Elijah reviews his Mom

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Grandpa, what’s a ‘review’?

Where’d you get that word, Elijah? How are you spelling it? There are two spellings and they’re very different. One I can tell you about. The other I can’t until you’re old enough to handle it.

IMG_5767I don’t know how to spell yet! All I know is Mom picked me up from work this afternoon and she was really happy. She told Marissa she had a really good review.

That’s wonderful, Elijah! I knew her review was coming and that she was a little anxious about it. Everyone’s anxious before a review.

Sometimes I worry, Grandpa, that you’re not completely tuned in. You go off on tangents and forget the question. You don’t even remember. I asked you a QUESTION! Like I said — What’s a review?

Well, it’s a time when a boss and an employee sit down to discuss how work is going. How well the employee is doing at her job.

So which is Mom, the boss or an employee? I think Mom must be the boss.

No, she’s the employee. She works for the boss.

Okay, I think I get it. So Mom did really well?

She did, Elijah. She got a raise and the boss said all kinds of good things about your Mom.

Yeah, she’s the best Mom in the whole world, Grandpa! She’s really smart and she’s pretty and stuff but she’s also the best diaper-changer. Don’t tell Grandma I said that, okay? I don’t want to give Grandma a bad review. I don’t want to hurt Grandma’s feelings. But Mom knows me best. She knows just how I want my diapers changed. And she doesn’t get mad when I wake her up all night every hour ‘cause I’m hungry and can’t turn myself over and stuff like that. Well, sometimes, she gets maybe a little unhappy, but I bet she’s way more patient than any other Mom.

That’s a great review, Elijah. You’ve got the hang of it.

Okay! There’s one more thing, Grandpa, just between us guys.

IMG_8782 Elijah

Mom says she’s not pretty any more. She says none of her clothes fit and she thinks she’s fat. She’s not, Grandpa! She’s beautiful! She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Don’t tell Grandma I said that, okay? She’s pretty too, and she’s Mom’s Mom, so I bet she was really pretty, too, before she got old and wrinkly like you. Don’t tell her I said that, okay? You can take it, ‘cause you’re a guy and you know you’re old and wrinkly and fat and you don’t care. Anyway, we’re reviewing Mom here, not Grandma. Grandma’s second best in the whole world. But Mom’s a superstar. As her boss, I’d give her a big raise!

IMG_7979You just did, Elijah. You just gave her the kind of big raise a mother lives for. Now, if you can just start sleeping through the night, that would be an even bigger raise you could give Mom. You’ll be her most favorite boss ever. Her one and only!

 

  • Grandpa Gordon with 5 month old Elijah, November 4, 2017.

 

Elijah and his sitter’s text

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Grandpa, my babysitter was crying today.

IMG_1779 E 5 months

Elijah (five months old)

I’m sorry, Elijah. Why was she crying?

Marissa’s cousin in Puerto Rico sent a text five days ago but Marissa didn’t get it until this morning. She was crying hard, Grandpa! It was really sad.

What did the text say, Elijah?

I thought you’d ask, so I asked Marissa to print it out ’cause you’re old. You don’t text so good.

‘Well’, Elijah, I want you to learn to speak proper English. You should say, “You don’t text so well” — not “you don’t text so good.”

Yeah, well, you say ‘well’ a lot. That’s not good. Well, here’s what Marissa’s text from Puerto Rico said. It’s not good.

Month 2. Day 1.

No power

We have running water

Telecommunications are fair on the best of days. I consider it successful if I can consistently get 2mb down. Today it’s about 0.13mb.

Traffic is insane

Fuel lines are better

Shopping takes hours

We are the lucky ones, the privileged ones. It’s not better, progress is slow, medical care is impossible for many.

We are here. We need your help. Keep pressure on news organizations, on elected officials, and aid organizations. Use your voice for people who have been silenced.

Grandpa! We’re gonna help, right? Are we ‘privileged’?

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, October 24, 2017

Elijah, Las Vegas, and The Big Truck

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Elijah recoiled at the pictures from Las Vegas.

“Marissa, estamos seguros? Estamos en Las Vegas?” (“Marissa, are we safe? Are we in Las Vegas?”)

las-vegas-shooting-carry-gty-ps-171002_12x5_992Marissa assured him that he wasn’t in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is far, far away, and they were nowhere near a casino.

Elijah was feeling calmer until Marissa’s husband came home for lunch.

Ese hijo de puto! Sólo le interesan los casinos,” said Pablo. “¿Qué tiene que ver un casino con Dios? ¡No habla de Dios cuando habla de Puerto Rico! Él no es un creyente. Es un falso. Es todo gringo!” (“That son-of-a-bitch! He only cares about casinos. What’s a casino got to do with God? He doesn’t talk about God when he talks about Puerto Rico! He’s not a believer. He’s a fake. He’s all gringo.”)

Later that evening, 19-week-old Elijah visited his grandparents.

¿Abuelo, qué es un casino?” he asked.

“Elijah, I’m sorry. Grandpa doesn’t speak Spanish. What did you say?

“Grandpa,” he asked, “I forgot. ‘What’s a casino?'”

Las_Vegas_slot_machines

Las Vegas casino slot machines

“Well, let me tell you a story about a casino, Elijah. A casino is a place where people gamble.”

“What’s ‘gamble’?”

“Actually gamble is a verb; the noun is gambling. You’ll learn the difference later. Gambling is when a person takes a risk with their money. Gamblers get a charge out of taking the risk that they’ll make lots of money, but they usually lose what they have. The casino is the business that makes lots and lots of money from gamblers.”

“Yeah, it’s like uncle Bob. He’s a gambler. He goes to the casino, right?”

“Right. Grandpa doesn’t like it, but, yes, he does. He’s gambled at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

“Why don’t you like gambling?”

“Well, that’s the story I want to tell you.”

“I love stories! Is this the one about the Big Truck?

“No, it’s different. It’s a story that kinda rhymes with ‘big truck’ but it’s not a happy story. Years ago Grandpa went to a casino here in Minnesota to pick up a big check – thousands of dollars – that the casino was donating to Grandpa’s nonprofit poverty law firm.

“Because the casino belonged to an American Indian tribe, I asked an American Indian who worked with me at the law firm to go with me to pick up the check. I wanted the tribal chief, who was also the CEO of the casino, to hand the check to Richard instead of me.

“But you know what happened, Elijah?”

“What? You saw the Big Truck! I bet you saw the Big Truck on the way to the casino.”

“No, but it does rhyme with big truck. Here’s what happened. When Richard and I started to go into the casino, Richard wouldn’t go in.  He just stood there! Like he was frozen. Like he’d had a stroke or something.

“I asked what was happening.

“‘I can’t go in there,’ he said. ‘My wife’s going to be in there at the slot machines. She’s here every day. We’re separated. We’re losing our house. We’re going bankrupt. I hate this place!!!’

“Richard’s wife took the casino bus from downtown Minneapolis every morning and spent the day at the casino hoping she’s get rich. She just got poorer day by day, week by week.

“That’s what a casino is, Elijah. A place that takes people’s money by making false promises that they’ll get rich.”

“Marissa’s husband’s like Richard. He hates casinos, but what’s a casino got to do with the President?”

“Well, Elijah, before Donald Trump became President, he was a real estate developer. He built a casino in Atlantic City in 1990 and put his name on it. Trump Taj Mahal cost $1.2 billion! He called Trump Taj Mahal ‘the eighth wonder of the world.’”

TAJ-MAHAL-LIQUIDATION-SALE“But it failed, Elijah. It failed. The deal failed. He sold it for $50 million to a company named Hard Rock International.”

“Wow, Grandpa! No wonder Pablo called the President a hijo de puto. Pablo said the President only understands business. He doesn’t care about people like the poor in Puerto Rico who are stuck between a rock and a hard place. So, did you ever get the check from the casino?”

“We did, Elijah. I was Richard’s boss. I convinced him to go in. We went in and got the check from the Big Truck.”

  • Grandpa Gordon, October 3, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elijah: “Dear Mr. President”

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Elijah’s Letter to the President

September 30 , 2017

Dear Mr. President,

I’m in my carseat for my first road trip to the cabin up north, but Grandpa shared with me the letter he just sent you. I’m proud of my grandpa and I want to be proud of you. Grandpa says you’re sort of like an uncle because you went through Presbyterian confirmation class like grandpa.

But my babysitter doesn’t like you. She speaks Spanish. During the day with Marissa, we’ve been watching CNN for news from Puerto Rico, and she’s said a lot of bad words about you.

She clapped when Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz called you out. Then, this morning, she cursed again after you admonished the Carmen. Marissa’s with Carmen.

I’m only 18 weeks old. I’m still trying to understand what’s real and what’s not. Right now I’m not sure of much of anything. I trust Grandpa and I trust Marissa. They both love me and take care of me. Both Grandpa and Marissa are as upset with you as the Mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico.

I see the pictures from Puerto Rico and think you must, too, because you watch a lot of television, even if you consider CNN fake news. I’m little and don’t know much yet, but the pictures don’t look fake to me. And it’s not just pictures. It’s all over the radio. Marissa listens to NPR.

NPR’s Manadalit del Barco spoke to 8-year-old Yan Anthony Hernandez who is staying at a shelter in the city of Aguadilla on Puerto Ruco’s northwestern coast. The boy had a message for Trump.

“Stop tweeting and come help the people.”

Marissa wants to know whether you really care about Yan, the Mayor, and the rest of the people of Puerto Rico or just want them to go away like the undocumented workers you’re sending back to Mexico.

Sometimes Marissa sings to me. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world — red and yellow, black and white — all are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the wold.” Grandpa says maybe your babysitter sang that song for you when you were little like me, but I wonder.

If you have time to write back, I’ll share your response with Marissa and Grandpa and have them make another copy to send to Carmen in Puerto Rico.

Respectfully,

Elijah (18 weeks old)

Grandson of Grandpa Stewart

 

 

 

Elijah’s letter to the President

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Seventeen week old Elijah dictated the following letter for Grandpa to send to President Trump after hearing the President’s United Nations speech. Here’s the letter:

September 21, 2017

Dear Mr. President:

I’m little but my Grandpa says I have rights under the First Amendment and that I should exercise my right of free speech to tell you what’s on my mind. I hope that’s okay with you. Grandpa says you’re bigger on the Second Amendment than the First Amendment, but they’re all part of the U. S. Constitution, right?

I’ve thought many times of writing you but decided not to until hearing your speech to the United Nations this week.

You may wonder why a kid like me would send a letter to the President, but there’s more than one good reason.

Infant_Baptism_Christian-217x300We have a connection you may not about, although my Grandpa is very famous, like you. You and Grandpa were baptized as babies in the Presbyterian Church. Your pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica in Queens took you in his arms and baptized you “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” But before your parents put you in the pastor’s arms, they had to answer a question: “Do you promise, in dependence on the grace of God, to bring up your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

I asked Grandpa what nurture and admonition meant. He said nurture is like when Mom breastfeeds me. Admonition, he says, is an old word we don’t use anymore and that’s a shame because you could use a good admonishing. Admonition, Grandpa says, is a way of setting boundaries on a child’s behavior; it’s part of the discipline necessary to raising a child toward responsible adulthood. Admonishing is telling a child “No. You can’t do that. You’re a child of God, but you’re not the only one.” Grandpa tells me that all the time. I wonder if your mother and father ever did that with you before they sent you off to the military academy.

So you and Grandpa are both baptized Christians. But there’s even more of a connection!

1928-1

McGaw Chapel, The College of Wooster

Grandpa became a Presbyterian minister. He knows one of your church’s former pastors at First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica. Before Rev. Dr. Raymond Schwartzbach (Grandpa calls him ‘Ray’) came to your church in New York City, he served the college church at The College of Wooster which Grandpa served six years after Ray.

Grandpa says Ray was really special and that he left Wooster because he wanted to get back to the city. He told Grandpa that your church was the most multicultural church in the Presbyterian Church (USA) with 32 different languages — the most in the whole country!

Trump at United NationsWatching you speak to all those different languages at the United Nations made me wonder what happened to you after your pastor held you in his arms and baptized you into the way of Christ. Did your parents nurture you? Did they admonish you? Or were you left on your own? Did they teach you not to call people names? Did they admonish you when you did? Did they teach you the first article of the Westminster Catechism, that  “the chief end of man is to glorify God…” and not yourself? Did they teach you the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek? Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness”? Did they teach you that Presbyterians value simplicity and modesty, and that they dislike ostentation? Did they teach you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? Did they teach you the difference between loving your country and worshiping it? Did they teach you that nationalism is sin, that the nation is not God?

I’m just little and I haven’t been baptized yet like you and Grandpa. But I have questions. I’m not sure I want to be baptized if being baptized means I have to be admonished as well as nurtured. Maybe you feel the same.

Please answer if you have time. I know you’re very busy with Kim Jung un and Robert Mueller stuff, but Grandpa says some things in life are too important to ignore.

Respectfully yours,

Elijah

 

 

 

 

Grandpa, did the president say that?

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Elijah and HarveyElijah and I were watching the President’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly when suddenly Elijah sat bolt upright.

Grandpa, did he really say that?

Say what, Elijah? He’s said a lot of things.

Trump at United NationsDid he just call Kim Jung Un “Rocket Man”?

Yes, he did, Elijah.

That’s not right! You told me never to call people names. Then he said he would destroy his country! He sounds like a bully. You taught me bullying’s bad, right Grandpa?

Right. Bullying is bad. It’s always bad. The president just embarrassed every American.

And then he insulted all our allies whose countries are socialist. All our European allies are socialist, right Grandpa? Israel’s socialist, right Grandpa?

That’s right, Elijah. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He still believes in the Boogeyman.

Boogeyman_posterWell, I think he’s acting like the Boogeyman. Don’t ever leave me in the same room with the president, Grandpa. He’s mean. He’s scary!

Don’t worry, Elijah, President Trump will never take care of you. Mom will. Grandma and I will. Your baby sitter will. And the world leaders will babysit Mr. Trump.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, September 21, 2017.

 

Grandpa, he’s just a baby!

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

IMG_7165

“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

 

Grandpa, did the President (not) say that?

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.

 

10-week-old Elijah & Grandpa

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

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