John Howell Sr. editorial 9/2/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Eli in Milwaukee soul mate with Uncle David in Mississippi

What can I say? We went to Milwaukee to visit our youngest grandchild and I gave every one there a cold. Didn’t mean to. It jumped on me the morning after I arrived and I spread it generously. What could I do? Quarantine was not an option.

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I have a theory that people who regularly travel by air build up some immunity to all the bugs floating around in that trapped air that the rest of us don’t have.

We still had a good time visiting Eli, Mary and Phil. Phone calls and Facetime are a poor substitute for the real visits that we get to make too seldom.

What was most fun was the amazingly unremarkable things we did together. Eli is now three and has mastered a small tricyle. His little legs pump up and down furiously, scooting him around on three wheels.

Sometimes I just sat in a chair in his backyard watching him as he rode back and forth on a short sidewalk that leads to a parking area. We went to a small park near their home. He rode his trike. I walked. On the way home when he had to peddle back up a hill that he had so easily coasted down en route, I tied on end of a bandana onto the handlebars and towed him along the sidewalk. Told you it was unremarkable.

Eli has lately discovered the old Dukes of Hazzard TV series that his Uncle David once so dearly loved. Eli may be cut from the same mold. No puddle in our path was avoided when it could be ridden through, punctuated with a “YEEE-HAAAA.”

There was one day that the whole bunch of us went to a tennis court. Eli’s mother and I hit the ball back and forth over the net, recalling the many hours we once spent together on courts in New Orleans. It felt so right, so familiar. 

Yet the scene had altered drastically. There we were on a fine set of courts that snow renders useless for at least half the year. 

And here was this little towhead among us, walking onto our court to throw a tennis ball into our midst, resisting the efforts of his dad and grandmother to lure him back onto the adjoining court where they were attempting to distract him with his own racket and tennis balls.

Whatever. As long as he connects time at the courts with fun, our chance will come to fully engage him.

One night when I was with him at bedtime I told him in a low voice about all of his people in Mississippi who love him so much, naming each one from his great-grandmother, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, outlaws and in-laws. It is a story he often hears from parents and never tires of.

He seemed fascinated and satisfied as he listened. His eyes got heavy and gradually began closing. He was drifting off into dreamworld accompanied by good thoughts, friends and relations. Then when I thought he was finally asleep, he popped up, recalling something he needed to tell his dad. He hopped out of bed and went on strong for another hour.

At least that’s what they told me. I fell asleep.