Posted in In Our Own Backyard, The Joy and Wisdom of Children

D-Man, Superheroes and Snakehandling: Party Weekend–Party Two

As I mentioned in the previous post, this past weekend brought two terrific parties, a street celebration Saturday night and then on Sunday afternoon the Sixth Birthday Celebration for my Grandson Daniel.

Before I escort you to Weekend Party Two, let me just explain that Daniel is one very COOL little boy.  And here are Eight Sunglasses-Prominent Pics of D-man to prove it:

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(With kindergarten teacher Ms. Lancaster)

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(With little brother Gabriel)

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Okay, maybe the twin girls froze him up a bit and reduced his coolness by a tad.

But NOT on his birthday.  Here he sits, with his green faux hawk (aka fohawk) before his backyard party begins, “patiently” waiting for the Spiderman inflatable to blow up.

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Almost there.

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“I love it!”

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Here’s Batman perched in the trees:

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I have NEVER seen a balloon so huge.  And the Spiderman pinata, ready to be lowered:

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Soon the backyard fills with school and neighborhood friends.

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A great hit at the party–the appearance of the folks and animals from Critters-to-Go.  The kids (and adults) are fascinated.

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“Okay, kids, now let’s all play with snakes!”  (Neal’s first thought: “Is everyone here INSANE?  What happened to the PRETEND superheroes theme?)  Then out of the corner of my eye, I see courageous Batman hiding out in the trees away from all this.

Initially, Daniel’s not so sure.  See?  He’s a smart boy.

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That soon changes.

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“Here, Abu, you hold him too.”

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My drug-induced-looking smile is for the camera.  I’m really thinking: “Is there ANY possible way to spank this child with over fifty people watching?”

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Then Daniel becomes an experienced snakehandler.

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Next, the spiders, of course.

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Her t-shirt says it all.

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(Note to self: talk to therapist about memory erasure treatment.)

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Younger daughter Emily with grandtwins Madison and Matthew:

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“Look up, Em.”

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Older daughter Amy (Daniel’s mom) holding Matthew:

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Matthew: “I know who my mama is.”

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Nana and Madison step up:

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D’s little brother Gabriel:

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Amy and hubby Orte:

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Oh, the gifts!

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After the party, Daniel and I play with the giant picture of him that I had attached to a backyard tree.  See it way in the back there?

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An Afternoon of Joy.

Posted in Where Happiness Finds You

Neal’s Neverending New York PhotoNotes Post

[Warning:  If you’re going to read this one, you might want to go get a snack.  And maybe a cushion.  Wear loose-fitting clothes, comfortable shoes.]

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I traveled with daughter Amy, son-in-law Orte and grandsons Daniel and Gabriel to Manhattan last Thursday, returning yesterday.  This trip has become our annual spring rite of passage.  Except spring didn’t cooperate this year–cold!  Brrr!  Even a little snow.  But what a Grand Time as our Vagabond Shoes left Savannah and headed to the Big Apple.

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Easy, FUN flight, even with five- and three-year-olds.  No, BECAUSE of five- and three-year-olds.

Cool suite on Park Avenue:

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And of course, the first thing the boys want to do upon our arrival in New York?   Watch Gravity Falls on TV.

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(Okay, maybe it was pretty interesting, all about Dipper’s sister Mabel having a crazy-about-boys summer–at one point she sees a young fella holding a turtle, runs up to him and exclaims, “You like turtles?!  I LIKE TURTLES!  What’s happening here?!” as she moves her hands back and forth between her and the boy.  Finally Mabel sorta falls for a trenchcoated pyramid of Gnomes who want to marry her and make her their Gnome Queen.  I had no idea Gnomes could be so pushy.)

Gabriel looking out on the NY skyline from our 27th floor:

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The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (on the Upper West Side):

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A walk in Central Park, playing with dirty snow.  (But we’re from the south–we’ll take what we can get.)

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Delicious Waldorf Salad lunch for me–at the Waldorf:

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Touring = Tiring:

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Dinner at Victor’s, our favorite Cuban restaurant in Manhattan:

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Neat day, after Gabriel’s “breakfast” …

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… we taxied to another great museum: the Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo.  What an interactive place!

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My work:

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(Now do you see why I teach part-time at an art school?!  I call it Morning Glory and Green-Haired Cory.  Bids start in the upper thousands.  Thank you.)

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Daniel’s Dragon:

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(Those aren’t my blue fingernails.)

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First of two Broadway plays: Newsies.  Just incredible energy!  Google it.

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Newsies ticket

And here’s a pic of the stage/curtain thingy, right before I got yelled at for taking pictures inside the theatre.  (I’m sure they didn’t realize they were talking to a world-famous blogger and all.)

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I’m thinking about becoming a Broadway star.  All that’s holding me back is that you have to sing and dance and memorize lines and get up in front of people and not stutter because you’re so nervous.  AND not fall off the stage when you have to walk close to the edge.  That part TERRIFIES me.  But still.

The most incredible coincidence happened next.  Walking back to our hotel to join the fam, I saw Andaz.  No not a person, a very cool hotel.  We have an Andaz on Ellis Square in Savannah where they give you the MOST delicious Candied Bacon I’ve ever tasted.  (Okay, it’s the only candied bacon I’ve ever tasted but SO good.)  Of course I had to shashay in to compare Andazes (plural?).  This sign greeted me when I walked into the lobby:

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Hooting Hyenas!  SCAD is where I teach as an adjunct.  So I hopped on the elevator to the second floor!  Wouldn’t you?  Why?  Well, duh, a reception, and receptions mean one thing … free food.  The first person I saw was Joseph; he’s in a writer’s group I sometimes attend:

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(I’m not sure why I look so huge and bloated in that picture.)

(Does anyone know how to Photoshop me standing about two feet behind Joseph so I don’t look so very big?)

I chatted with other SCAD folks and even a few newly accepted students and their parents.  A fun NY surprise.

Next morning, Grand Central Terminal …

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… and waiting for Kidding Around (a very cool toy store) to open–we did F. A. O. Schwarz the day before:

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Street vendor hot dogs, of course:

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Second Broadway play: Cinderella (with a new spin, including lots of humor and an evil stepsister who turns good).

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Orchestra pit (we had second-row seats!):

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Afterwards off to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where the wait staff … SINGS!.  So cool:

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Snack on the walk back to the hotel:

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The Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal for a new case for my iPhone:

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Last morning.  Daniel and Gabriel reennacting the final scene from Gravity Falls (we watched the same episode three times over our stay) when Dipper rescues Mabel from the Gnomes, and the brother/sister engage in an “awkward sibling hug” with “pat, pat.”  (Hulu it.  I think the episode is called “Tourist Trap.”)

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Blustery/snowy/rainy weather on the way to LaGuardia.

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For some reason, less-than-ideal weather always makes me feel better when it comes at the end of a trip.  (Reminder to self: therapist talking point.)

While we were waiting at the gate for our flight, a Big Red Heart sauntered up.  No clue why.  But D is never one to miss a photo op.

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Oh, if you were that Big Red Heart, looking where he seems to be looking, you would see this:

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It’s an iPad cafe–you order your food right from the iPad.  (“Hip” should be my middle name.)

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A wonderfully joyful New York trip.

As we waited on the runway, while an animal-like machine de-iced the wings, Daniel looked at me fiddling with my phone and yelled (loud enough for his dad and the rather stern flight attendant to hear), “Abu is not turning off his electronic device!”

Great memories to think about.

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Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (3/22/13)

It’s Friday again, and I’m in New York City with daughter Amy, son-in-law Orte, and grandsons Daniel and Gabriel. That in itself is reason enough to be HAPPY. But here are FIVE more reasons:

1.. Still filled with memories of last weekend’s beautifully fun St. Patrick’s Day.

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2.. Finding this cool driftwood-and-found-objects ship sculpture at Habersham Antiques and Collectibles in Savannah.

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3.. Realizing that so much about being joyful in life is a result of CHOICE.

4.. Flying to New York with a five- and three-year-old.

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5.. It’s freezing here in Manhattan, but here I am last week down on Amelia Island

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Have a great weekend and take care of business while I’m away.

Posted in Uncategorized

Reblog: The Viewing & The Circle of Life

In preparation for tomorrow’s keynote address at the Student Success in Writing Conference here in Savannah, I am reblogging this pertinent and moving post.  We learn, we teach, we learn.  Then we teach, we learn, we teach – indeed a Circle of Life, my readers.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel getting heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Viewing & The Circle of Life

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel getting heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

Posted in Family, Uncategorized

My Favorite Word Is “Abu”!

A couple of weeks ago I asked one of my college classes, in preparation for a writing assignment, to come up with a short list of their favorite and least favorite words.  Boy, did I ever open up a hornet’s nest.  As we went around the room, the students taking turns FREELY and LOUDLY sharing their words (while causing their professor to turn beet red), what I heard made me think I was in a dingy bar at 3 a.m. closing time.  I ain’t telling you those words.

But here is a sampling of their LEAST favorite words:

tabloid

ambrosia

extraordinary    The student said the word just doesn’t make sense.  Extraordinary should mean really, really ordinary instead of exceptional.  Hmm, I get what he’s saying.

panties

discharge, pus, ooze    I put these words together simply to get them over with real quick.  Yuk.

y’all    A Yankee probably said that one.

A few of MY least favorite words include:

space    As in the HGTV-ish, “I love what you’ve done with this space!”  Space?  What’s wrong with “room”?

*  In a similar vein, nation.    It gets on my nerves when “nation” is used to refer to a college or university, often in conjunction with its athletic teams.  Take my school Georgia Southern University, for example.  We’re the GSU Eagles.  (I’m SO glad we’re not the Badgers).  We’ve won six national football championships.  Sometimes I hear this:  “We are PROUD . . . We are EAGLE NATION!”  Nation?  Huh?  Shouldn’t Native Americans get mad when stuff like that is said?!  I was at the Savannah Wal-Mart on Abercorn early one morning last week, getting a bag of preboiled eggs and some acidophilus, when I heard commotion rising from the greengrocer section (“greengrocer” is a favorite word of mine).  True story–I slipped up to the celery and pretended to examine the stalks for defects.  At least a dozen Wal-Mart “associates” stood in a big circle around the fresh vegetables, being led by a painfully skinny man (the produce leader, I guess)  in what sounded similar to church-like call and answer chants.  Really.  “Who takes the best care of their customers?!”–“We do!”  “Who are we?”–“We are Wal-Mart!–WE ARE WAL-MART!”  Did you know this goes on?  Two teenage associates, obviously a little bored and maybe embarrassed (I was staring at the cult, by this time), whispered behind the leader’s back.  I laughed when I heard what one said: “Oh yea, we’re Wal-Mart Nation.”

drill  (as in dentist drill)

And here is a sampling of my students’ FAVORITE words:

unequivocal

*  velvet

bloom

*  tarantula    Don’t worry, I sent the student to counseling.

plethora

*  hyacinth

*  obfuscate   (I had to go to dictionary.com.)

shiny

I think my favorite word is Abu.  Ever heard it?  Maybe the monkey character in Disney’s Aladdin?  Or the fifth month in the Babylonian calendar?  The American Board of Urology?  (Google it, if you don’t believe me.)  A volcano on the Japanese island of Honshu?  Nope, Abu . . . is Me!

My grandson Daniel started calling me Abu as soon as he could talk.  This would be cute if it were Daniel’s doing.  Alas, it was not.  Nearly five years ago, when my daughter Amy and son-in-law Ortelio informed us, with much joyful fanfare, that Amy was pregnant, I was shocked, bamboozled (isn’t that a cool word?).  I had not been foreseeing such a life-changing turn of events.  Pregnant?!  But that meant SO MANY areas to be concerned about, such as a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery,  and the full gamut of preparations for the coming newborn.  But NOTHING was more paramount in my mind than the realization that hit me: Amy can’t be pregnant.  I AM TOO YOUNG TO BE A GRANDFATHER!

Amy casually asked one day, well into her pregnancy, “So Dad, what do you want to be called?”  I dismissed “Grandfather” right off the bat because it sounded too much like Grandfather.  Same for Gramps, Papaw (what my daughters call my dad), Pappy, Gumpa (now how silly is that name?), etc.

My brilliant Cuban-American son-in-law Orte saved the day (and my false sense of youthfulness).  He explained that Abu was a common term of endearment for Grandfather in Cuba.  [Abuelo = Grandfather]  I immediately loved the little name.  It sounds so joyful and pithy and fun-loving . . . and most people wouldn’t have a clue what it meant.  I could see it in my mind’s eye:  In the mall one day my little toddler grandson would look up and call me Abu, and any bystanders would smile and think, “Isnt that cute?  That little kid is calling his uncle, who is dressed in that youthful Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirt, ‘Abu.’  So sweet.”

Then Daniel was born, and I fell in love with the baby and with grandfathering.  He brought Abu to life, new life.

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What about you, dear bloggers?  What are some of your favorite and least favorite words?