My Grandfather loved to walk. He would walk a few miles a few times a week, if not every day, even into his 80’s. His pace was quick and he was about the business of walking while he was out there. He would greet the neighbors, survey the neighborhood, stop to pet a dog, catch a ball or watch a golfer swing at the nearby course. And when I walked with him he would tell me stories.
I heard stories of living on a farm in Idaho in the early 20th century, college, World War II, childhood antics of my father and aunt, and anything else that might come up. I heard some stories so often I began to tell them (like the time corn flakes were on sale and they bought so many boxes that is all they had to eat for weeks while he was in college…he never ate them again). I heard stories that other people hadn’t heard (stories of fighting in World War II — of incredible bravery, fear and of duty and honor). I learned about his garden and his baking. We spoke of wood working, driving, pets, children and more.
Since I was a small child (heck, probably as an infant) I had adored my Grandfather, and so as we walked and he taught me of life our relationship grew deeper. He encouraged me to look for what I’m talented at and passionate about. He knew all too well what it was to do something you thought you should, only to be mid-stream and find out that is not what you wanted. He laughed at my jokes, listened to my stories, looked inside my heart and helped plan my dreams.
Even when my life was going sideways and I was on the wrong path we would sometimes walk together when I came home to visit. He always told me what to do without ever telling me what to do, and while his concern was obvious he managed to respect the woman I was but not the decisions I was making.
A few years ago the landscape of my grandparents life began to change as old age had set in and my grandmother’s memory began to fail. They moved to a retirement home not far from the house they lived in when I was growing up. On a rather cloudy, chilly Portland day I walked through their old neighborhood. I was in town on family business and found myself overwrought and tense. In need of advice and comfort I went back to the roads we had walked. As I meandered through the neighborhoods (not nearly at the clip my grandfather used to walk) it was almost like I could hear the echoes of years of talking. The warmth of his laughter hung on the corner. The advice he shouted to his friends on the golf course still lingered around the bend. And as I walked past their old house, tears in my eyes, I begged God to help with the situations that had called me home. Oh how I longed to be a child on those streets again. When life seemed simpler and everyone was healthy and whole.
This year as we began to plan our homeschool year I looked for a theme verse. Something to remind me, challenge me, encourage me in the pursuit of a God-filled education for our children. I chose a familiar passage and as I began to study it and memorize it I was struck by a line that changed the way I think about teaching and leading our children.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
When you walk along the road….
Those few words reminded me of my Grandpa. There are roads in a few states that I have walked with my Grandpa. Roads that changed my life, I’m sure. At the very least they educated me.
And so as our homeschooling year takes off I’m struck by my Grandpa’s lessons in life. Lessons in love. That were never taught in a classroom, weren’t scheduled or written in a planner. The literally happened on the side of the road.
As I write to you this morning we are hitting the road. The suitcases wait by the door. Boxes of books and workbooks in the hallway. We’re off to visit family and we’ll homeschool on the road. In the next few days our children will have science with dolphins and orcas, dance with a mouse, learn physics on roller coasters, hear classic literature on the highway, do worksheets in hotel rooms and meet family they only know by other people’s stories. And, I know, there will be plenty of lessons as we walk (and drive) along the road.