Friday, April 15, 2011

Eating Ice Cream and Feet

I remember the day that I learned age was a sensitive topic for people.  I was probably 6 or 7 and I was touring the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History with my mom.  We were looking at things that were very old and I must have said something to my mother about my Great-Grandmother, who at the time would have been in her late 70s.  Probably something like, "Wow, I wonder if that Saber-tooth tiger is as old as Neama.  I'm going to ask her!"  

I don't know what I really said but I remember being told that Neama may not like to be called old.  And for some reason it made an impact.  It was an early lesson in tact.  I would need many more.

I wonder if Johnny will remember the day that he learned the same lesson.  ...It was Tuesday.  We were strolling down Main Street with my mother-in-law and the kids were eating ice cream cones she had just bought for them.  Johnny turned to his Grandma (who, for the record is a rather young and very young-looking woman) and he said in sad voice,

"I wish you weren't old." 
 Grandma didn't skip a beat.  She just asked, "Why?"
 "So you don't have to die soon," said Johnny.

Ouch.  We couldn't help but laugh and at the same time this sweet boy was worried that his beloved Grandma is on her death bed so we reassured him that Grandma wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.  And then much later came the gentle conversation about calling someone old (even if they are, at least to you).

I"ll be happy if he still remembers this lesson in a week but I doubt he'll carry it for 30 years like I did.  But that's OK.  I'm still learning tact so Johnny will be in good foot chewing company. 

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