Holding Opposites

On an early summer's day, just after I started the summer break from college, my mother asked me if I would help my grandfather put the screens up on his porch. She knew I loved my grandfather and would do anything for him.

I arrived at the home of Captain James Alexander Ross, Jr. United States Army, retired. I know now that Grandpa had the dual associative and sequential and dual essential and symbolic observer. He had an extremely high-quality standard. Grandpa was career Army. He had been a combat engineer. He had commanded teams whose job was to build and repair roads and bridges, build and stabilize structures, while other people were actively trying to kill them. He was at the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Buchenwald.

That job done, today he had his attention on the oldest of his 26 grandchildren. I was an oppositional, overconfident, somewhat sloppy, nineteen-year-old.

I got the screens out of the cellar and stacked them near the brush, hose, and bucket of soapy water Grandpa had prepared. I was to thoroughly scrub the frames and screens, rinse them thoroughly, and stack them to dry.

At one point, I noticed he had taken a screen off the drying stack and returned it to the to-do stack. This was typical. His high-quality standard was hard for nearly anyone to hit the first try. After a few more passes, I realized I was getting screens back for a third pass. I was feeling a bit exasperated because I couldn't see any difference, but it was summer's day, I had nothing better to do, and I loved that old man.

At one point, I realized this wasn't going to end and I gave him a look. He twinkled back at me, and said, "You know. You really should tell me to go to hell."

Of all my life's lessons -- learned the easy ways and the hard ways -- this has been my most memorable.

He was teaching me to hold opposites. On the Sequential side, I was being obedient to authority. On the symbolic Observer side, I was expressing love. With his dual access, he counterbalanced. On the Associative side, there was context and experience. It was my job and I knew how to do it. On the essential Observer side. it was more than good enough the first time, and now we're wasting time, attention, and energy.

Six decades later, I still miss him every day.

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