by Charles Johnson | c.2020, Hanover Square Press |$19.99 / $24.99 Canada | 160 pages
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
That little face holds so much expectation.
You meet the eyes of your grandchild, and you know you have a big job ahead of you. She expects you to love her as much as she loves you, and you do. He figures you’ll have fun together, and you will. They expect, quite frankly, to be spoiled a little, and that’ll happen, too. And with the new book “Grand” by Charles Johnson, a few lessons might be taught along the way…
Some years ago, when Charles Johnson helped design the elegant room that would be his home office, he had certain things in mind. Not one of them was that his grandson, Emery, would take the room as “his” office but that’s what happened, and that’s okay. The boy is an obvious delight.
Emery’s thoughts, his willingness to share his world, and his points of view make Johnson proud; their relationship is easy and solid. This gives Johnson a ease of comparison between Emory and his ancestors, and lesson-filled stories to tell: Emery loves books, though reading was denied to his forebears. At age eight, he doesn’t have to work like his great-granduncle did. He has nearly unlimited opportunities, unlike his great-grandfather.
And yet, as a Black man, Johnson knows that there are other lessons he needs to teach his grandson, lessons that go outside history and into the future.
Be yourself, he’ll tell Emery, and know that the world has never seen anyone exactly like you. Don’t chase perfection because nothing is ever perfect. Give dimension to your life by finding your purpose, take care of yourself, and care for others. Know that you’ll suffer, and that others will suffer, too. Look for beauty in life every day, even if it lies inside pain. Remember the “three gatekeepers” before you speak. Never be complacent with your skills, never stop learning, never stop being creative or curious.
And know that there are three kinds of love. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience each one.
When you found out that you were going to be a grandparent, do you remember how your mind raced with all the things you wanted to do with your grandbaby?
Add ten more to that list after you’ve read “Grand,” but take a deep breath first.
Author Charles Johnson writes with a quiet reserve here that borders on gravity in the lessons he has – and that you can offer – to a grandchild. That seriousness is often further weighed heavily with Buddhist teachings and philosophy that can turn downright sombre sometimes and the text, though certainly filled with love and wisdom that ultimately leads to joy, can feel as though it begs for a lighter hand. Beware, too, that these sentiments aren’t meant for sudden talks: they’re lessons that start early and continue for decades.
Even so, there are lessons here for elders as much as for their littles and despite its occasional excess depth, you should easily be able to proceed as you need. With the right mindset and “Grand,” you can expect good things.