Teenagers don’t often seek out time with their ol’ grandpa. Jamie did that day. The night before he left our home for the last time.
Heidi asked me to describe my relationship with Jamie. My response, “Oh, I suppose we had an average grandfather-grandson relationship.” He did live on our homeplace the first five years of his life. As a farmer, I worked the land from dawn to dusk six days a week. Whether in my workshop, chicken house, Quonset, barn or coming in from the fields… Hearing & seeing Jamie and Heidi, too… just part of it. Those two… couldn’t have been any closer, I don’t suppose.
After Carlton and Kathy moved off the farm, I remember Jamie (Michael and little Holly, too) growing up so fast between our visits. From what I heard, he was quite a good student. Active little guy. I remember him wresting for the school. He read a lot. He sure seemed to enjoy learning… came easy to him, I think.
As he aged into a teenager, I remember noting I never saw him upset or agitated. His ability to articulate- clear. His ability to pass a football – exceptional. And his self-control was admirable beyond his age. Always in control of himself. Mature. And well-spoken. Bright. Very bright.
Struggles for Jamie surfaced during his freshman year. First, I remember he had to get glasses. He had dreams of being a military pilot. Like his Dad, he loved planes. And the corrective lenses meant he was physically disqualified already. I flew planes during the war (WWII), so I understood the draw to fly… And the turbulence that sticks with you years after war’s end.
Additional external struggles picked at him, too at a large public school near Denver, Colorado where he lived with his parents by that time. He endured difficulties during football season. (Later we learned coaches and students were directly part of this.) Evidently, the struggles worsened over the school year. According to his mom (my daughter) his anxiety grew. By spring and summer, his grades began to slip, and he begged to not go back to that school. For a kid, who rarely complained, this surprised me. But, I figured he and his folks would figure it out.
Honoring authority can be a curious thing to navigate particularly in cases when authority is misused.
From my understanding, the family thought Jamie’s social needs outweighed his living with immediate family. The decision: he’d live with his uncle (our eldest son) deep in the mountains. This way Jamie could have a fresh start and attend a smaller school.
My son’s own daughters lived with their mother in the city. However, his house in the mountains was already home to several young people. Those residing in the home at the time consisted of he and his wife, a step-daughter, a girl friend of hers as well as a boy friend of hers. This is what Jamie joined. Some thought this would serve as an ideal answer to the social friction of the big city school. Instant social circle right there in the home. They all went to the same high school where Jamie again joined the football team. This move offered hope of a new beginning. Evidently, it played out with far less optimism than Jamie had banked on.
The eventual inconsistencies of this family structure is exactly what he wanted to talk to us about that Thanksgiving weekend.
We made our way down the stairs and sat down together. Jamie spoke calmly. He outlined unfair treatment he though he received while living there that fall. (He’d return to his parents’ home to live before Christmas.) Characteristically Jamie, he spoke clearly. I didn’t sense bitterness. In fact, I sensed his desire… peaceful resolution. But, again, he felt that was unfairly beyond reach. He did not lambaste anyone…he simply shared.
“The thorough integration of strength and sensitivity, of firmness and feeling, is rare.”
Eugene Peterson Run with the Horses pg. 56
From the details (which aren’t necessary to share here), he shared I certainly understood his concern. In general, Jamie said he carried the heaviest weight of chore responsibility within the home while the other teens either didn’t have chores or got away easily without doing them. Also, Jamie explained that all the teens in the home were at least 16 years old, licensed drivers; however, Jamie was the only one not allowed to drive. When he attempted to seek explanation, he said he was silenced without reason.
In such a situation, I see how a young man’s self-respect could easily erode. Yet, I certainly never imagined Jamie was in the process of giving up on living… He spoke clearly. Calmly… Compassionately, he really didn’t want to burden others with the conflict. I think he hoped we’d help.
continued… Grandpa Ken … He Reached Out to Me (part 3)