Of late, I have been viewing life as circles, with endings leading to beginnings that will end just in time to begin again. Motherly wisdom, inquisitive children, a beloved grandmother, and the bounce of a basketball have combined to demonstrate for me the circle of life phenomenon.
Several articles ago, I quoted my mother about the sixes and half-dozens of shared responsibility, along with her directive to say only nice things. Readers shared wisdom bequeathed by their own parents, including this family quotation from my cousin Cheryl Siegenthaler: “Good, better, best: Never let it rest until the good is better and the better is best.”
Mother’s sage advice, however, led to our eyerolling phase when my siblings and I vowed never to be so old-fashioned and outdated. Before twenty years had passed – two decades of careers, marriages, and offspring – there we were echoing her intonation while dispensing her wise words ourselves.
Innocent questions from youngsters have a way of flabbergasting the oldsters expected to answer. Such was the case recently when my six-year-old great niece randomly inquired of her history teacher mother: “Were plants a thing when you were a kid?”
Years ago, I witnessed a similar exchange between my mother and youngest sister following an elementary social studies lesson: “Mommy, when you were a girl, did your house have glass in the windows or greased paper?”
All generations, be they Greatest Generation parents and their Boomer children or Millennials dealing with their Gen Z progeny, face inquiring young minds. Beware! Those who ask will eventually be called upon to answer a whole new set of jaw-dropping questions.
One unique circle of life exists between grandparents and the grandchildren who melt their hearts, described in this blessing-filled relationship between a girl and her Nana: “All grandparents are special. Let me tell you a few things about my Nana that made her special to me and those who knew her. Her mother passed away when she was a child. My Papa passed away when they were in their 50s. She became strong and independent and never quit living. She danced and sang and traveled … helped my mom raise me and my siblings.
Nana was kissing and bandaging booboos, helping me learn to tie my shoes, taking us to Disneyworld, watching Sesame Street. Nana was birthday parties, pizza casserole, pumpkin bars, homemade French dressing. She was fireworks on her birthday, going out to eat, bringing me hot tea on school mornings. She loved life, despite its hardships. She was fun and funny … my steady, my constant. In my teens and early 20s I made her worry some as I struggled to find myself. I think she’d agree that I turned out okay … largely because she loved me. I don’t know who I’d be without her …”
The granddaughter who penned this tribute to Louanna Calland is a former student of mine. Kellee Wilkins-Hall trekked through the aftermath of a Texas snowstorm and COVID-19 restrictions to spend some final hours with her cherished grandmother. Kellee’s life of love and contribution as wife, mother of three, and licensed clinical social worker as Director of Clinical Services has most certainly made her Nana proud. Someday, her own greats and grands will love and cherish their Nana Kellee.
In the 80s I began to hear the bounce of a basketball in the gym down the hall from my classroom – well before 6:30 each morning. It was Brook, preteen son of fellow teacher Ray Cupps, the same Brook whose team won Ohio’s Division I Basketball Championship two Sundays ago.
Brook and others who eventually joined him were the guys forming Dave Zeller’s version of the Falcons. His teams, that began with sophomore Brook as a varsity starter, treated GHS fans to great years of exciting hoops.
Brook returned to Graham to teach math before moving to the athletic director’s office; and as head coach, guided teams to new heights, including a Final Four run in 2008. There were tears all around when he relocated to Centerville, with shades of his GHS years still followed by Falcon fans.
And history has repeated itself. Brook’s son Gabe and his teammates begin each morning bouncing basketballs before they head off to class, and sophomore Gabe hit the floor as a starter. Meanwhile, Brook coaches teamwork and core values for the young men whose adolescent years are partially entrusted to him.
The postgame father-son embrace photos that lit up Facebook reminded me of Brook holding toddler Gabe in his arms while responding to reporters outside the GHS gym. In recent Brook interviews, I heard his careful consideration of what to instill in his players, consideration that began to develop years ago as Coach Zeller modeled coaching for him.
I also realized it is not about titles and trophies for Coach Cupps. Pure joy broke across his face as he delightedly explained it had all worked the way it should for a team and that his young team had experienced it. By the way, I understand Gabe and crew were back in the gym the very next morning – bouncing basketballs.
I discarded my original title, “Coming Full Circle,” when I realized that circles, with their endings and their beginnings, never really close. Instead, each spins off to form its own ending and beginning. Such are the circles of life that sustain us, even as they lead us forward.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.