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The Baltimore Sun

The purpose of life: Have a happy and don't worry about a thing

My son, Alex, is 15 years old. He asks a lot of questions as of late. It's like back to the future in some respects, with all of the many questions. Although the questions are of a different ilk.

Alex asks questions about driving a car. Oh boy, here we go! He asks political and economic questions. He asks how things work and why things are certain ways. He is questioning the world around him and his place in it. It is another wonderful phase of his life that I am taking time to enjoy.

Well, except the driving-the-car part. While I am enjoying the questions; I am not ready to see him driving an automobile.

One of Alex's questions has been regarding the purpose of life. I thought it could be insightful for him to learn what both his sets of grandparents had to say about that, since they are Alex's oldest living relatives. Well, everyone except my mother; she's still 39. I thought they would impart great wisdom on my child and help him navigate his teenage years.

On a recent visit with my folks, Alex asked his NapaPapa. I thought it would garner some interesting conversation. My father, the physicist, told Alex that the greatest minds, Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein could not answer that question. He explained that he is still trying to figure that out. My mother said she could not say what the purpose of life is because it's different for everyone. She told him that her life's purpose is to be a loving mother and grandmother. She lives her purpose every single day and we are so lucky to be loved by her.

We also recently visited my in-laws at their nursing home in Maryland. My father-in-law has virtually lost his memory retaining only fragments of his life as a child and young man. He remembers serving as a soldier in World War II and early memories of being married. While he recognizes his wife, that seems to be the only person he does recognize.

Alex asked his grandpa the purpose of life, but grandpa either did not hear Alex or did not understand the question. He answered about his day and the fun details surrounding his physical therapy. Because I wasn't sure whether grandpa just didn't hear Alex, I waited a little while and posed the question again only slower and louder. But again, grandpa did not answer the question. He spoke about their meals and the type of food they are served. He was able to answer some questions that we posed to him about his younger years or about their daily routine, but he could not grasp the concept regarding the purpose of life.

We moved on to grandma who was able to provide an answer without hesitation. She explained that the purpose of life is to love and serve the Lord and help others whenever you can. She was full of conviction and it was wonderful to see her light up when she answered.

Because grandma answered that so eloquently, I thought that maybe grandpa would better understand the question, so I posed it again. Unfortunately nothing registered and he started chatting about this or that. We continued visiting with them until it was time for their evening meal. We walked with them to the dining room and to their table. Before they sat down, we said our goodbyes. My father-in-law, never the hugging type has become much more affectionate nowadays. We now enjoy hugs from Grandpa and his appreciation in our visits. After he hugged me, he looked me right in the eyes and said,

"Have a happy and don't worry about a thing."

He just stared at me and smiled. Then he turned to sit down to eat; not another word spoken.

Grandpa's favorite and famous phrase, "Have a Happy" was said whenever we departed his company. It didn't matter if we were headed out for a day at the beach, taking a walk around the neighborhood, or leaving to travel back home from visiting with them in North Carolina. That was his consistent goodbye phrase.

And maybe I'm reaching here, but you had to see the look on his face and the conviction in his eyes, but I truly believe that he was answering Alex's question about the purpose of life.

Have a happy and don't worry about a thing.

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