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Mychal Wilmes: It can’t be a bad day if it involves a grandkid

August 7, 2018

Mychal Wilmes

“Did you remember to take your medicine this morning?”

I had forgotten for the umpteenth time, a situation Kathy fears might suggest another serious problem. Ten pills each morning seem too many, despite their good intent.

To avoid additional repercussions, I retreat to the refuge that used to be the girls’ bedroom. It now has the unwarranted title of our business office.

It has a kitschy and comfortable feel. A Pooh Bear clock ticks loudly. Framed words on the wall are designed to inspire youthful minds to excel. “Reach higher and higher, the sky is the limit’’ is joined by one that urges turning big dreams into even bigger reality. A large U.S. flag is partially unfurled in the corner.

The room also serves as a warehouse of sorts for garage sale finds of questionable worth and purpose. A cardboard box contains enough hangers to satisfy a clothes horse’s insatiable appetite.

The hangers and some other purchases eventually will be sent to the garbage bin.

“Do you want me to take them out now or wait a little longer,’’ I ask, in a snarky way that prompts Kathy’s sharp retort.

To her credit, Kathy has brought home useful things from her escapades. The most interesting is a record player and three dozen LPs that include the greatest hits of Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, Stevie Wonder and Sandi Patti.

The LP that makes me wish the record player had a working needle and functional speakers is a memorial album that contains clips from President John F. Kennedy’s greatest speeches, of which there were many.

It might have been his youth, his Massachusetts accent or the goal of landing on the moon that enabled him to inspire young people more than many other officeholders could. The “ask not what your country can do for you’’ statement in his inaugural address and JFK’s Peace Corps hinted at shared sacrifice and shared purpose.

He lived and died in an era when heroes were placed on skyscraper-high pedestals.

Sam, who appreciates history as much as his father does, doesn’t and cannot be expected to understand John Kennedy’s hold on a youthful generation.

When John Kennedy died, we went to church and prayed for his soul; when Martin Luther King was killed, we lamented the violence that destroyed a peace-loving man; when Robert Kennedy fell, youthful optimism was crushed. The politicians and icons who followed seemed less in comparison.

Sam’s opinion is in decades past, Americans trusted in their government’s honesty. That was the case until Vietnam, Watergate and various scandals caused doubts about whether they should.

I emerge from the room to share breakfast and the day’s plans with Kathy. There are cucumbers and tomatoes to pick and a lawn to be mowed.

The first order of business — as it usually is — involves a walk down the driveway. Elliot and his boundless energy are expected later in the morning. He is easily bored, which is difficult to alleviate. I’m short of the sort of bells and whistles he likes.

We will go to Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo before visiting the Dodge County Fair.

Elliot’s favorite zoo animal is the black bear he calls Paddington. The bear is in a small enclave when we arrive. An attendant cleans its cage and hides watermelon, lettuce and apples for the bear to eat.

“How do you know when you are having a bad day?’’ Elliot asked.

Bad days almost are impossible when the sun shines and you are surrounded by children awestruck by the bear’s powerful paw as it crushes a watermelon.

We walk through the livestock barns at the fair and purchase two vanilla malts. We compete to see who finishes theirs first. A brain freeze makes Elliot the winner.

“This was the best malt ever,’’ he said.

The company made it so.

I’m hopeful Elliot’s generation will find leaders to inspire them.

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