#298 – The Age of Innocence

It’s perfectly normal for children to long for adulthood. What little kid hasn’t wished he was old enough to drive, to stay up late, to drink, or even to vote? Indeed, don’t most pre-teens mimic their parents in an effort to seem more mature than their years? I’ve witnessed such behavior on many an occasion, and always found it amusing. But what I’d never seen was a little boy anxious to move directly from baby teeth to social security … until this morning, that is.

This past weekend, our friends Ron and Tracy took their two youngest kids to visit Tracy’s sister in Kentucky. Since Tracy’s grandmother also went along, no one remained home to care for the couple’s eldest child, eight-year-old Ben. He didn’t make the journey to Kentucky, because his parents planned to return home this afternoon and they didn’t want him to miss a special school activity today. Always the helpful friend, my wife volunteered to host the tyke at our place during his parents’ sojourn.

Although Sophia ministered to Ben over the weekend, she left me in charge today. I ventured to the kitchen bright and early and found the lad already seated at the table, perusing the morning paper. The sight of his chubby face, oversized ears, and mop-topped head peering studiously at what I presumed to be the daily comics cracked me up, on the inside. Outwardly, I kept a straight face and merely asked: “What’cha reading there, Ben?”

Without looking up, the squeaky-voiced kid replied: “The obits.”

“You’re reading the obituaries?”

“Yep,” he answered.

“You mind telling me why?” I queried.

“Me and grandma look every day, just to see if any more of the old gang’s kicked the bucket.”

“I see. And have any of your ‘old gang’ met their makers yet?” I asked.

“Not yet, but like grandma says, it’s only a matter of time.”

Shaking my head in disbelief, I moved on to the primary matter at hand, breakfast. Ben happily accepted my offer of pancakes and bacon. When I asked him what he’d like to drink, he said: “You got any prune juice?”

The answer to his question happened to be “no.” But before delivering the unwelcome news, I incredulously inquired: “You drink prune juice? Why?”

“A man’s got to stay regular, you know!”

After Ben finished breakfast, with milk in lieu of prune juice, I suggested he brush his teeth and don his school clothes. He suddenly grabbed his lower back and groaned as he stood. Fearing a trip to Urgent Care, if not the emergency room, I concernedly asked what ailed him.

“Oh, it’s just my sciatica acting up again.”

In my opinion, this kid’s spending way too much time around his great-grandmother. The only saving grace is, he apparently hasn’t adopted Betsy’s catchphrase yet. At least, over the weekend I didn’t hear Ben say “fuck ’em” even once, despite several prime opportunities.

Keeps a person regular, among its many advantages

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