I previously mentioned that we’ve traveled quite a bit this summer. And there hasn’t been room enough to pack this blog alongside luggage for 10. Either in the van or in my brain. So posts have been sparse this month.
But that doesn’t mean Johnny hasn’t generated a solid body of material. Much of it in the form of questions. And his questions usually begin with the word “so”.
So let me tell you about some rather direct questions he asked while on the road.
Let’s start in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we visited my in-laws.
This trip really deserves a post all to itself. It was a weekend full of family and friends. After several days, Greta, Veronica, and Mary Frances went to camp. I left Johnny behind for a week of day camp. It was an absolute success. Mom Rauch reported that Johnny stormed out of Day 1 announcing that he wanted to be dropped off early, picked up late, and enrolled in all 10 weeks of sessions. He was ready to move in with Grandma and Grandpa for the summer. The evenings were equally as fun, filled with bowls of ice cream, games of Pass the Pigs, and long readings of Calvin and Hobbes. He soaked up their undivided attention and love.
Before I left, we went to Saturday evening Mass at my in-law’s parish. Although I was sitting in the back of the church running Becky’s feed, the voice at the pulpit was unmistakable. Deacon Steve was giving the homily, his deep voice booming a powerful message on discipleship. He and his family are great friends with the Rauches. Some day I must tell you about the time he accidentally ate Greta’s special piece of cake reducing her to tears. Anyways, after Mass, we caught up with Deacon Steve and his wife in the parking lot. He came over to the car to meet Becky.
While we talked, I noticed that his front two teeth were missing. I didn’t think much of it. Time and age alter all of us. But then something jogged my memory. And I remembered Johnny’s recent excitement over his own lost teeth. I stole a nervous glance, hoping that Johnny hadn’t noticed the missing teeth. Oh, he had.
As Deacon Steve tickled Becky’s toes and stroked her hair, she giggled and smiled back at him. As our conversation came to a close, he prayed over Becky and blessed her forehead. I fought back tears listening to such a devout man intercede on behalf of our child. Johnny stayed quiet during this sacred moment.
Afterwards, Johnny swung over the back of Becky’s car seat, dangled his index finger towards Deacon Steve’s mouth, and asked the question that had been percolating for some time:
“So, how many teeth have you lost?”
I was mortified.
The good Deacon threw his head back as his body filled with laughter. Long, deep chuckles, the kind that force the shoulders into a rhythmic pattern. Up and down. Up and down. He may have even snorted. For he’s a wonderful man. A father and a grandfather, who has likely been asked thornier questions over the years. His life experience and generous heart inclined him to find humor rather than offense in the moment.
After regaining his composure, he responded, “Well, Johnny, that’s a long story that involves multiple dentists and a broken bridge. It’s been a long process but the teeth will be replaced.” Johnny lost interest, seemingly disappointed in the response. I think he was looking to commiserate over Covid-related tooth fairy delays (brilliantly thought up by an older sibling to save me) and techniques for pulling loose teeth.
The next stop on the Johnny honesty tour was Ohio. Over the 4th of July, we traveled to visit Sam’s sister Miriam and her family. A fantastic weekend of food, festivities, and family commenced.
We enjoyed many hours swimming in their pool. While athletic and full of energy, Johnny isn’t as strong a swimmer at this point due to pool closures over the past year. Miriam mentioned that she might have a life jacket for him. It seemed a prudent suggestion and Johnny didn’t protest too much. The thought of unfettered access to the entire pool was a solid incentive.
He accompanied her to the garage. While she rummaged around for the flotation device, Johnny surveyed the scene. He got her attention and blurted out:
“So, when are you going to clean up this mess?”
Miriam mentioned that there was a good bit of household paraphernalia in the garage due to some remodeling projects. Ironically, her husband had actually organized the space recently and she thought it looked pretty acceptable. Johnny thought otherwise.
Johnny’s final verbal bomb was dropped in Missouri. Greta took him on a road trip to visit her boyfriend Robbie’s family. Johnny greatly anticipated this trip and its promise of swimming, fishing, and a bunch of boys. Like most kids, he had a hard time settling down for the first night. He woke at 2am and searched for Greta. She sent him back to his room, with firm instructions to stay in bed until the morning. I imagine that he really tried but was unsuccessful.
He woke again at 3am and decided to seek a second opinion. From a higher authority. Feeling rather comfortable in his new surroundings, Johnny went on an exploratory trip through the darkened house to find Robbie’s parents. He boldly walked into their bedroom, woke Robbie’s mother, and asked her the following question:
“So, isn’t it time to get the day started?”
Three different questions. In three different states. To three different people.
So, how many teeth have you lost?
So, when are you going to clean up this mess?
So, isn’t it time to get the day started?
Thankfully, each designated target had the personal constitution to take the heat from a vivacious 6 year-old with a knack to zero in on the essential. It reminds me, yet again, how much I need other people’s understanding. And mercy. Both for me and my children.
I suppose Johnny will need a better conversational filter as he ages. Although, there seems to be quite a market for unabashed honesty in today’s world. If you need a straightforward opinion on your personal appearance, your home décor, or your sleep schedule, Johnny is available.
And plenty of summer remains.