Walking To School (Uphill Both Ways)

Nicholas - Trafford, Pennsylvania
Entered on November 25, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, legacy

I believe in stories that begin “when I was your age we had to walk to school everyday, twenty miles, uphill both ways.” Although most teenagers from my generation will just roll their eyes when they hear these words come out of an elderly person’s mouth, I embrace these stories as an opportunity to gain valuable advice and insight from a past generation—a past life. I am blessed with very close relationships with both my grandma and grandfather, who is actually my next-door neighbor. Several times a week, I will go to my grandfather’s house to do yard work, or help out around the house. After we have finished working, my grandfather will tell me all sorts of stories from his childhood, different events and situations that he can still vividly recall, sixty years later. I am constantly amazed how my grandfather’s stories are still applicable today, to a teenager in the new millennium. He tells me many stories about traditions past down to him by his own grandparents. One such instance occurred every time that he would go to his grandfather’s house, his siblings and him would go down to the basement where they would all eat vanilla ice cream from a five gallon container. These special nuances about each person are the things that really stick out in our memories. Quirks like this these define our relationships. My grandfather lovingly recalls the special bond that he developed with his grandparents, yet he also wishes that he would have listened to their stories more often, and that he had more time to further develop this bond with them before they passed away. After my other grandma passed away three years ago, I realized exactly what he was talking about. Because we were next-door neighbors, sometimes I took her presence for granted, but now I really wish that I would’ve had more time to listen to her. From then on, I have listened to my grandfather’s stories more closely than ever before. Although some stories don’t seem to relate to me, or go in one ear and out the other, I now realize that so many of these stories will become applicable to me soon, or much later in life. Sometimes it feels like my grandfather is helping me “cheat” in life. I can utilize his experiences (often lessons learned the hard way) as tools to enhance my own life. I have learned many valuable lessons through these stories that will take many of my peers years or even decades to learn. But with the ability to recall my grandfather’s stories and apply them to my life, I will hopefully live an extremely happy life.

So while many teenagers will leave a conversation with an elderly person shaking their head, mumbling something about “that crazy old man,” I will leave with at least one story that will help me later in life. This I believe.