Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough:
Over the years it has been a tradition at the first of the year to impart some words of wisdom in this space to your father, uncle and cousins, who double as my grandsons. Perhaps some of my observations were useful to them. Maybe some fell on deaf ears. I have never asked. Anyway, they are adults now; old enough and wise enough (I hope) to figure things out for themselves. So now it’s just you and me, kid.
First, thank you for choosing me as your great-grandfather. Truthfully, we didn’t have a say in the matter. This was all your momma and daddy’s idea. You and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
There are so many things I want to teach you about life but the longer I am around you, the more I seem to learn from you. That is quite a confession to make to a 4-year-old, particularly since it comes from one of the world’s legendary know-it-alls. But it is true.
You have helped me rediscover that love is pure and unconditional. You don’t know me well enough yet to understand what I can do for you or what I might not be willing to do for you. You don’t care about that because you are too busy loving me for myself, not for what you can get out of the deal. When you are old enough to discern my shortcomings and inadequacies, I doubt that is going to change a thing. That is the way love works.
I admit I get a little jealous when I realize that you love a lot of other people just as much as you do me, maybe even more. When I think that way, you remind me that you have enough love to go around and that if I spent more time loving others and less time worrying about who loves me, I would be a lot happier. Love isn’t a commodity to be rationed out. Plus, the more love you give, the more you get in return. Deep down inside I know that, but you have shown me that I need to practice what I preach.
You have taught me that it is OK to have fun once in a while. You have brought out the little boy in me that has been missing for a long, long time. I really don’t care what people think when they see us raking imaginary leaves with imaginary rakes in the yard. (At least I am not walking around with an imaginary leaf blower, like your grandfather. That really is weird.)
You make us do some silly stuff and that’s OK. I wasted so much of my life fretting over things that in hindsight weren’t worth the time and effort. It is about time I learned to rake imaginary leaves.
Watching your dad toss you in the air scares the willies out of me. I wish he wouldn’t do that. Then I see the big grin on your face and hear the squeals of delight and realize that you know Dad would never allow you to get hurt. That is because of the innate trust you have in him. I should learn to trust others. I have a tendency to try and solve every problem by myself. That is not only arrogant; it is unhealthy.
You came into this world shortly after we lost your dad’s cousin and our oldest grandson, Zack. I don’t know why God decided to take Zack in the prime of such a promising life. I’m just glad you are here to help us deal with the hurt. You have no idea what your presence means to us. By the way, your grandfather tells me you enjoy going to church. So do I. Together, maybe we can begin to fathom how big God is and how small and insignificant we are.
At my age, I take nothing for granted. This could be the last letter I ever get to write to you. I hope not but, if so, remember that your good name is all you have. It is easy to lose and hard to get back, so be careful what you say and do. Believe in God and believe in yourself. Make this a better world by your actions. There is no question that you have already made mine better. Thank you for the lessons.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.