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A Grandfather’s Tale: Thankful for Turkey

On Building Relationships

A grandfather’s Tale

By David Palmer

One Day at a time | Addictions | A Grandfathers Tale | David Palmer


The late Dr. Conway Hunter used to sponsor an annual, four-day Thanksgiving retreat at St. Simons Island off the Georgia coast for people in recovery from substance addictions, mainly alcohol.

In November of 1990, I joined a contingent from Little Rock at the retreat. I was about ten years sober and felt in need of a spiritual jolt. And I got one. It finally dawned on me at St. Simons that while I had quit drinking ten years earlier, I hadn’t really done enough to get out of my shell and embrace life.

A Catholic priest, known only as Noel, helped me focus more on relationships. He said in one of the opening monologues, “As addicts, it is important for us to remember that our first addiction is not to alcohol and chemicals. It is to being apart. To being isolated and alone. Our addiction really is to nonliving.”

Noel went on to say that this style of “nonliving” is contrary to what God had in mind with the Creation.

“God created us to be together,” Noel said, “to be with each other and with Him. The Scriptures certainly make this clear, and it is what the AA program teaches us. The Big Book tells us to share our experience, strength, and hope with each other.”

This works, I began to realize, on many levels. Let me give you a recent and especially heartwarming example. For me a least.

Near the end of August, my 24 year-old granddaughter, Taylor Palmer, texted me at our family cottage in Canada from Izmir, Turkey, a city of almost 4 million on the Aegean Sea. I had been watching television reports of the developing crisis in Syria, Turkey’s unruly neighbor to the south, so her text was timely.

Looking in Turkey

Taylor, an American, was traveling as an au pair with a Turkish family, Deniz and Oya Gezlik, and their two small children on their way from Istanbul to Bodrum, a seaside resort south of Izmir (formerly Smyrna and then Smyrna) on the Aegean sea.

Thankfully, her message had nothing to do with events unfolding  in Syria. She was looking rather for directions to an apartment building in Izmir where my wife, Joan, and I had lived with our infant son, David, Taylor’s father, almost 60 years ago.

At that time, the summer of 1954, I was a newly commissioned naval officer, assigned to the sixth fleet for my first tour of duty as part of a support detachment for the new NATO headquarters in Izmir.

During our two years in Izmir, we came to love the sprawling city on the side of a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea. We loved it’s fresh markets, it’s teahouses it’s breathtaking sunlit views of land and sea. And we loved its antiquity. Smyrna was one of the seven churches of Revelation. Two other Revelation churches—Ephesis and Pergamom—are also in Turkey.

Taylor, and our six other grandchildren (all boys) had heard my wife and me speak of our fondness for Turkey, and she wanted to see where her father spent his early childhood.

I was touched by Taylor’s request and frantically Googled Izmir hoping to find the address of the Venus apartments where we lived those six decades ago, but the city has tripled in size, modern thoroughfares have replaced many of the chaotic cobblestone streets, and old addresses have changed. I finally gave up.

Taylor, I must tell you, is one smart young lady and a bit of a princess, but she is also compassionate. Born on the Big Island of Hawaii, she attended private school on the island and excelled in athletics.  She’s a graduate of the University of Miami and has worked for cutting edge marketing and graphic arts agencies in Chicago. She is worthy of the label “fashionista.”

I Don’t Think I’m An Alcoholic

Two years ago, Taylor went through a traumatic experience and  thought she might be developing an addiction to alcohol. We talked about her fears, and in one of her visits, she joined me in attending my usual AA meetings in Little Rock and introduced herself.

Before she left for Chicago, she said to me, “grandpa. Would you be mad at me if I told you, I don’t think I am an alcoholic?”

I said, “No. Not at all, Taylor. One way to prove it one way or another is to see if you can drink the way normal people do—occasionally and without getting drunk.”

That’s what she did, and I concluded that, today, she is a social drinker and not an alcoholic but should probably keep an eye on things.

Right Living

Shortly after that, much to my surprise, she began raising money to go to India to help teach underprivileged children. Her visit took her to Mumbai,  Delhi and some smaller villages with a side trip to Tibet where the Dalai Lama lives.

Here is an excerpt of what she said about the experience in Mumbai.

         “We cross a six lane highway and walk through a dumping ground to get to the slum, which is nothing more than rows of mud huts and sheeted houses. The school is merely a tent held up with bamboo and a tarp.

         “Each morning I’m greeted by my twelve students with “good morning ma’am!” We start each day with a baby wipe. I have them wipe their faces and blow their runny noses and say “soonda!” to make sure they all know they’re beautiful.”

The next year, Taylor got the au pair job with Deniz and Oya in the suburbs of Istanbul. By the way, Deniz and I have recently hooked up on Facebook, and my wife Joan and Oya, both women of significant beauty, have made contact through Taylor.






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