The things they say


My brother Steve would point to planes and say “ahn-gee” with surprise and enthusiasm. And through the twists of the tongue that children are famous for, he also started calling our grandfather “Grad.” That stuck and most everyone, including adults, called him Grad or Graddy until he died.

I was apparently more into the simile. I once told my mom, “You’re as smart as a stoplight and as pretty as a shiny, red bike.” And one sweaty afternoon in St. Louis, my mom asked how we were all doing. “I’m as hot as a burning elephant,” was my reply.


Walking along a trail near Mount St. Helens with Leo last week I mentioned to him that Grandma and Grandpa were heading back to St. Louis the next day. “I know,” he responded. We kept walking.

Suddenly, a brilliant idea emerged. “I want them to have kids,” he said.
We stopped and looked at each other. He smiled at me as if to say, “Isn’t that a good idea?”

I told him they do have kids. Five of them. “I’m one their kids. So is Uncle Tommy, Aunt Elise, Uncle Geno and Uncle Steve.”

That got another smile and a thoughtful “Oh.”


My folks burst out laughing when they heard Leo’s request. The early mornings, the diapers, the challenges of wrangling children and the need for a good nap come in short chunks of babysitting time now rather than the thirty-year stretch of raising all of us. They laughed about the idea for the rest of the day.

I think Leo was just hoping for some new buddies to play with. You can never have enough friends. And you can never have enough hugs from your grandma…or your mom.


© Tim LaBarge 2009


  1. another great post, Tim.


    a burning elephant? dude, that’s really hot. I am glad you survived.

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