The Symmetry of Life

The drool spot on my right shoulder got me thinking.

It’s there most days.

Some days it’s from my five month old grandson, Thomas. He’s our first. Before he was born, people kept saying, “Oh, being a grandparent is the best! There’s nothing like it!”

Because of the build-up, when people would ask me if I was excited to be a grandpa. I would always say yes. In my mind, I was thinking, “This better be good!”

And, of course, it is.

I get to see Thomas several days a week and I try to hold him as much as possible. When I do, he ends up drooling on my right shoulder. I’ve gotten used to checking to make sure if I need to clean off my shoulder, but sometimes I’ll get to the end of the day and there it is. It makes me smile.

Other days the drool spot comes from my father-in-law. He had a debilitating stroke three years ago that left his right side paralyzed, his speech unintelligible and left him with a condition called dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing. We take part in his care and, because of the dysphagia, whenever I transfer him in and out of his wheelchair I usually get a drool spot on my right shoulder.

My father-in-law goes by Tom, and Thomas, his first great-grandchild, is his name’s sake.


The drool spot got me thinking about how precious life is and how we shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m sure this is not new to you. It’s not new to me. But thinking about Tom and Thomas has deepened my appreciation. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Accept the things you can’t change.

Tom’s stroke came two months after his 78th birthday. He was in great shape. Just before his birthday, he and 11 buddies made a golf trip to Ireland. He played seven courses in seven days and walked every one of them. Tom coached high-school and college football in Delaware and it seems that he knows everyone in the state. The outpouring of love that came after his stroke was overwhelming, especially from his former players. He had made an impact on their lives.

The sentiment at the time was that it was tragic that this stroke had damaged his body so severely in his golden years.

I guess that’s still true, but three years with him has given me a different perspective. I believe everybody has their time to go be with God and it wasn’t Tom’s time. That doesn’t make it easy. And ours isn’t the only family that has to deal with challenging circumstances. In fact, I think most families have challenges that make life hard.

But as a camp staff member said this summer, just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Tom is still with us and I am grateful. It’s hard, but it is still good to have him.

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr puts it best:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Being is more important than doing.

I’m not a Type A personality, but I am a doer. I like to keep things busy and to get things done. Once Jodi and I were on the planning team for a national camp & retreat event. We arrived at the venue two days before to get ready, helped run the four-day event, then spent a whole day afterward debriefing. It was non-stop activity for a week. We had decided to spend the weekend after the event to relax at a nearby hotel with a nice water view before traveling home.

The first day there I spent about six hours straight just sitting in an Adirondack chair on the deck, looking at the water. I didn’t read. I didn’t get my laptop out. I just sat. I was so whipped from the previous week that I just needed to do nothing. Jodi kept asking me if I was OK. She wasn’t used to seeing me do nothing and was worried. Like I said, I’m not Type A, but it made me laugh that she was concerned about my lack of activity.

When I see Thomas I just want to hold him. I don’t even talk to him that much. I probably should, to help develop his verbal skills. But I just like to hold him.

One day I was holding him and I realized how different this was than when I was parenting our four kids. I love them and loved holding them. But, I recognized the difference. As a parent, when I was holding my child, all I could think about were all the things that I had to get done. Work, household chores, etc. The classic conundrum was when a child went to sleep, should I take a nap because I was dead tired or should I get something done because I could. It was usually the latter.

Holding Thomas is different. When I’m holding him, I don’t think about what else I need to do. I enjoy the time we have. Perhaps this is age, wisdom, life experience or some combination of the three. But, I hadn’t learned this lesson until now. Being is more important than doing. We are human beings, not human doings.

There is something in me that says I could not have learned these lessons before now. Perhaps that’s true. And maybe the reason I share is so I can remind myself to be grateful for what Tom and Thomas have taught me. Thanks be to God.

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6 Replies to “The Symmetry of Life”

  1. Very well said! I am a student of mr coder’s geometry class at Conrad high school. He was
    By far one of the best teachers I had. I have been following his progress since day one and have outpoured my heart God in prayer. Thank you for sharing this. It sure does make you think and reflect on things we should be grateful for. God bless all of you!

  2. I miss Tom’s hey kid when we would see each other. I still see his personality in his smile. It sure is wonderful being a grandparent and I’m thankful for having the privilege. Enjoy that drool spot and use it to remember all of your special moments. Thank you for this beautiful piece

  3. Played for Coach Coder at Conrad. Over the years he always remembered his old players and we always remembered his impact on us. He used to say that the team was small but it was slow. Loved his humor.

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