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Benny with Grandpa

“We all have a Benny (l) in our families — the sometimes prickly, even adversarial family member who challenges our ideas and methods. A Benny helps us realize that even when it seems to be going wrong, it will come out right — as long as we are TRYING.”

Susan Adcox, Grandparenting Expert for about.com, in her review of The Grandest Love.  Here’s the letter to which Susan refers:

Dear Grandpa,

I am confused—but then again, so are you. I’m not sure if this letter is supposed to be about specific things—ideas, skills, bits of wisdom—that I have learned from you. Or if it is supposed to be about the way I watch you interact with the world and how I see those same traits in myself.

And I don’t think you know what you want the letter to be about either.

I think that your goal is for these letters to help build the family as a “Teaching-and-Learning community.” If you want the family to be a vessel for leaning skills and ideas, then why does it matter what specifically I learned fro you? Isn’t the process the important thing to cultivate and propose to others?

The Famly Meeting in which ideas are shared and discussed, the family book club, or just the planned lessons in a certain thing. But I don’t really remember any one idea from a Family Meeting, I never read any of the books, and I would have learned to ride a bike or to play tennis on my own. The family does not act as the perfect vessel for education; the education acts as your tool through which to build a family.

So again, why does it matter what I learned from you? Isn’t it only the fact that I did learn from you? And the understanding of that process and creating it comes not from my letter, but from yours.

That’s why I thnk what really interests you is the way of being that you have passed on. But then why is that something that should be written and published? I have told you before, so I think you know. And how does it serve as a teaching tool?

You cannot change or craft your way of being to teach me. As I believe I have told you, “You don’t get to choose what I watch and learn from you, it happens no matter what.” So the family is a tool for teaching personality, intentionally and unintentionally, without a letter or a meeting or a plan.

Then I realize that I said this to you some five or six years ago. You have been playing with the same basic idea for ten years. You have changed the names, processes, theories, modes of presentation, but basically you have always been concerned with how the grandparent ensures that their essence is passed on either through a living legacy, teachable moments, or a family learning community.

It is that commitment to an idea that I have learned from you. I have watched you redefine your quest as you have been turned down, encouraged, and questioned. I have seen you take some criticism and ignore others. And I have learned how to explore an idea that you know has some inherent truth but that you are ceaselessly morphing and searching for the best way to define, understand, and present.

I don’t know what my idea will be yet, but I hope I own it with the same conviction.

Love Benny (written at 17)