Jaw droppers

March 17, 2011

You have made some astonishing statements over your short lifetime. Some of them have left me with my mouth hanging open—literally—and trying to understand by what strange, unseen method you have shoved several decades of experience into that head of yours.

One of the top jaw droppers was when you were nine years old and commenting on your relationship with your father. He had a new girlfriend that you liked quite a bit. During the conversation, you mentioned that your daddy “became the woman he was dating.” It was quite a statement from the mouth of such a young one and I was surprised. It was clear that you understood the meaning of what you had said and simply took it as a fact of life. If you got to know the girlfriend, you could know who your dad would be during his current relationship. That insight spoke volumes about your coping skills and your growing connection to the realities of life.

Your dad also had his share of moments with language and insight, although as I have told you before, most of them seemed to be in Russian (or some language equally difficult for me to understand, which could be most languages, sigh). One of my favorites was in response to an exasperated question I threw at him one day when he was about five years old, and touching and moving everything in sight while we were shopping.

“WHY do you have to touch EVERYTHING?” I asked, ready to go home and hide.

“If I don’t touch it, how will I know what it feels like?” he asked me.

From him it was a typically logical question, and one for which I had no quick response. Responding to a question like that was akin to navigating a mine field. Chastise too often and you take away natural curiosity, too little, and you will someday pay for something broken by sticky little fingers. I tried the respect route. Figuring that he would learn to not touch (many) things belonging to others or things others may wish to buy sans kid-prints, I talked to him about whether he would like people touching his own possessions without permission. He did have a point. Some things must be touched to be experienced.

Nothing your dad ever said could compare with his hollering insistence that he wanted sip(s) of Aunt Linda’s beer. Of course, he might not have had to holler and we might not have been rolling with laughter if he had simply spoken English. At age two, the moon was the gocko, he wanted appata imm ridger (applesauce in refrigerator – that one was actually pretty close), and when he wanted my attention he simply grunted, “Uh!” He didn’t say mommy until he was almost three. But saints preserve us all, the funniest, by far, was when he wanted Aunt Linda’s beer. While reaching for the can he repeatedly hollered, “Diarrhea! Diarrhea!”

See? It couldn’t have been English.

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