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Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: Refreshed by a Granddaughter’s Visit


By Harvey R. Heller

I have used this space to tell stories about who I am and to introduce you to our group. My stories aren’t about me, but about those who have had a profound impact on me. This month’s installment is about Vivian.

Recently, my wife Ronna and I had a most important guest in our home: our four year old granddaughter, Vivian. Vivi lives in Brooklyn, New York; thus her grandparents don’t get to see her every day. To make up for this, in addition to visits every few months, we have been lucky enough to have Vivi to ourselves for annual extended stays of 10 or more days. Last month was her fourth visit.

I always take vacation dates to coincide with Vivian’s entire visit. Prior visits required planning our days around her nap. She doesn’t nap anymore and this visit was open field running from the day she stepped off the plane until the day I flew her back home! Everybody inquired if we were exhausted. When we were all done and I arrived back home I’ll admit to being tired, but I never felt it when she was with us.

I was completely fascinated by her constant excitement and inquisitiveness. By example, Vivi asked if we were going to do a certain activity that we did last year with one of our friend’s grandsons. In addition, she now calls our den her playroom. When she awoke in the morning, she would call out for us and we would begin a morning routine that started with a cartoon, followed by breakfast and a preview of the planned activity for the day. She awoke with a smile and went to bed with a smile (following a bargaining session or 6, of course!).

We have all been a child, had children or may have grandchildren so what is the big deal here? The standard line about grandchildren is that one of the reasons they are great is that you can enjoy them and give them back to their parents for the day-to-day toil of child rearing. I disagree and can’t get enough of these little ones. The lesson I got from Vivian that was crystalized in this visit is that the wide-eyed innocence of a child is so refreshing. Our professional world is, by definition adversarial, rarely black and white and mostly gray. The world of these kids, however, is simply good and bad (for better or for worse). If, by example, during the morning I told Vivian we would do a certain activity that day and our day was so busy that we didn’t quite get to it, she would ask at the end of the day, “What about ___________?” I “tried” to tell her that we would try to get to that the next day and she would invariably say, “But you promised!” (What we capitulated to after these exchanges, I will leave out!) Of course she was simply (in her black and white world) following one of the teachings of that great author, Dr. Seuss whose Horton the elephant simply acknowledged his contract with a certain bird and repeatedly said, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant”.1

When I have these treasured moments with Vivian, I reflect on these simple truths, either espoused by her or contained in the stories like “Horton” that I read to her. They are in stark contrast to the several “truths” a lawyer invariably hears during the course of litigation. The purity of right and wrong that we learn as a child often becomes the gray of adulthood and makes the truth harder to access, driving litigation costs up.

Seuss should be required adult reading!!!

By the way, next year Vivi will be here with her now 9 month old brother, Zeke for a nice long visit. I am sure together they will provide some additional lessons for their grandparents that we look forward to.

1Dr. Seuss (1968) Horton Hatches the Egg, New York, New York: Random House. (Original work published 1940)