So he enrolled in advanced algebra and one other genuine science class — I’ve forgotten, exactly. “Open enrollment” meant he had the right to take the courses, pass or fail. The math teacher who I knew, and with whom I enjoyed mutual respect because we were involved in another son’s performance at a math fair for high school students, called and advised that my boy could not do the work required in those classes because he did not have the prerequisite knowledge leading up to their advanced subject matter.
When I said, “Lets see what happens,” the school principal — who was also known to me; mutual respect there, too — phoned with the same message. Same answer.
Well the boy self studied the prerequisite material while taking the courses and aced both! My math teacher friend phoned afterwards and said she had never seen the like and didn’t expect to, ever again.
In some ways, math teachers are, in general, like engineers, not very flexible.
The boy retired last year from his work as an AT&T engineer, building and maintaining secure communications networks. He has a lot more money in the till than I have, which suits his way of going, but I don’t need.
We both know it and don’t care.
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian in West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family