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Grandfather, No Longer Twice Removed

By Sean C. Bowers

An inherited instant 11-year-old grandson from marriage stopped my mind’s mental carriage, stating, “I don’t even know what my father looks like,” his confession, a soulful bottomless painful expression.

His father in America’s jail, behind the red, white and blue bars like points of darkness between the stars. I had already told my new grandson of my father’s prison stint and his decision to leave my mom and me, his only son. I said, “My dad chose to leave willingly. Yours made bad choices and doesn’t have the freedom of choice to be in your life as he wants to be and wanted to be from day one.” The 11-year-old understood the difference, as he was, after all, a boy in a man’s body, just like I had been.

At six feet tall, 180 pounds, size 12 sneakers, one Samoan grandparent, the 6th grader in front of me was the definition of an athletic “diamond-in-the-rough.” Yet there was also a soft sensitive side to this man-child, a mixture of the thinking man in touch.

I asked him what else he wanted to do besides be a basketball player. He stated he “maybe wanted to be a doctor and help people with broken bones.”

This sling shot my mind back nearly half a century to the Doctor (J., Julius Erving) who operated above me, my hero, who inspired me to not be a zero. Doc flew like my new grandson’s idol, Lebron James, the King. When he asked me if it was all right if he called me Grandpa, I heard angels sing.

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Never could I replace the absent father in both our lives. Those “soul holes” will always be scars, as where they removed the knives.

I could, however, be the best grandpa for him and for me. I could be that missing role model, allowing us from our pasts, to be set free.

By weekend’s end, he had some new Lebron’s (sneakers), ON SALE, of course. No time like the present for him to learn the value of a dollar. Swimming in the hotel pool, we were both Marco Poloing out our new relationship with each holler.

Grandson leading the grander, out into a new day’s bright future. (Father, please give me the wisdom, patience and understanding all along this journey as I help him mature.)

For he is the blood of my wife’s only son, and this is my redemption. A real shot at the family my dad prevented me from thinking I could ever contemplate. Yes, Lord, I know I can and will get this straight.

“Let’s get some ice cream.” I was well on my way to becoming the mostest in his grandpa dream. So armed with a blueprint plan, a stop watch, some new running shoes and a desk top calendar, he was care packaged into phase one. Athletes are forged like diamonds under pressure, from the fires of endless laps on tracks up and down courts in the unrelenting heat of the Ohioan sun.

A new basketball with dribbling goggles to help his handle and him handle life, so he can one day take off the blinders for himself, his coming to understand, that he is, and always has been, top shelf.

“Of broad shoulders, much is expected,” said I, the first college graduate in my family to the next. “Now don’t forget about your Grandpa, you know you can call, write, e-mail or text.”

For a brief moment the heavens opened and the old wound was no more; a bright new day, a new lifetime game, with a fresh start and a zero-zero score.

“You need 5,000 hours of practice to be a high school starter, and 10,000 hours to be a college scholarship player.” I told him.

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“How do you know those numbers, Grandpa?” he asked. I replied, “Because I’ve walked and run that exact same path and prayer.”

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide the for seventeen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via e-mail at and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

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