My grandmother always said that she felt 18 years old “on the inside” her whole life. Even when she was 80, she still said this. I don’t know what age I am on the inside. It’s interesting to think about, though. All I know for sure is that even though I’m at the age where most of my friends are already grandparents, and my hair is silver, and I’m starting to ponder things like retirement, whenever I see an obituary of someone my age, I always think, “too young.”
It happened again yesterday. We were next door neighbors when our kids were small. He was a carpenter and stone mason who worked with his hands his whole life in the same community where he was born. When our house needed a new roof, he roofed it. His sons played in our backyard and shot thousands of baskets in their driveway. Thump. Thump. Thump. His middle son, Jordan, and our son are still close. This makes my heart glad. It’s a big, lonely, world without good friends.
He and his wife raised three sons. That’s a lot of groceries and gallons of milk and football cleats to replace. It’s a lot of scout badges to earn and pinewood derby cars to race. It’s hours and hours (and hours!) of sitting on hard bleachers in stuffy gyms and frigid football stands. His sons went to college where all three continued their athletic careers. This meant more stuffy gyms and cold football stadiums. Two have advanced degrees now. His oldest son is married, with a son of his own. All three sons are young men who would make any father proud.
Lately, it seems that society’s definition of what makes a man “great” has changed. The bar seems pretty low. This is particularly true if you turn on the news or spend even ten minutes listening to the bleating of a politician, professional athlete, or television personality. They’re all wrong.
It’s hard work for a man to be truly great. Really hard work. This is because men learn how to be men from watching their fathers. If their fathers are kind, they are kind. If their fathers work hard, they will work hard, too. The measure of a man is not what he leaves behind, but who.
Great men know this and live it every day.
They don’t need to shout it from the rooftops.
For Jordan…..Love, Ben’s Mom.