new eyes

A few months back, my grandfather Monte (my mom’s father) and his wife Myra came to visit us here. (From now on, though, I’ll call him “Bampa,” which I named him back about a million years ago.) This was no small feat — they rode Amtrak out from Georgia — up through Washington, DC, over to Chicago, down to Austin to spend a few days with my brother’s family, and then west all the way to Los Angeles, where I picked them up. I’d been looking forward to spending time with them, and had been meaning to have Bampa tell me more about his life. He’s led an interesting life, growing up mostly in Washington State, but really moving around a lot, was a GI in WWII, got his engineering degree at Georgia Tech, worked at Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore in the 50s, in the rocket engineering field in the 50s & 60s, and eventually settling down for good in St. Simons Island & Brunswick, GA, where they live now, and he’s still a practicing civil engineer, at 85 years old. He’s also the person who was most influential in convincing me to apply to Stanford for college, and that’s had obvious & far-reaching implications for my career and life.

So we were touched and excited that Bampa & Myra went to such an effort to visit David’s family and then ours. It’s one thing to go visit your family; it’s another to be able to share with them some part of your own adult life, and learn about theirs in kind. My dad’s parents both passed away before I had really established much of my own life; my mom’s mother is past the point of being able to travel out to California (although she did when Kathy & I were married in 2000, which I’m grateful for). Sometimes I feel very distant out here on the left coast. Most of both Kathy’s & my family live so far east of here: my brother in Austin, Kathy’s folks in San Antonio, my parents in Nashville and Atlanta, most of my extended family in Georgia. Being able to share some of it when our parents visit is wonderful — and it was great to be able to share some with Bampa.

On the drive up, we drove along the coast for a while, then inland — and drove by Camp Roberts, where Bampa was actually stationed in the 1940s, and he told us some stories about that. Yet another reminder that we all walk an earth that’s been traveled much before us.

The whole week was wonderful. We spent an afternoon at Stanford — sat in on a class that I helped with (a tiny, tiny bit). It was projects that had a real focus on Facebook — not sure Bampa totally got it, but he understood the design process very well — recognized it from his own experience — which was great. We spent time in the Marin Headlands (beautiful as always). We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (top five favorite places anywhere). Had a just-about-perfect Italian dinner in North Beach. Couldn’t have been better, really.

What I didn’t really anticipate is how it felt to see things simultaneously through Bampa’s 80+ year old eyes and through SPL’s 3 year old eyes. Old & new, experiencing the same things. Just a reminder that the world is both incredibly modern in many ways, and the same as it’s ever been in so many others. It was just a really good time we all had together, and was great to share it with family.


  1. That's beautiful, John. Thanks.

  2. It’s hateful and discriminatory, and discrimination like this should not be codified into law.

  3. I like the idea, cool!