Grandpa, he’s just a baby!

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“Grandpa, they think I’m a baby. I don’t like all these stuffed animals!”

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“I can see that, Elijah. But, ya know . . .  you’re still a baby.”

“I’m not, Grandpa. I’m not a baby! I’m 12!”

“Well, I understand that you feel that way. You have very little control. You’re still very vulnerable at 12 weeks. You have no defense against Mom and Grandma putting stuffed animals in your arms whether you want them or not. But you’re not ready for independence.”

“Uh-uh! Am too!”

“No, you’re really not. You still need your diapers changed.”

“So what? So does the President! He’s just a baby, Grandpa. How come nobody’s helping him? You could give him one of my stuffed animals to help him be calm. He can have this one. Except for black eyes, it’s all white and kinda cuddly, and it is an elephant!”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 17, 2017

 

The President’s hand

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Listening includes watching. Do the words match the body language? If they’re different, what does the body language tell us that the words do not?

I’ve been watching the president’s hands lately. He’s doing something different with them. With palm facing the rest of the world, his fingers are spread apart, as when one pushes someone or something away. Other times they seem to be waving something away.

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There are fewer closed circles with pointed fingers, although they still appear at moments that are just as telling as his facial expressions.

Every one of us is a community of voices from the past — the community of DNA and family culture — and it is not unusual for the voice of a father to shout in a son’s ear even at the age of 71.

 

FredTrumpArrestWhen one grew up in the shadow of a father who had been arrested and discharged, rightly or wrongly alleged to have marched with the KKK, and years later had been investigated by a U.S. Senate committee for wartime profiteering and by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for civil rights violations, what is the son to say and do following the nation’s focus on Charlottesville, Virginia?

Publicly slap his father, give him the back of his hand? Defend him by feuding again with the “faux media” that wrongfully accused his innocent father of being a KKK marcher and white supremacist? Push the rest of the world away from the family whose patriarch’s reputation as a tenant landlord drew the scornful attention of Woody Guthrie?

Only Donald or members of his closest family can tell us. But, like most families, this one knows how to keep its secrets.

For the nation’s sake and for his, one might pray and hope that those within Mr. Trump’s closest circle — not the circle of his public persona of closed certainty, but the intimate circle of those who him best and love him — will take the President’s hand the way a mother takes the hand of a frightened child and walk him to Trump Tower . . . or to a hospital where he can get the care he needs.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 17, 2017.

 

Grandpa, did the President (not) say that?

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President Trump’s statement and silence about white supremacy following the terror in in Charlottesville prompted a brief but telling conversation in Minnesota.

IMG_5234“Grandpa, the President just said he wants me to feel safe to play outside, right?”

“Right, Elijah, that’s what he said. That had nothing to do with the reason for the violence in Charlottesville, but, yes, he did say that.”

“Yeah, if he cares about all the children, why didn’t he say the words?”

“What words, Elijah?”

“You know, Grandpa. You know!”

“I do, Elijah. I do.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 13, 2017.

 

The Dumpster-Diver — Johnny Appleseed

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There are many ways to write a counter-narrative to America’s throw-away consumer culture.

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It could be this spoken narrative critique by Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann.

Or it could be the unpublished daily dumpster-diving exploits in a city’s back alleys by a 21st Century Johnny Appleseed, the dumpster-diver whose birthday today is worth a more public salute and a joyful celebration.

Chris’s narrative is written in the indelible ink of daily dives that rescue our society’s “junk” from trips to the maxed-out landfills of America’s throw-away consumer culture.

Chris is anything but a back alley throw-away in our family. He’s our Johnny Appleseed — our Walter Brueggemann!

Happy birthday, Chris!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 5, 2017.

10-week-old Elijah & Grandpa

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Eli at 10 IMG_0753“Grandpa, I’m big. I’m 10 weeks old today! How old are you?”

“Well, Elijah, there are lots of ways to calculate that. Usually we tell a person’s age in years. Kinda hard for a 10-week-old to understand, huh?”

“Yeah. What’s a year?”

“Like I said, it’s kinda hard to understand but let’s try. Okay?”

“Give me your best shot!”

“Okay, a year is 12 months and…”

“What’s a month?”

“A month is four weeks and usually a few days. It’s always four weeks (27 days) but, depending on the month, it can be four weeks and three days like November, April, June, and September; it can be four weeks and one one day like February, except every four years when it’s Leap Year. All the rest of the months have 31 days.”

“Grandpa, why are you talking like this? You’re not making any sense. Are you senile? Does being old mean you can’t answer a simple question, Grandpa? This conversation started with a simple question: How old are you? I’m 10-weeks-old. So…how old are  you?”

“I’m almost 75, Elijah.”

Eli 10 IMG_0754“Wow! You’re 7.5 times older than I am!

“Actually, the difference is a LOT bigger than that. Let’s think of the years as weeks. There are 52 weeks in a year.

“Yeah! I’m 10. How many are you?”

“I’m 3,899 weeks OLDER than you, almost three-quarters of a century, Elijah.”

“Wow! What’s a century?”

  • Grandpa Gordon, August 1, 2017.

 

Elijah against the Establishment

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Elijah back to work“Grandpa, HELP! Mom’s taking me to day care! She’s going to leave me with a stranger!!!”

“I know, Elijah. Mom has to go back to work.

“What’s work? WHY?!!! She’s never gone to work before!!!”

“Well, work is what adults do. They can’t just stay home all the time.”

“What you talking about? You stay home all the time!”

“Yes, but Grandpa’s different. I’m retired.”

“What’s ‘retired’?”

“It means I’m older than Mom. I don’t have to work anymore. Mom is young. She has to go back to work. You’re nine weeks old now.”

“That’s not night! In Denmark or Croatia Mom could stay home with me for one whole year with full pay!”

“I know, Elijah, but we don’t live in Denmark or Croatia. We live in the U.S.A. Stop crying in your milk and get ready for day care.”

“No!! I’m not going!”

“Well, I’m sorry, but you don’t have much choice, Elijah. This is America and Mom has to feed you. She has to go back to work tomorrow — or you’ll be homeless.”

“Uhuhh! You’ll see! She’ll be sorry. I’m going to scream my head off in the car seat and all day long at the baby sitter’s! We’re in America, Grandpa. I’m sticking by my right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!’ You’re part of the establishment!”

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, July 27, 2017.

 

 

Elijah back to work

Grandpa, Who’s John Burroughs?

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Elijah overhears Grandpa and Grandma talking about John Burroughs.

“Grandpa, who’s John Burroughs?”

“Well, Elijah, there’s John Burroughs and then there’s the John Burroughs. We’re not talking about the John Burroughs.”

EliC43CF607-9499-4D51-BF55-CFCEB806711C“I’m confused, and you’re confusing!”

“I understand. It is confusing. I can see why you’d be confused.”

“I’m only eight-weeks old, Grandpa! I shouldn’t have be be confused already. I have plenty of time to get like you.”

“Okay. I apologize. Grandma and I shouldn’t be talking about this in your presence. We’ll try to be more careful.”

“Thanks, Grandpa. I don’t want to be as confused as you are! So, who’s John Burroughs?”

“Okay, like I said, there are two John Burroughs. There’s a guy named John Burroughs who wrote a nice review of Grandpa’s book, and there’s the John Burroughs who’s famous. That John Burroughs died a long time ago. This John Burroughs is still alive. I know nothing about him. He likes my book.”

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The John Burroughs, American naturalist and essayist (1837-1921)

“Wow! You don’t know anything about John Burroughs, but he knows about your book? Maybe John Burroughs knows you quote John Muir, the John Burroughs’ close friend! Maybe this John Burroughs is the John Burroughs’ grandson!”

“No, Elijah. Not everyone who is the grandson of someone famous!”

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, July 20, 2017.

 

 

 

Grandpa, you gonna answer that?

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When the area code on the caller ID is unfamiliar, do you take the call or let it to go into voicemail?

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“Grandpa, did you put your hearing aids in this morning?”

“Yes, Elijah. Why?”

“‘Cause the phone’s ringing!”

“I know. It’s annoying.”

“Then why don’t you answer it?”

“I don’t recognize the number on the caller ID. I get lots of calls from solicitors.”

“What’s a solicitor, Grandpa?”

“Well, a solicitor can be lots of things. But, in this case, it’s someone who’s selling something over the phone. They intrude on my privacy.”

“Yeah, we like privacy, right, Grandpa? Just you and me! just the two of us after I’ve been fed.”

“Right.”

“But the phone keeps ringing. Just because you don’t recognize the area code doesn’t mean it’s a solicitor. It could be good news, like you won the Lottery or something! Maybe it’s the New York Times Book Review or The New Yorker telling you they’re going to review your book!”

 

“Okay, good point, Elijah!”

I pick up the phone.

“Mr. Stewart, this is Jane from the Anglican Journal. I’m calling to let you know that we’ll be reviewing Be Still! this fall.”

Eli C43CF607-9499-4D51-BF55-CFCEB806711C“Wow, Grandpa! What’s the Anglican Journal? Is it like the New York Times?”

“No, Elijah, it’s Canadian. Jane was calling from Toronto.”

“From Canada?! You got a call from the Anglicans in Canada and you almost didn’t take it? Next time the phone rings, you’d better answer it. It could be the New York Times!”

“It’s not going to be the New York Times, Elijah! Trust me!”

“Why? You’re a minister, right? You’re supposed to know your Bible!!! Jesus said you should listen to me. It says so right there in Matthew 21:16:

have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself?’?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 19, 2019

Elijah’s dimpled smile

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On his eight-week birthday, Elijah lights up the world with a dimpled smile for Grandma.

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Elijah on his eight-week birthday

Elijah knows nothing of adult dangers, toils, and snares — like his mother’s seven weeks of sleepless nights or the evening news that seem to erase dimples from older cheeks.

He lives completely in the moment. Today’s a really special day. The first thing Elijah saw when he opened his eyes was a different kind of dimpled smile he’d not yet seen on Mom’s face.

He and Mom are celebrating the long-suffering love that has brought them safely through the night to his eight-week birthday, the day after their first nearly full night’s sleep.

“Grandma! Look what I did!”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 18, 2017.

Elijah’s Joy: Life is beautiful!

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Elijah no longer watches CNN or any other news channels. He’s become a Gopher — a Minnesota Gopher fan, but he doesn’t care about sports or any kind of competition. He’s all smiles watching his mobile characters stroll across his crib, enjoying the music and his mother’s and grandmother’s voices.

We should all be so happy!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, July 6, 2017