I know Eli is my grandson, but it’s true that he has a quick wit and a compassionate mind even at age 5.
He is a thinker, and his thoughts are often in the adult realm. He is as apt to tell me about a new concept he learned in school – “Grammy, did you know the earth turns on its axis?” – as he is to burp at the dinner table and laugh for 10 minutes.
One of my favorite stories of Eli finds him in my back seat on a long car ride to visit my daughter Molly at Plymouth State University in the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
We had been driving for almost three hours and had run out of things to talk about, so I told Eli I was reading a book about astronauts and began to tell him some interesting details I was leaning about the early days of the U.S. space program.
“Grammy,” he said in his most serious scolding voice. “Pay attention to the road!”
“I am Eli.”
“No,” he retorted. “You just told me you were reading a book up there.”
Only when I was able to assure Eli that I wasn’t reading the book in the present moment – that I did my reading in bed at night and not while at the wheel of my car – was he able to listen to the stories about astronauts and their adventures. Of course he particularly liked the stories of how they used the bathroom while in zero gravity.
Eli also knows how to mock me like the best of them.
At the dinner table at my house one night, Eli told me he was a mind reader.
“Really,” I said. “Cool. Read my mind.”
“Um,” he said, giving me a serious once over. “Nothing in there.”
“What?” I shrieked. “What do you mean?”
“Sorry,” he said, a sly grin forming. “You got nothing.”
Eli can also be compassionate – and he has tricks up his sleeve for those moments when words fail. Here’s a conversation with Eli from several years ago. He was 3, and he was riding in a backpack on my shoulders:
Grammy: I miss Poppa (Ed).
Eli: I miss Poppa, too. (He patted my shoulder.) It’s okay Grammy. That’s what I’ll say to you.
G: That’s nice Eli. That’s just the right thing to say.
E: Ya, cuz I’m good at making people feel better.
G: You are Eli. You made me feel better. I’m happy when I’m with you.
E: I made my friend Yamil happy too. He was crying, and I said, “It’s okay Yamil.”
G: Did that help him Eli? Did Yamil stop crying?
E: No, he didn’t stop crying. (He laughed.) So I licked him. I was pretending to be a puppy.
That did the trick.
I think the lesson in Eli is that we need to learn to listen to each other – to know when you can poke fun, when you need to be loving and when, well, when someone might need a good lick to bring them out of a funk.