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

 

 

 

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, I’m special, right?

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On his 14th (week) birthday Elijah was watching Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood this morning.

51IO0pzdoqL._AC_UL320_SR226,320_Grandpa, Mr. Rogers says I’m special! I love Mr. Rogers!

We all love Mr. Rogers, Elijah. We all do!

Yeah! He’s a Presbyterian minister just like you, right Grandpa?

Yes, he was. And, like all Presbyterian ministers, Rev. Rogers made mistakes.

Like what?

Like telling you you’re ‘special’.

What you talking’ about? I AM special. Mr. Rogers makes me feel good.

I understand that and I’m glad. I just wish he’d used a different word than ‘special’ because none of us is ‘special’. You’re unique, Elijah. No one will ever be just like you. But that doesn’t mean you’re ‘special’.

You don’t like Mr. Rogers! I don’t like you! You’re a poop-head!

Sometimes I am, Elijah. I know I’m a poop-head sometimes. We all are, and that’s my point. We’re all in this together. None of us is special. Each of us is precious. Each of us is loved. I just wish he’d said ‘precious’ instead of ‘special’ because ‘special’ leads people to think they’re ‘exceptional’. You know, better than anyone else.

Mr. Rogers doesn’t mean that! Everyone’s welcome in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, even Mr. McFeely!

Well, even Mr. Rogers is a sinner, Elijah. He should never have named the mailman Mr. McFeely.

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  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, August 28, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Grandpa, are we safe?

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Grandpa and Elijah are talking while pictures of Hurricane Harvey are disturbing 14-week old Elijah.

170825133856-01-hurricane-harvey-0824-exlarge-169

“Grandpa, are we safe? Are we in Houston?”

“No, Elijah. Not to worry. We’re in Minnesota, a long way from Texas. It’s ‘nice’ in Minnesota.”

“Okay, I feel safer. But am I legal?”

“What do you mean, legal?”

“Like . . .  can I be arrested?”

“No, you’re not going to be arrested. You’re not illegal.”

“We’re a country of law, right, Grandpa?”

“Yes, we’re a constitutional republic. We live under the protection of the law.”

Elijah and Harvey

Elijah, “Uh-uh!”

“Uh-uh! That Sheriff profiled people in Arizona! He broke the law and the President pardoned him! Pardon me, but that’s not law. Why’d the President do that when there’s a natural disaster in Texas?”

“Well, the timing of it is scary, Elijah. Maybe we’re not so safe after all.”

“What do ya mean? Is Hurricane Harvey coming here? Is Joe Arpaio coming to Minnesota to look for illegals?”

“No, they’re not coming here, Elijah. The issue is the rule of law itself. Charles Kaiser argues that “Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio marks the real beginning of the coming constitutional crisis in America.” It’s a piece by Charles Kaiser. I read it this morning on Bill Moyers & Company.”

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio and President Trump

“What’s a constitutional crisis? Is that worse than Hurricane Harvey?”

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  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, August 28, 2017.

 

 

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

 

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

Grandpa, Who’s John Burroughs?

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.”

John_Burroughs_1909.jpg

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?

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

EliIMG_6311

“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