first published in “Duck Ponderings” on Sunday, November 06, 2005

“Daddy, why do you call Gran your Mom?”

These questions used to make me uncomfortable, though I knew they would always come, even before I had children.

“Well, Kristofer, I call her Mom and Papa ‘Dad’ because they treat me like their son.” Gran and Papa are my wife’s parents, Adele and Bob.

“But what about your mom?”

This has gotten easier as he has grown older and the explanations have meted themselves out in his experience.

“Well, a long time ago she told me she didn’t want to be my Mom anymore.”

“But why?” He is an empathetic soul, and he had some pain in his voice imagining briefly what it would be like not having a mom.

“Well, because she’s a very selfish person and only thinks of herself.”

“Oh yeah,” This was review for Kristofer. He’s known this for three years. “And your Dad is still your Dad.”

“Yes. But he doesn’t really treat me like Gran and Papa treat me, does he?”

“No. Gran and Papa visit you and us and call us all the time.”

“That’s right.”

“Gran and Papa love God,” he said rather matter-of-factly. Out of the blue. Just as five year-olds are supposed to do. I think it’s because God tells them to open their mouths and He speaks through them. I may be slow, but I can pick up on that pretty quickly, and I prepared myself for His words as best I could.

“And how do you know that?” I asked. These are always interesting interrogations, from which I learn more than I’m sure I teach.

“Because they like Him.”

“How do you know?”

“Because they love God,” Sometimes it takes me awhile to ask the right question…

“Well, what do they do to show that they love God?”

“”They clean their house all the time. And they call their grandchildren when their son leaves for college and they let them come visit and they feed their pets and give them water and they spend time with their kids and their grandchildren.”

Now, we’re driving back from the Donut Shop during this conversation. I’m nodding so Kristofer can see that I am agreeing with each point and encouraging him to give answers. What he can’t see are the tears streaming down my face, and the reason I’m nodding is because I’m too choked up to say anything.

The juxtaposition with what he is saying and what he isn’t saying is a tremendous pull on my heart. Everything he said was the difference between his two sets of grandparents.

I was thinking he would say that he knew they loved God because they went to Church and they prayed and stuff like that. But as he was saying it I realized how surface driven and image oriented I can be when looking at other people. What matters is the result of those things. Certainly Church-going and praying all lead to the consequences he listed…and certainly not doing those things have the general consequences that are the opposite.

We’re waiting at the last traffic light before getting to the house, and Kristofer says, “Daddy, I just had Sunday School.”

“Yes, son, you did.” I really wasn’t going to be able to explain to him who the teacher was in this scenario. Home schooling seems to go that way.

As we’re turning the corner down our street, the silence from the middle of the van is broken in a tone that will brook no argument.

“Daddy, I want to know about gravity.”

“Here endeth the lesson,” said the Father.

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