How’d you talk if you couldn’t tweet? I tweet all the time. Watch! Mom hates it when I do this. I like FaceTime better. It’s more personal.
We sent letters. We wrote them with a pencil or a pen, put them in envelopes, licked the back of the postage stamps — if you had lots of letters, it took a long time — and we took them to the Post Office. The letters would arrive in two or three days, sometimes a week. We had to be patient back then. Everything was slower.
And we dialed phone numbers on rotary phones. I still remember our number on Church Lane, EL6-1490. Teddy Bonsall’s was EL6-1476. And sometimes, when I’d pick up the phone to dial Teddy, somebody else was already talking to somebody else on our phone. It was called “a party line“.
Wow! Did you have parties every day?
It’s hard to explain, Elijah. Maybe this will help. Search for the Postage Stamp Monologue on Mom’s iPad for a better feel for how grampa feels most of the time in your world.
Wow! He’s really mad, grampa! I’m glad you don’t have to lick postage stamps anymore or dial 999-999-9999, like Vanya. I got an idea! Let’s FaceTime Uncle Andrew and Calvin!
Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa), Chaska, MN, Nov. 7, 2019.
A conversation between two year-old Elijah and old Grandpa (Bumpa)
Bumpa, you’re old. You know LOTS of stuff. What’s a crater?
Where’d you hear about craters, Elijah? Have you been watching the nature channel at daycare?
We don’t have the nature channel at daycare. We watch stuff for kids on PBS.
I don’t think we have any craters here in Minnesota.
Whew! So we don’t have to look out for craters?
Are you sure you have the right word?
Yeah. It’s all over the news this week. Didn’t you watch Adam Sniff?
Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. Let’s look it up.
Yeah, let’s look it up. You want to do it? Or you want me to do it?
Let’s do it together on my iPad. I’ll be right back.
You don’t to have go upstairs, Bumpa. I don’t want ya falling. I have Mom’s iPhone right here. I use it all the time.
Okay, just google the word ‘crater’ and let’s see what comes up.
I don’t spell yet. I’m still liddle, but I know my ABCs. Sometimes in my car seat I punch a bunch of buttons and somebody Mom doesn’t know talks to me on FaceTime!
Okay. Let Bumpa do it. I’m 77. Okay?
Let’s just google crater and see what we learn.
Finding Wikipedia satellite photo in Google search
There we go, Elijah. Here’s a picture of Crater Lake in Oregon. Gandpa and Grandma have been to see it.
Here’s what it says on Wikipedia:
Around 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama erupted in Oregon, disgorging 15 cubic miles of magma over the western United States. It took a quarter of a millennium of snow and rain to fill the caldera with the serene waters wanderlust hikers now know as Crater Lake. Image from a RapidEye satellite.
Wikipedia Crater lake description.
I don’t get it, Bumba! So why would anyone call somebody a ‘crater’? We’re not sposed to call people names, right?
Right! Maybe you have the wrong word. Or the wrong spelling. What was the other word you asked about?
Elijah asks about creezins
Yeah. Creezin! It’s like craters! Don’t you ever listen to the news?
I do. I listen to MPR when I’m driving.
Yeah, Mom and I do too on the way to daycare and on the way home. We get lots of news. It’s an hour drive each way. It’s like ‘crater’.
I see. Was there a volcanic eruption? I must have missed it.
Geez! It’s all over the news. Creezin! Everybody’s talking about it. Don’t ya know?
You mean raisins? Granpa eats raisin bran every morning.
Uh-oh! Are they going to throw you and Gamma out? Are they going to de-peach you cause you eat raisin bran? You’re white, but don’t live in a white house, right? Did you commit creezin?
Not to worry, Elijah. We’re safe. Grandma and are not going to be de-peached. Any other word you don’t understand?
Elijah asks Bumpa about cranes
Yeah. Ucrane. We have sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans at the cabin, right? Are there any ucranes?
We have sandhill cranes and frumpeter swans on the wetland, Elijah. So far as we know, there are no cranes by rhe cabin. It’s a long way from the news.
We’re like Greta, right? We’re conservationists, right, Bumpa? Do ucranes whistle? Or do they also whoop and honk?
–Conversation between Grandpa (Bumpa) and 2 yr.-old grandson (Elijah), Chaska, MN, September 28, 2019.
Uhuh! I’m watching it right now, Bumpa. It’s real! The Big Bad Pig destroys the three houses of the three liddle wolves.
There’s a story Bumpa and Gamma grew up with, but it’s the Big Bad Wolf who’s bad. The Big Bad Wolf huffs and he puffs and he blows down two of the three little pigs’ houses but can’t blow down the third little pig’s house because the third little pig build his house of brick. The Big Bad Wolf couldn’t blow it down.
Nope! Different story! This is about the Big Bad Pig. Pigs are greedy, Bumpa. Pigs are nasty! The Big Bad Pig blows up all the houses, even the one made with brick and the one made of concrete. But then the three liddle wolves give up on security. They build a house made of flowers!
Today my brother Bob and sister-in-law Janice will drive to Indiantown Gap National Cemetery to lay flowers on Dad’s grave.
Our father served as the Army Air Force chaplain for troops in the South Pacific before, during, and after the bombing of Tokyo. During Dad’s absence, my mother and I lived with my grandparents in Boston and South Paris, Maine, where Dad’s safe return was foremost in prayers before every meal.
I was three-and-a-half when Dad came home at the end of the war. The memory is clear as a bell. I watched as my father emerge from the B-29 bomber, walked down the ramp and across the tarmac at Boston’s Logan Airport. When he picked me up and took me in his arms, I reared back and asked “Are you really my Daddy?” “I am,” he said, “and I’m never going away again.”
All these years later, my hair has turned white, my skin is wrinkled, the world is mute without the hearing aids, my bones ache, and my head hurts most days. But I’m still the three year-old who felt the heavy weight of concern around my grandparents’ table listening for news from the South Pacific
Today I’m remembering again that night when the burly WWII Marine veteran unburdened himself of the locked box of hidden artifacts from the Japanese soldier he’d killed in hand-to-hand combat during the American invasion of Saipan. The ending of the story written just a few years ago is sorely incomplete.
So…today I observe Memorial Day by returning to the original sense of Memorial Day as a day to remember the fallen – ALL of them – but even more, a day to re-commit to ending the insanity of war itself. It’s a day when I remember the in-breaking of sacredness – three men in the living room – two live Americans and one Japanese – and pray for something better for us all.
Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, p.12
This Memorial Day the three-year-old who waited for his father’s return remembers how strange memory is. As Bob and Janice lay flowers on Dad’s grave today, I am more conscious of a glaring omission. There were not three men in the living room that night. There were four. Dad was the first man there. Bless you, Dad. RIP.