My grandparents realized I could do anything I wanted in life long before I knew. If you’re fortunate to have loving grandparents and wise enough to listen to them, there are plenty of lessons to learn.
My maternal grandfather called these lessons “nuggets” because they were “more valuable than the gold” that many people search, hunt and toil their lives for. To this day I continue to look for the nuggets in every seminar, conference or event I attend or try to get one from most people I meet.
There are so many nuggets to learn from grandparents. From each, I gained a bit of knowledge about gardening, carpentry, repairs, art (drawing, painting and sculpturing), and cooking. Perhaps the bonus of sharing time with them was the history I could never learn in a text book.
Part of my younger days was spent sharing a bedroom with my maternal great grandma, Margaret Ralph Morgan, who was a Chickasaw-Choctaw Indian, born just five days after President Lincoln was assassinated and lived to the age of 100. I have fond memories of her stories about crossing the Red River into Texas on a covered wagon at age 17 and learning Native American culture, medicines and beliefs. She was so excited about hear about Americans orbiting the earth before her death in 1965.
“There are some people in your life that need to be loved from far, far away,” she laughed, sharing a favorite nugget. “There is not much sense in wanting the ones that are no good for you to live with you or even be near.”
Annabelle McDonald Labenski (affectionately known at Grandma ‘Binki’ to my cousins and me) told me the story of her family moving away to Oklahoma from Mexia, Texas when she was a teenager to get her away from a boy she loved. Decades later, after the death of her mother and sister, she received a trunk filled with “hundreds of letters” written over the years from that boy. They had been hidden from Grandma Binki for over 40 years.
On occasion, we can learn more about ourselves from our grandparents. They survived hardships, diseases, and adversities many of us can’t fathom. Knowing how they dealt with their problems can be educational and comforting. How many of us now grow and can our own food, milk cows, raise chickens?
My generation learned about World War II, the Great Depression and American struggles from our grandparents. I listened. I took notes. Perhaps what we experienced with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Vietnam, Man on the Moon and September 11, 2001, will be handed down to our offspring.
It’s wise to consider what we inherited emotionally, intellectually and culturally from our ancestors. What nuggets did you inherit? What did you learn? What were you given? What skills or games did they teach you?
Below are samples of some of the nuggets my grandparents gave me.
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“Look for the similar experiences, you have with others,” said Grandpa Arthur. “You can find always find something in common. Just listen. Whether it’s school, hobbies or work, it helps us bond.”
Humor and Fun
Bassett Arthur, my maternal grandfather, taught me that teasing was his form of showing love unconditionally. Learning pranks and jokes from him was a special bond and helped me to understand and react to different forms of teasing, including bullying, pranks, sarcasm or flirting. Today, most likely, the more I tease someone, the more likely I care for them.
Jack L. Dennis, my paternal grandfather, helped me learned to listen and how important it was to understand what people were saying. He would often interpret “adult talk” which I now realize helped me read between the lines and comprehend the correlation between what people say and their motivations.
Maternal Grandmother Ruby Morgan Floyd was an expert at showing loving emotional support. She was a fun sounding board and I sensed early that her unconditional love would always steer me in the right direction. She was a perfect grandmother for helping navigate my teenage years or when I didn’t quite understand what was really going on in life.
Know the Odds
“Always know the odds,” said Grandpa Dennis, who loved to play poker, dominoes and even raced his own horses. “Whatever the game, the bet, the issue, know and understand the risks. You do that by watching what others do, reading and learning as much as you can. Math is important too.”
Grandparents at Halloween. Everyone has something to offer. It’s so easy for us to be quick to judge, be competitive, or view everything as black and white. Don’t be in such a hurry for that when we’re trying to build relationships and share more fun with family and friends.
Think and Dream Big
“As long as you’re going to be spending your time thinking anyway, go ahead and think big,” said Grandpa Dennis. “If you keep doing the things you cannot do, sooner or later you will learn how to do them.”
Learn from History
Grandma Dennis talked with me about the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and President John F. Kennedy. She would share newspapers for me and read them and then explain what it meant in ways I could understand. “History and news is important to know so we don’t make the mistakes others did,” she told me.
Look for the Good
Grandfathers can teach you “to always look for the good in a person, to be generous and kind to them, and to always remember that you don’t know what they’ve been or are going through.”
Appreciate the Good
Grandma Mildred Dennis, my father’s mother, was the first close person that died in my life. Besides picking peaches and plumbs, or sorting out beans, the best nugget from Grandma Dennis was “to always look in the good in people. That may be hard to do, but being nice and kind to them might help them get through something terrible.”
Don’t Lie to Yourself
“You can lie to others, but you can’t lie to yourself,” Grandma Morgan said. Later, I realized she taught me that we don’t necessarily have to own everything that happens to us, but we do own what happens in us.
Walter Dennis with his family. Perry, Jessica, Bobbi (daughter) Shipman, Jack, Jennifer, Jack and Mark Dennis. It’s wise to consider what we inherited emotionally, intellectually and culturally from our ancestors. What nuggets did you inherit? What did you learn? What were you given? What skills or games did they teach you?