By William Holland and Jude Tazioli
The “UNLIKELY TRIO IN THE TIME OF COVID-19” met as neighbors and bonded when 91-year-old grandfather Bill (Guppy), 54-year-old Jude, and his 7-year-old son, Teddy, formed a quarantine pod on Guppy’s beachfront terrace during the pandemic. They became close friends sharing stories and meals. Interestingly, the generational divide didn’t impede the concern and support they shared as they confronted life’s inevitable difficulties. Their collective story is an inspiring fun-filled journey of learning, camaraderie, and joy during one of the bleakest years in modern history.
What is Bill learning from Teddy?
Some adults don’t truly love children, sadly, not even their own. Adults in their eighties and nineties seem to find little ones noisy and distracting and you can sense their judgment in restaurants and other public places. They don’t realize what they’re missing and might change their minds if they interacted with children, watched them play, and played with them. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes It is the easiest way to feel young again.
Guppy has always loved children but hasn’t had children in his life since he stopped tutoring inner-city kids several years ago. Then Teddy came along and shared his world with Guppy. The joy, happiness, excitement, and sometimes sadness, is something Guppy would never have experienced at this time in his life. Now, his loveliest moments happen in Teddy’s yard as the neighborhood kids skate, swing, play golf, hit baseballs, play chess, slackline, and roughhouse.
Teddy shares wisdom unusual for a seven-year-old. He once asked Guppy if they could sit down and talk. When it was Teddy’s turn to name a topic, he chose “presents.” He said his favorite playthings are those he makes himself, “not gifts from people who use presents to say they love me.”
He has encouraged Guppy to refrain from the occasional bad word, developing an abbreviated code, “PM,” short for “potty-mouth.” It’s more of a tease, but it’s cute and effective. The “PM” code came to be after Teddy once uttered a curse word, and his dad quickly admonished him. Teddy asked why he could not swear. Jude replied, “Because you shouldn’t,” and Teddy replied, “Why?” At this point, Teddy reminded his father of a promise he had made to explain things, and if he didn’t, Teddy should call him out.
Jude gave it some thought and replied, “Teddy, you can swear as much as you would like. You can swear all day long if you want. However, you have to make a choice when you do that. Do you want people to view you as a cute little kid or a kid with a potty mouth? He then asked his father if anyone might have heard him utter the word in question. Jude smiled and replied, “No, your reputation is still intact.” Teddy smiled and said, “So I’m still a cute little kid.” Now it’s Teddy teaching Guppy about the importance of not being a “PM.”
What is Teddy learning?
Teddy has learned the importance of kindness and respect from his Dad. He is comfortable in the presence of adults and is an empathic listener. He is finding his way on the tricky path of having divorced parents through the loving relationships he enjoys with both.
Raised in a tough-love household himself, Guppy was firm but fair with his own two children. His wife focused on their study habits and their success in school was largely because of her. She was the “good cop”, and while Guppy wasn’t a “bad cop”, he ran a tight ship. His son and daughter had to make their beds, hang up their clothes, do their chores without complaint, and behave.
While mom paved the way for their excellent college educations, dad promoted the highest ranking in Girl Scouts for their daughter and Eagle Scout for their son. Both mom and dad had a hand in their kid’s election to President of their High School sophomore classes, but the kids made it happen. Teddy sees Guppy in his parent mode, too, as Bill gently encourages him to make his bed, pick up his clothes, remain seated at the dinner table until excused, and not interrupt adults in conversation.
What is Bill learning from Jude?
When Jude heard about Guppy’s recent Stage 4 bone cancer diagnosis, he reminded him of his own cancer diagnosis at age 26. Jude had seen the devastating effects of cancer treatment, having a brother endure the same illness as a child and as a teen, and watching his father’s slow, painful death from the same disease.
Jude adopted a raw vegan diet to help minimize chemo’s toxic effects and strengthen his immune system to fight his cancer. It was the beginning of his lifelong passion for health. Incorporating yoga and philosophical insights from mentors, including Joseph Campbell and later Caroline Myss, he created what he calls a three-legged stool for optimum living.
Guppy was intrigued, so for the past several months his breakfast has consisted of an algae-like blend of nutritious powders, hemp protein, and flax oil. Remarkably, he is experiencing heightened energy levels, mental focus and vitality while chronic aches and pains have miraculously disappeared. The addition of regular exercise and Campbell and Myss’s life teachings have made Guppy a new man – healthier and happier than ever. (The “Smalgae” (an algae smoothie) recipe is available on request.)
Jude has also taught Guppy something that he has long practiced, but Guppy has not. He explained that forgiveness is not something you give someone else, but a gift you give yourself since carrying the heavy burden of resentment slows you down and drains your life’s joy.
These learnings would have not resonated if not for the manner in which Jude imparts them. Whatever the influence or suggestion, it is a hint from Jude and never a requirement. The suggestions are backed up by evidence and proof that they work. Guppy has never known anyone as intelligent, well-read, and incredibly retentive as Jude. If Jude has adopted a particular practice it has been thoroughly researched and analyzed giving Guppy the confidence to follow suit.
What is Jude learning from Bill?
Jude has always known how to laugh and have fun, but the last few years have given him fewer reasons to laugh. One evening while reveling over dinner on the terrace, Jude realized he was laughing again. The previous two years’ challenges were so insidious that Jude hadn’t even realized that the laughter that once filled his life had gone silent. It returned, and so did his sense of humor.
Jude sold the beach-front condo to his ex-wife’s new husband and found a home a short distance away. After a very successful 25-year career in the food industry, Jude decided it was time to try something new. He had several exciting career choices to consider based upon his actual part-time experience while working. Guppy encouraged him to pursue full-time day trading – something he loves and at which he excels.
Throughout Jude’s life, he’s been fortunate to have some incredible mentors who were also close friends. But of all the individuals Jude has known, none has equaled Guppy, who has shown extraordinary wisdom and patience in doling out the advice and encouragement that have helped him soar again.
Photos: Jude Tazioli