Ever wonder about your DNA?

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How much of you is written already by the latest rendition of the old doctrine of predestination? Not so much by religious predestination as by your DNA? Or are predestination and DNA the same?

Reconnecting with the second cousin from the Andrews family raises the questions. I’d only met her once sixty years ago, yet, like twins separated by distance and circumstance, the parallels of perception, pencraft, and psyche are unmistakable.

Mr. Rogers assured the children that each of them was special. I like the sentiment but have preferred the word ‘unique’. None of us is nearly as ‘special’ as we’re prone to think we are, but, come to think of it, neither is any of us quite as unique as ego might lead us to think.

As Carl Sandburg reminded me, “O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie inside my ribs!” Many of the creatures in my zoo were not of my choosing. They were, you might say, predestined. They predetermined me. Some of them date back to the Andrews family in Andrews Hollow, Maine, and as farther back into time than memory can follow.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 12, 2017

 

Grandpa, who’s Mr. Rogers?

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Well-fed Elijah has become curious about television. He has a new topic and questions.

“Grandpa, Mom’s been watching CNN. What’s CNN?”

“It’s a 24-hours-a-day news channel, one of many television channels.”

“Yeah, my great uncle John doesn’t like CNN. He told Mom she should be watching FOX. What’s FOX, Grandpa?”

“Well, Elijah, it’s too early for that discussion. There are more choices than CNN and FOX.

“Yeah, like MSNBC and Rachel Maddow! I like Rachel! I don’t like Sean Hannity. He’s mean!”

“I understand. But you need to be careful. Both Rachel and Sean only do one-way conversations.”

“Yeah, like ours, right Grandpa?”

“Sort of. But you get to talk back to me. Sort of. I can hear you. Rachel and Sean can’t and they don’t care what you have to say. When you get older you can choose your own television channel. You don’t have to watch the news all the time. But no matter what you end up watching, you’ll always have Grandpa.”

“But, Grandpa! There’s a lot of scary stuff out there in the big world. When I grow up, do I have to go out there?”

Big_bird_book_kids“Yes, Elijah, but this isn’t the time to worry about that.”

Ask Mom to turn on Sesame Street. There are lots of fun people on Sesame Street, like Big Bird, to help you get ready for the big world. Or you can come to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house and watch re-runs of Mr. Rogers.”

“Who’s Mr. Rogers?”

“Well, Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister.  Like Grandpa.”

“What’s a Presbyterian?”

“Well, that depends on who you ask, Elijah. Some people call us ‘God’s frozen chosen’  ’cause they think we think we’re special and we don’t show a lot of emotion in worship. But for me, a Presbyterian is someone just like Mr. Rogers.

“So . . . will you help me to tie my shoelaces when I get shoes?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 1, 2017.

Grandpa, are you famous?

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Earlier this morning, 11 day-old Elijah saw David Ellis’s author interview with his grandfather when he awakened from his morning nap. Hours later, Elijah harkened to his grandfather’s voice, smiled, and did his best to focus his eyes on mine for another conversation.

Grandpa and Elijah1“Grandpa, are you famous?”

“No,” I said, “I’m not famous. If anything, I’m infamous!”

“Are you infamous in England? David Ellis lives in England. Mom says that’s far away from Minnesota.”

“No, actually, I’m infamous in Minnesota but David in England must think I’m famous ’cause I wrote a book.”

“Yeah! Mom told me last night. She said I should follow Grandpa’s advice. She said I should ‘Be still!’ What’s that mean, Grandpa?

“Well, it means be calm, be quiet. Did you keep Mom up again last night?”

“Yeah! I should be quiet at night so Mom can sleep.  That’s what Grandma said. Otherwise Mom might lose it and use another bad word. She might tell me to ‘shut up! Don’t be a cry-baby!’ I’m not a cry-baby, am I Grandpa?

“No, Elijah, you’re not a cry-baby. You’re just a baby — the grandson of an author who’s famous in England and infamous in the United States of America.”

“What’s the United States of America, Grandpa?”

“I’ve been wondering that myself lately, Elijah. I’ve been wondering myself.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 3, 2017.

 

 

 

Grandpa, you said a bad word!

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My new grandson, 11 day-old Elijah, was asking Grandpa questions again after screaming all night.

“Grandpa, why was Mom crying all night? She doesn’t seem very happy.”

“Well, Elijah, it’s complicated.”

“That’s a big word! What’s ‘complicated’?”

“Well, ‘complicated’ is sort of like ‘complex‘ but a little different. I know it’s confusing at your age, but lots of people my age also find ‘complicated’ and ‘complex’ confusing. We prefer ‘simple’ answers.”

“What’s ‘simple‘?

“Well, ‘simple’ can be good or it can be bad. I know that’s confusing, too, Elijah, but I want you to grow up knowing the difference between ‘simple’ as ‘guileless’ and ‘simple’ as ‘stupid’.”

“Mom said “Never call anyone ‘stupid‘! You just said a bad word, Grandpa!”

“She’s right, Elijah. Grandpa was bad.”

“But why? Why would you use that word Mom says I’m not supposed to use? I’m confused and you’re confusing!”

“I’m sorry, Elijah. I’m not setting a good example. Yesterday was a rough day because of disappointing news on climate change.”

“Did you cry all night too, Grandpa?”

“I did, Elijah, I did! The reason’s pretty simple.”

 

 

 

 

Conversation with Elijah #1

Elijah and GordonElijah is 10 today. That would be 10 DAYS old. Just the right age for a good conversation like the one with my fiancée years ago. When that one finished, I said “that was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had!”

“Do you know I haven’t spoke a word for the last three hours?” she said with a forgiving smile.

I enjoy “talking” with Elijah. He asks the questions. I give the answers.

“Grandpa, you look really old! Were you ever born?

“Yes, Elijah, I was born too, a long time ago.”

“And you’re a Christian, too, right Grandpa?”

“Yes, Elijah, I was born, and yes, I’m a Christian.”

“So . . .  that means you got born twice?”

“Well, Elijah, not quite.”

“Grandpa, am I a Christian?”

“Well, Elijah, no, not yet. But you are a child of God.”

“Whew!”

“But, Grandpa, if I want to be a Christian like you, do I have to get born all over again? I hated that!!!”

“No, Elijah. You won’t ever have to do that ever again. That’s behind you now.”

“But, Grandpa . . .  what about being born again? What about being saved? Don’t I have to get saved?”

“No, Elijah. The second ‘birth’ doesn’t change the first one. It just makes you thankful for it and makes you responsible for other children of God like you.”

“Whew! So, like when I’m falling asleep at Mom’s breast, I’m like ‘born again’? I’m already a Christian, just like you, Grandpa! I’m getting kinda hungry, Grandpa.

Where’s Mom?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 1, 2017.

Taps in different keys

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Sixty-three years ago, the American Legion recruited two 12 year-old trumpet players to play “Taps” for the Memorial Day Service at the Glenwood Memorial Cemetery in Broomall, Pennsylvania.

It was a rare privilege granted the few. One of us would play a short refrain — “da ta daaaah…”; the other would echo it from below the wall.  The next refrain would follow, as would the echo until the special rendering of “Taps” had moved everyone to the respectful silence appropriate to Memorial Day.

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It was a nice idea. We practiced. All went well. Very dramatic! Until Memorial Day when Alex’s echo came back in a different key.

The 12 year-olds lost it!!! The only sounds were a few choked back laughs. There was no “Taps” that year. The 12 year-old weren’t invited back when they were 13.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 29, 2017

Mom! Stop treating me like Martin!

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Elijah doesn’t like being confined. He’s screaming for release from his swaddle!

Maybe Elijah already knows about Martin Sostre held in solitary confinement at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, and the warden who allowed him only one hour of freedom in the prison yard . . . or about the 2016 prison revolt when the Dannemora inmates refused to return to their cells from the exercise yard.

“Mom! Stop acting acting like a warden! I love to drink and stuff… but I’m not a fetus anymore! I need some exercise! And stop calling me Elijah; my name is Martin!”

Perhaps the swaddle is to little Elijah’s mind what solitary confinement was to the protesting Martin: a violation of the human rights to the free exercise of speech and bodily movement for the purpose of allowing the warden . . .  or the Mom . . .  to sleep securely through the night.

But there’s a big difference between the two. When Martin Sostre made a lot of noise, Marin was confined to his swaddle while the warden slept soundly miles away.  When Elijah – or is it Martin? – protests every hour or so through the night –“Mom! I’m not a fetus anymore!”– his mother is crying in the same cell.

Elijah smiling in swaddleThis morning their roles have switched. Elijah’s sleepless mother is a weary protester; the well-fed rioter is sleeping happily in his swaddle.

  • Shared against prison regulations by an adoring grandfather in Chaska, MN, May 28, 2017.

 

 

 

The Amish Pope with the Trumps

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The Amish don’t like cameras. Humility tells them to shun photographs. Why? Because a photograph draws attention to oneself. Christ calls a human being to be humble. Christ calls a person to be modest. Christ calls a person to take a place in the community and to shun “the English” love of ostentation and self-aggrandizement.

There are no Bentleys or Fords among the Amish, no one-percent and 99 percent, or, if there is the latter, no one can tell it by the buggies they drive. It’s the community that counts. They all wear black.

Maybe the president and his family thought the Pope was Amish? Although the Pope is robed in white linen, the Pope’s facial expression leaves one to wonder whether perhaps the Trumps were right.

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American Gothic and the Amish Pope

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 26, 2017.

Naming the (step)grandchild

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When the Chinese waitperson who has mixed two Kettle One martinis with twists and a yellowfin tuna roll listens carefully to the reason you’re at Sake Sushi — your pregnant step-daughter is being induced into labor two weeks before her due date because of high blood pressure — responds to your inappropriate question about a good name for the baby (it’s a boy) with “PETER!”, could she be the voice of God?

Just wondering. I’ve enjoyed two Kettle One martinis!

By morning I expect the baby to leave the womb. We shall see whether he is Jackson, Elijah, Eli, Micah. . . or Peter!

Pray for the mother, the child, and the weary grandmother at the hospital.

  • Gordon, safely home from Sake Sushi in Chaska, MN, May 20, 2017.