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From Glow Worm to Graduate

My grandson is graduating from high school in a couple of weeks. Of course I’m a proud Yiayia. And of course I’m taking that stroll down memory lane – you know the one that’s paved with clichés and bragging.

Feel free to join me or put down this article right now. Your choice.

Dale was born one month premature. He weighed four-and-a-half pounds and was 17 ¾ inches long. When I got to the hospital, he was lying on my daughter’s chest ‘kangarooing’ – a practice that the March of Dimes advocates for premature babies. By keeping the baby’s body warm, the intimate skin-to-skin contact promotes his health and well-being, keeps his breathing and heart rate regular, increases his chances to nurse successfully (and, hence, gain weight), spend more time in deep sleep, and more time quiet and placid when he’s awake.

My daughter flung the blankets off of her and asked if I wanted to hold him. He was so tiny, and his legs were the size of my index fingers. I was afraid that I would snap him in two if I touched him. The only way I could hold him was when he was tightly swaddled, wearing a cap to keep his little head warm. He looked just like a Glo Worm, that Hasbro doll from the 1980s, so that’s what I called him. And the name has stuck.

As I think about his impending graduation, I reminisce about how my Glo Worm has grown into a fine young man. Relax – I’m not going to subject you to a blow-by-blow of his first 18 years. Just a few to get you through today.

When Dale was a baby, I would spend my spring break with him. My daughter was teaching, and I could cover for his nanny and catch up with my boy. One time, as I sat playing on the carpet with him, he pulled himself up and walked around by holding onto the couch. When he came round to me, he paused and put his head on my shoulder, then resumed his adventure. How sweet is that?

Once, in pre-school, his teacher asked the class who their best friend was. Dale’s best friend was – and still is – his brother Robert. When it was his turn to answer, Dale confidently announced, “brother.” His teacher, an adult, quibbled with him, a three-year-old. “No. Your best friend,” as if the two were mutually exclusive. My boy stood his ground and repeated “brother” a few more times. To her last attempt for a different answer, he held a little fist at his side and stomped his foot, “brother!” – and that was that. He sent her a graduation announcement. He should have included that story as a reminder of who he was – and who he has become.

The first spring of COVID, he told me he wanted to get a job. Then he paused and added, “but other people need work more than I do right now. People who are out of jobs because of COVID. People with families. I can wait.”

That’s who my Glo Worm is. He’s kind and considerate, generous and compassionate. Of course he’s a good student, even if he hates Shakespeare though he’s well aware of what I do for a living. He has received academic honors and ‘Building Blocks of Character’ awards for traits such as responsibility, perseverance, honesty, respect, kindness, teamwork, and flexibility. In fact, his culinary arts teacher wrote a letter about both boys to my daughter and son-in-law, thanking them for “raising such kind, smart and helpful humans. Both Dale and Robert make every class they’re in better just by showing up. They make me excited to come to work every day, and I just love them! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Their principal wrote, “I knew once I met them that, with such an involved mother, they must be good kids. I was wrong – they are exceptional!”

I told the boys that those letters were even more meaningful than their grades. For a teacher to say that they made coming to work worthwhile is an extraordinary compliment. After all these years, I don’t think I can say that about any student, and I’ve taught plenty. That their principal took the time to write their mom a note in which he called them “exceptional” is – well – exceptional.

Dale is an outstanding athlete – he runs cross-country and track and has decorated his room with plaques, ribbons, and medals. He was scouted by his college coach and will continue to run as he pursues his civil engineering degree.

I’m very proud of Dale. All I ever prayed for him for was to be a good, healthy, happy person. And he is.

‘Eis Anotera’, Dale.

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This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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