Three Worlds Converge Over Breakfast

EACH Saturday morning, weather and social schedules permitting, Carl and I have breakfast together. He and I almost always have the same thing: eggs Benedict and whole wheat toast for him; American omelet and white toast for me.

Carl is 77 years old, full of wisdom and experience. I am almost 20 years his junior, yet I'm still engrossed by tales of his boyhood in his native Holland, his adventures in the Dutch underground, and his constant efforts to keep his painting alive as a meaningful part of his life.

Carl and I talk about the old days and compare them to today. We share our lives as if we were lending each other our favorite books, eliciting views and opinions. I never fail to admire and cherish this man who still shows great vitality after so many years. Yet, he calls me ``smart as a vip'' in his delightful accent, because I program his VCR or fix the lock on his back door that only needs some oil.

Every Saturday, Robert and I have lunch together. Robert is four years old, full of innocence and pep. He is my son. We do not have a favorite eating place; we could go anywhere - to a fast food place, an established restaurant, or a drive-through. Robert talks about his favorite fire truck books, how he likes snow, and what he is going to do later on in the day. Talking about next month, next year, or even next Wednesday is beyond Robert. His is the world of the moment, the immediate. Life is much too exciting to think about what it could be, or what it once was.

Meeting with these two individuals is uniquely stimulating. I consider myself very fortunate as I swing between their two worlds, mixing maturity with the unadorned, wisdom with guilelessness, and venerability with the unexplored. Aside from their differences in age and experience, they have much in common. Both have a wonderful sense of humor. Both choose their words carefully. Both have a sparkle in them as they relate their own images of life.

The mixture is powerful against all kinds of assaults by the world of mediocrity and the commonplace. Both give me a sense of the future and the past. Carl is my future - one not mired in worn and archaic bearings, but of continued enlightenment. Through him, I experience the wisdom of his past, and I delight in his vitality.

Robert also represents the future, for obvious reasons. But I also see my past in his young bright eyes, in his eagerness to explore new horizons. Carl talks about mixing new colors; Robert drags me out at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning to crack ice in the puddles on the dirt road. Carl maps out his designs on foolscap; Robert traces his in the frost on the window pane.

Occasionally, I have breakfast with Carl and Robert, and no age, no education, or the lack of it gets in the way of these two individuals enjoying each other's company. I watch them and am filled with affection.

Being with the two of them gives rise to the thought that this is what families, or communities, should be like. Carl teaches me principles and learning. Robert teaches me trust and aspiration.

Between them, I revel in two worlds, taking from each the very best to maintain and build my own.

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