Bill Woodall

Bill Woodall

I was blessed with four amazing and talented grandsons. The oldest of them, Jack, graduated from Robert E Lee High School in Tyler last night.

My daughter, his mom, generally calls him Jackson. My dad, before he died, called him Sam Jack – only heaven knows why. The rest of us mostly call him Jack.

He was born with an outsize head. As with a hound and his feet, I said, one day Jack’ll grow up to match his hat size.

Jack was a screamer. Some kids just are, I suppose.

At a Kilgore College v. Lon Morris basketball game one night, for reasons known to none but himself, Jack commenced screaming. I took him to the lobby. He kept screaming. I took him outside – it was cold enough I should probably have been arrested and charged with child abuse – where he continued to scream. During a brief pause for breath he acknowledged that he’d like to go back inside and would cease screaming. I, at least, held up my end of that bargain. We went back outside and, eventually he stopped long enough for us to go in, climb the bleachers to retrieve our coats and go home.

At an Italian restaurant in Tyler, his mom got to take him outside, letting him wear himself out while the rest of us finished dinner. Let’s do this again sometime after he outgrows this, I said. He did.

From the beginning, Jack was proficient in ways that surprised us. He couldn’t play baseball or basketball worth a tinker’s dam but he was “sounding out” words when he was three, reading billboards as they passed.

From the beginning, Jack could concentrate intensely. When he was truly focused on something, it was hard to interrupt; you might have to physically come between him and the object of his attention. I worried he had one of the millions of autism permutations. The boy loved water as a youngster; if you put him in a boat, be prepared to hold on – he’d be over the side in an instant.

Early – at age 6, maybe – he started piano lessons and he was good almost right away. He excelled in school. Give him a microphone and stand back... he would sing until you wrestled the mic away. As predicted, he grew to match his hat size and his talents grew along with him. He played the bassoon on in the orchestra and, while the marching band performed at halftime, a huge xylophone parked on the sideline.

He says he’s finished growing: at 6’4” or thereabouts “that part of my life is over.” But he kept growing in other ways. He missed a perfect ACT score by a single point, he wowed us with his National Merit Scholar performance, he was a state finalist in a couple of UIL academic events including a third-place finish in debate and he was in those honor societies. In the fall he’ll matriculate to University of Texas.

Why am I telling you all this? Many of you are grandparents and parents and could say essentially the same thing of your progeny. Your kids were talented, smart and blessed with thick hair. So it’s not really you I’m talking to. I’m telling those whose child or grandchild is a screamer – metaphorically or literally.

Your screamer will probably turn out fine – not as well as mine, mind you – but fine. You’ll fret over baseball or band and you’ll celebrate soccer skills or ready writing. As my daughter, son and their mates have done with theirs, hold yours close, allow them to learn, don’t be afraid to remind them what’s right and what’s wrong.

And when they scream, give them a hug and kiss.

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