Many wives don’t enjoy dinner at the home of husbands’ relatives. When it came to Burton’s Uncle Jack and Aunt Oosie, I did. 30-some years ago, we dined at their Farmington Hills, MI, home. Jack Schlesinger (Burton’s mother’s brother) and Oosie (real name Ruth) were cool. Jack, a past state of Michigan tennis champion, owned the Juliet women’s fashion stores. And Oosie was a splendid cook, On one occasion, Jack told Burton something neither of us has forgotten.
Before dinner, Jack took Burton aside. He said, “Burt, after dinner I’m going to tell you something important.”
“Tell me now,” Burton said.
Jack wouldn’t yield. Twice during dinner, he reminded Burton about his upcoming message. Burton and I speculated on it. Business advice, I suggested, though I was too involved with Oosie’s tender brisket to give the matter much thought.
By the end of dinner, Burton was primed. Jack led him into the den, like Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.
“Burt,” Jack said, “I know you’re doing well. I hear good things about you. But there’s something I want you to remember.”
“Here it is. Every hit can’t be a home run.”
Driving home, Burton repeated the message to me. “That’s it?” I said, “After all that build up?”
As life went on, and Burton racked up some failures as well as successes, Uncle Jack’s words kept coming back to us. They proved a fine mantra to live by.
What brought this to mind was our April family trip to Kiawah Island, SC, in honor of my significant birthday. Burton and Alexis went for a walk on the packed sand ten-mile beach edged by happy yellow wild flowers.
Alexis, our oldest grandchild, will be 10 (good grief!) on July 15. She’s a sweet and wise young lady. (Ask anyone who knows her, not just her admittedly biased Gigi.) On their walk, Burton said, “Alexis, you’re good at school and soccer and basketball. You expect a lot from yourself. I’m going to tell you something my Uncle Jack told me a long time ago. It’s meant a lot to me.”
Later, Burton told me about their conversation. “I wonder if she’ll remember,” I said.
The next day Alexis and I sat in the upstairs den of the beach house we rented for the week. She read me a story she’d written. (I take genetic credit for her literary if not her athletic prowess.) I asked if she remembered what Burton had told her.
“Sometimes you’ll hit singles. And sometimes doubles. And sometimes you’ll strike out. And it’s all okay,” she said.
“Exactly,” I said. “Every hit…”
“…can’t be a home run.”
As parents and grandparents, we have the privilege of sharing hard earned wisdom. By building up the moment, Uncle Jack made sure Burton remembered his message. Hard as we try, we can’t prevent our kids from falling down. But we can give them words to help them pick themselves up again.
(Do you have favorite words of wisdom? I’d love to hear about them.)