HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE CUTEST AND THE WISEST: A STORY OF HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTED FAMILY ACROSS GENERATIONS

Yesterday my family celebrated the shared birthday of two guys we’ve designated “the cutest” and “the wisest”.

“The Cutest”
Name:  Justus Floyd Burton
Age:  2
Past Times and Hobbies:  Being cute, duh. Also saying things that are so adorable you want to squeeze him, playing hardcore with anything with wheels, and pronouncing anything that has the “k” sound as a “t” (e.g. “fork” equals “fort”).
Claim to Fame:  He is really, really good at redistribution. And by redistribution, I mean redistributing Cheerios from the box to the floor.

“The Wisest”
Name:  Floyd Wesley Burton
Age:  87
Past Times and Hobbies:  Antique cars. Spending time with friends and relatives. Helping out on the farm. Serving others.
Claim to Fame:  There is so much. He can fix anything. Anything. He’s a self-taught farmer/engineer/mechanic with an intense work ethic and a never-give-up attitude. He’s faithful to his wife of over 60 years, faithful to his family, faithful to his friends, and faithful to his community.

These two. There are almost no words for how precious this relationship is.

Justus is the youngest of my brother and his wife Tyler’s children, the youngest of Floyd’s great-grandchildren. Floyd is my father’s father, my gramps.  Weeks before Justus’ birth, I followed a link from my sister-in-law’s Facebook to an online blog, accidentally discovering that she had commented under the blog article that if their baby was a boy, they were going to name him Justus Floyd.

I virtually tiptoed away, and never said a word about it to anyone. On August 28, 2014, the phone call came.

They’d had a boy.

They’d named him Justus Floyd.

I just could not imagine how Gramps was feeling when he heard the news, but my heart was smiling so big because it was just so right.

A photo of Justus’ older brother Tariq when he lived overseas. Notice who’s commenting right away!

Backtrack a few years. My brother and sister-in-law lived overseas for years, doing hard things in countries people don’t go to. They gave birth to their two older kiddos in the States, and we all treasured the early months of their lives, then watched the first few years of their lives in pictures through the internet. And guess who was first in line for updates on Facebook?

Gramps. He lets nothing stop him from being there for his friends and family.

And aren’t we all like that? The things that are important to us are the things we spend our energy, time, and money on. Most people wouldn’t guess than an 80-something-year-old great-grandfather would be eager to learn new-to-him social media platforms. Most people would say, “There’s no way you’ll see my grandfather on Facebook!”

I wouldn’t be too sure.

Family was a powerful motivator for Gramps, and he’s never been afraid to learn new things. So he bought a laptop. Then an iPad. A smartphone was next, followed by a mobile hotspot. It’s entirely possible that today, at 87 years old, he owns more tech gadgets than the rest of us.

Gramps dove headfirst into digital communication. The 13-hour time difference made direct communication difficult, but he made it work. Before long he was researching how to set up and maintain solar electricity panels and sending blueprints to my brother’s e-mail, catching on all the latest photos from overseas, posting and commenting from his winter home in Texas, and Skype calling to say hello.

My brother and his family are back in the States now. Last month, they moved in just down the road from the family farm. Guess who was there almost every day during the renovation and move in process? That’s right, my Gramps.

Last night we all gathered at their new home for a joint birthday party, celebrating the cute and the wise. We ate good food and laughed a lot. Our days of overseas communication are over, but Gramps is still going strong on social media. He tried it. He liked it. And he came back for more. I’m so glad.

Happy birthday boys. Love you!

Christa

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