WACHS: Comforting that life’s signposts reappear in each generation


All along life’s journey are signposts and mileposts that mark important points on that journey. While some are unique to an individual, many others are ones we have in common with most every other person in the world… or at least those in our immediate world.

Among them are the beginning of school, graduation, college or the military or a job, marriage, a promotion, the birth of children, retirement to name a few. We’ve all had some of them.

Included for me was my four-year college career crammed into seven years, a couple of children along the way and a good long time still with my better half. I missed out on Uncle Sam and got only a promotion or two before changing careers. But of all the events that tell me about mileposts, I suppose my clearest one is the presence of the young folks who are part of the next generation of my family and who make me a grandfather.

There are eight of them, ranging from 18 years to almost two years old — two guys on the youngest side and another on the other — and then five little princesses in between. I’m not going to show you any pictures because if you’ve got some grands of your own then I’m pretty sure you think yours are the greatest, although you would, of course, be mistaken.

There are lots of reasons this is all a milestone for me, especially as I interact with them at their different ages. The oldest one is a teenager who’s good company; I enjoy messing with him and he’s a lot of help with chores my parents — Mother Nature and Father Time — make it hard for me to do. His youngest counterpart on the other end has learned not only to stand alone but to move rapidly through the house and yard, just as his slightly older brother did when he was the caboose. And for the moment, he likes to sit in my lap for up to three seconds as he hangs onto my finger and stares right through me with those big beautiful eyes as I wonder what he’s thinking.

The stairstep crew in the middle, the gaggle of girls, are all unique but still, so far, mostly think I hung the moon and I intend to ride that train as long as it will leave the station. We once watched Paw Patrol and Masha and the Bear and read stories. Now we still have stories but they usually read them to me. A lot of what we do now is softball — they play and their grandmother and I drive all over Chatham County to take in as many of their games as the calendar and our pooped bodies will allow. They still ride bikes and eat ice cream and act silly but as I watch them – and try to be with them when I’m with them — I’ve noticed something about them and me and life in general.

And that is that some signposts and mileposts are timeless and each generation takes them up. I’m speaking here of softball and T-ball and of how all the little ladies and next to the youngest boy are on overdrive in those pursuits. They’re on four different age-appropriate teams in different communities, which can make scheduling a bit of an issue. other. A while back, two of them played against each other and I still remember one asking me about her cousin, “Do you think they’ll let us talk to each other after the game?”

After that game, as they ate their hot dogs — another signpost: hot dogs at ball games — and frolicked on the playground, I think they figured it out.

Now as I have more candles on my birthday cake, it does me good to see these mileposts still alive and well. While I didn’t make the Little League Hall of Fame — it was a much cruder version when dinosaurs roamed the earth — my hope today is that some parents and, heaven forbid, grandparents, will tone down some of the fussing and let the little folks enjoy life. Like the behavior I experienced when, as a young father, my offspring were playing.

On one of those days, I was in the field with some young players while the other team was at bat. A little fellow whose full name I won’t disclose — because he and his family are still around and he’s a fine young man today with a responsible position and I don’t wish to embarrass him — did something that was timeless, something I see happen at most every game, at least with the really littlest folks.

As he went to his position somewhere around where the second base dirt met the outfield grass, he took off his glove, sat down and began to play in the dirt. Through some miracle of physics, an equally little person hit a ball near me and my player. He looked up from doodling in the sand, watched the ball stop about a foot away and then went back to his play.

“Adam,” I said.

“Whut?” without looking up.

“Don’t you want to get the ball?”

“No.” And that was the end of that.

Soon, a convoy of his teammates came rushing over, half of them falling down in a mad dash to get the ball and not knowing what to do with it afterwards, sort of like we see today with the littlest ones. But when the game was over, they all said they had fun and made off to the concession stand. Same as today.

Let the little people be little people. Give them the basics and then don’t fuss at them. No college athletic scholarships are going to be given out this summer. And say “thank you” to the men and women who help these little folks put up mileposts of their own.

Mark those signposts well. Someday they’ll be priceless.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and emeritus editor at Chatham News & Record. He serves as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church.