“Dear Grandpa!”

My one-month-old grandson responded to my letter!

Winnie the Pooh: Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Attributed (incorrectly) to A. A. Milne.

Dear Grandpa,

I am in receipt of your letter dated January 15, 2018. I had to read it a few times to grok everything you were saying.

I want to make you aware of my age in case it has skipped your attention. I mean, Jeez Louise! I’ve been here all of a week and you’re already sending me recommendations for 800 page non-fiction books that weigh more than I do? How about we start with some picture books and Stuart Little first?

Anyway, not wanting to disappoint you, I took a crack at the first book you recommended, Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. All I can say is: Oh My God! You people have really screwed things up around here for the past few thousand years, haven’t you? Killing and maiming each other in the millions — and for no good reason whatsoever.

And you’re proud of yourselves now that the rate of violence is finally declining worldwide? It took you millennia to grow tired of slaughtering each other? Now I understand why the guy in Edvard Munch’s classic painting looks like that.

Also, can you please tell these people I’m staying with that they need to change my diapers pronto? I keep yelling and screaming and they don’t seem to understand a word I’m saying. Really bad service. I’m tempted to give them 1.5 stars on yelp.com!

Nice to meet you, too, by the way.

Yours truly,

Your Grandson

Dear Grandpa,

I didn’t have a whole lot to do in between milkshakes and burpings, so I took a look at the second book you recommended, Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Lots to chew on. I’ll have to think about it for a while and get back to you on this one.

Meanwhile, I like where he’s going with this. It’s good to step back once in a while and realize which things are real in the world around us (trees, rivers, puppies) and which ones exist only in the heads of humans (nations, corporations, money, legal systems, religions, etc).

It’s easy for me to understand this concept because, of course, I have no clue yet what any of those things in the second category even mean — being that I just arrived here and haven’t been indoctrinated yet. It’s also interesting to note that most of the things on that second list are also the things that Pinker told us about when identifying the roots of conflict between groups.

As for the local accommodations, I can’t say that I’m happy with the service. I distinctly remember asking for a bath hours ago but, once again, they act like they have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m not sure why I’m even wasting the 1.5 stars on yelp.com at this point.

I also thought about the advice you gave me about my career — that I should pursue my passion. And so I have decided to dedicate my life to the eradication of male pattern baldness, this “scourge of mankind” as you called it in your letter. Definitely a worthy objective for me to dedicate my life to. Thanks, Grandpa.

Dear Grandpa,

I finally got a chance to read the third book you recommended, Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Ernest Shackleton’s Incredible Journey. I was so scared at first that I had to cover my eyes.

I don’t want to see this stuff. What do you mean 28 men spent two years stranded on the ice in the Antarctic? And they had to boil their boots and chew on them because they had nothing else to eat? Yikes! This place you call Earth seems really harsh. It was nice and warm where I just came from. Can’t I just go back in there?

Then I got to the end, where Shackleton amazingly travels in a dinghy across a thousand miles of ocean, traverses an entire frozen island on foot, and brings back a rescue team to save all his men.

Wow! Now you’re talking. Now that’s an adventure — and it all really happened. All those other stories of murder and mayhem had me scared but I see now what this human spirit thing is about. People can do incredible things.

Sign me up, Grandpa. I knew this trip was worth it. I get it now. Let’s go do this thing.

By the way, the management of this establishment I’m staying at keeps dressing me up in these funny outfits and taking my picture. And they cuddle with me at night. I’m rethinking my rating for yelp.com.

Love,

Your Grandson

Former CTO of VMware, former VP at Microsoft, recovering long distance runner, avid cyclist, newly minted grandpa.

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