Another Similarity

The grandfather had become very old. His legs would not carry him, his eyes could not see, his ears could not hear, and he was toothless.

When he ate, bits of food sometimes dropped out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife no longer allowed him to eat with them at the table. He had to eat his meals in the corner near the stove.

One day they gave him his food in a bowl. He tried to move the bowl closer; it fell to the floor and broke. His daughter-in-law scolded him. She told him that he spoiled everything in the house and broke their dishes, and she said that from now on he would get his food in a wooden dish. The old man sighed and said nothing.

A few days later, the old man’s son and his wife were sitting in their hut, resting and watching their little boy playing on the floor. They saw him putting together something out of small pieces of wood. His father asked him, “What are you making, Misha?”

The little grandson said, “I’m making a wooden bucket. When you and Mamma get old, I’ll feed you out of this wooden dish.”

The young peasant and his wife looked at each other and tears filled their eyes. They were ashamed because they had treated the old grandfather so meanly, and from that day they again let the old man eat with them at the table and took better care of him.

“The Old Grandfather and His Little Grandson”
Retold by Leo Tolstoy

My grandson, Connor, spent his Spring Break from Drexel University with my wife and me and came away smitten with the paradise that is Vieques.

We had lots of time together, and he and I talked of how we like to think of ourselves as out-of-the-ordinary personalities. When other kids in kindergarten built structures, for example, Connor knocked them down. When my kindergarten teacher passed around a large can of sugared gumdrops and told us to each take one. I took two

 Connor Joseph Schmitt
Connor Joseph Schmitt

As Connor grew from a little boy to a fascinating young man of many talents and interests, we both discovered even more similarities.

Not only does he look like I did as a youth, but we both:

  • Tan easily
  • Drink our coffee black
  • Hate drinking soda
  • Prefer water
  • Like spicy food
  • Enjoy the taste of lemon
  • Hum to ourselves when preoccupied
  • Have a birthmark in the same spot on our right ear
  • Choose yellow when confronted with a color choice
  • Have had the quality of our writing acknowledged
  • Had identical chain-reaction car accidents on the highway -- with our vehicle totaled and no injury to ourselves

Each time Connor and I discover a common trait, we rush to be the first to pronounce, “Another similarity.” The line always brings us a laugh.

But … I’ve listed only physical similarities. I have yet to learn how much else I may pass to Connor in the way of perceptions and principles.

I may never know.

Erasmus Darwin, for example, died without knowing how much he influenced his more famous grandson, Charles, in their surprisingly similar theories of evolution and inheritance.

In a 2012 study of 5,500 grandparents in 11 European countries, Norwegian sociologist Knud Knudsen found that Europeans generally spend a good deal of time with their grandchildren. Grandmothers are more involved with their grandchildren when a couple is younger, he said, but with age, grandfathers usually show greater solicitude.

It seems to be all about time.

One’s time is one’s greatest gift to a loved one, especially for a grandfather -- whose inventory of it is running down.

Here’s writer John Clarke:

I think I know now why there can exist a special bond between grandfathers and their grandsons. I think it has to do with their perceptions of time. Somehow we in the middle have either forgotten or have become so world-weary that the slowness of time seems like a long-ago dream.

Einstein was the first to work out the math about time. He was able to mathematically prove something we all somehow already know: that time is not a constant. I personally believe that time slows then speeds up and then slows again over the course of our lives.

I remember well the long days of my childhood when I had nothing more important to do than to sit on the porch with my grandfather and hear him tell the story about how a beehive works or how to graft a branch onto an apple tree. He and my maternal grandmother were the only adults I knew who understood this slowness of time. They proved this by making time for me.

In my next blog, “The Sounds of Silence”


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  • published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 10:58:55 -0400