Archived Story

Grandpa says you can’t get there from here

Published 8:59am Friday, February 28, 2014

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I learned this in geometry class. It is one of the first theorems taught and is the foundation of all things geometric. Arguably, it could be considered one of life’s greatest lessons because it sums up the very essence of efficiency. However, my grandfather held a completely different point of view.

Grandpa’s den was his inner sanctum, private and secluded from the rest of the world. On the few treasured occasions when I was granted the special childhood privilege of entrance into grandpa’s holiest of holies, I was amazed by the plethora of maps that filled the room.

He had state highway maps, county plat maps, regional topographical surveys, world atlases assembled chronologically since the 1950s. All were reverently organized and displayed.

Grandpa knew maps and how to get anywhere and everywhere. But, never ask Grandpa for directions.

“Ya start from where ya are and head out.”

Grandpa always began directions from “where ya are.” He reasoned that no one wanted to start from where they weren’t.

“There’ll be a fork in the road quite a ways up, and normally you’d want to just go through that when you get to it. But, you’re gonna turn way before ya get there.”

Grandpa’s directions held no shortage of information.

“On the right, just past the old Adler place…” Five families have lived in the “Old Adler Place,” including a distant cousin of Grandma’s, but it was still the “Old Adler Place” to Grandpa.

“You’ll see a big rock shaped like a bear. Some folks say it looks like a beaver, but beavers aren’t that big.”

It was just as necessary to include editorial comment as directional information.

“Go right on past the road after the rock, because it only goes back to the quarry, and that’s not where ya want to go.”

Not only did Grandpa know where you wanted to go, he also knew where you didn’t want to go.

He knew every road in three counties, not because he had maps and lots of them, but because he traveled each and every one of those roads. His philosophy was to never travel the same route twice. He followed one way to go somewhere and followed another way to return back home. To Grandpa, it was the joy of the journey, not the anticipation of the destination.

Grandpa paid close attention to his surroundings as he made his way along. He knew when things were as they always had been and when inevitable changes had occurred. The more roads he traveled, the more about life he knew. The more he learned about life, the more of life’s highways he wanted to take.

Yes, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but Grandpa didn’t see it that way. Sometimes, you just can’t get there from here; you have to go someplace else, first.


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at

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