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An Open Letter to My Grandson on His First Birthday

Well, my grandson, Jackson Edward Wagner, turned one year old on Monday, November 28, 2016.

jackson1stbday
Jackson Edward experiences his first birthday cake. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I have written him a letter.

It is my hope that someday he will read this letter and understand why he is so treasured by me and the value of the sage advice his wise, old grandfather has offered him.

My grandson, Jackson Edward Wagner, and me pose outdoors with clad our camouflage shirts. Photo by Polly Wagner.
My grandson, Jackson Edward Wagner, and I outdoors clad in our camouflage shirts. Photo by Polly Wagner.

November 30, 2016

My Dearest Jackson,

It’s been a year since I held you in my arms at the hospital and had that extraordinary feeling that things would never be the same for our family ever again. It was the exact same feeling I had when they handed your father over to me in the delivery room when he was born decades ago.

I have to admit, your arrival took me completely by surprise and astonishment. I knew you would be cute. I knew you would be special. However, I never dreamed how quickly and overwhelmingly you would captivate my heart.

It didn’t end there. Every time I saw you, you were even more beautiful, even more precious and seemed even more cascading with joy. My heart abruptly halts when you look at me and smile with that huge, unrestrained smile of recognition. It takes so little to please you and the reward for doing so is just so great, it makes being near you a sudden pleasure.

You have such a wonderful curiosity, an interest in the world around you including the natural one. I love that you want to look at everything, touch everything, and of course taste everything (well, almost everything). I hope you never lose that sense of wonderment.

Jackson Edward experiences a fall leaf pile for the first time. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Jackson Edward experiences a fall leaf pile for the first time. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

It has been so amazing watching you experience new things, especially those outdoors. One of the best things about life is that you will be continually encountering new scenarios, having new experiences and learning from each of them.

Your great-grandfather, whose middle name you bear, always used to say: “It’s the journey not the destination, that truly matters.” He would add:  “You don’t have to get to the top of the mountain, it’s about what you experience along the way that is most important.”

In my 54 years, I have had many different life experiences and lessons of which I believe you can benefit. So, I  jotted down a personal, stream-of-consciousness list of how, in my view, you can live a happy, healthy and full life. Here is the list:

    • You are very smart and can do anything you want.
    • Take chances, try new things, have no regrets!
    • Be confident in yourself and don’t ruminate too much on past decisions.
    • Have a positive outlook. One’s optimistic attitude has a profound effect on the overall quality of his or her life. Enthusiasm doesn’t survive in a negative atmosphere either.
    • Always be kind to others, even if you do not like them!
    • Have fun and don’t take life too seriously. Laughter and nonsense wake up brain cells! I am reminded of this from a quote by Mark Twain: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
    • Remember that money and material things accumulated in one’s life really do not matter. What does matter is leaving a legacy of good character and taking care of people, the land and the environment.  
    • Spend a sizable portion of your life outside in nature participating in a variety of activities for health, well-being and to gain the utmost appreciation for our planet, the wild creatures that live on it and the connections that have been forged.
    • Keep in mind that meaningful experiences outdoors can actually change the course of your life for the better, both mentally and physically.
    • You have a rich heritage and an ingrained Nebraska pioneer spirit. Know it, be proud of it and glean information from it!
    • Keep a journal or write short stories about yourself and your experiences. No one will know what family history and events were like unless someone took the time to document it, at least from their perspective!
    • Never forget, no matter what you do in this life, I will always love you, unconditionally!

With eternal affection,

Your Grandpa Wagner, a.k.a. “The Crazy Old Man.”

jacksongrandpaw
Grandpa and Jackson Edward having a fun time. Photo by Zach Wagner.

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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