worker man learns the language

The youngest grandson may not be able to pronounce his R’s and L’s, but Eli works hard to grasp the verbal and physical world around him.
Around Christmas time, he figured out a word he had heard many times. “I know why they are called wise men,” he told his mother. “It’s because they are always asking ‘why.’”

With all the questions Eli asks, he may be a wiseman himself.
One day as he played, a grown-up sat in a nearby chair reading the newspaper muttering, “Those Democrats! No, Democrats. No, Democrats. No.”
The three year-old looked up puzzled, “What’s a demcwat?”
“Ohhh… they are the bad people. You can’t trust them,” the adult answered.
The child turned to his baby sister, Caroline, “Cahyline, you’re a Demcwat. Get out of here, you Demcwat.”
The adult put down his paper, looked at the child and began back-pedaling very quickly.

Another day, Eli’s momma wanted to snuggle a bit with her cute-as-a-button pre-schooler. “Can I have a hug?” she asked him reaching out her arms expectantly.
“If you don’t give me a hug, I’m just going to disintegrate,” she pouted.
He looked at her, “What does disintegwate mean?”
“That I will fall apart into little pieces,” she said pathetically.
“Oh,” he ran across the room and embraced his momma and the new word. For the next week when he absolutely wanted something, he would tell his mother, “If you don’t give me that, I will disintegwate.”

He still remains in one piece, but his food does not. After seeing the movie “Robots,” he announced, “my mouth is just like a chop shop for food.”
He added the thought with “plummet” – another new addition to his vocabulary. “If I chew up my food and swallow it, it will pwummet to my belly and ‘sintegrate,” he announced to his mother recently.
With all those new words, his daddy stood at the door and said, “Come on Hot Shot.”.
“What is a hot shot?” the little fellow looked up and asked.
“A cool guy,” his father assured him.
A light of understanding spread across his little face, “I like being your wittle hot shot.”

He understood being a Hot Shot, but did not equate it with his mother’s frequently calling him “Bigs.” After she called him that one day he asked, “Why do you call me ‘Bigs’ sometimes?”
“It’s just a nickname, a term of endearment – like I call Caroline, ‘honey,’ ‘sweetie’ or ‘dear.’ Or your daddy, ‘dear.’ That’s all.”
Thinking about that reminded Eli of his frequent visitor and cousin, Oaken. “I call Oaken ‘my pwesent,’” he announced exhibiting his understanding of someone special in his life.

Nothing special about his recent bout with coughing and sneezing, but it finally ended. He realized it and told his mother, “I’m not sick any more. I don’t have anymore ‘bless yous’ in my mouth.”
Feeling much better with no more bless yous, Eli has kept himself busy being a worker man. He fills up his leather tool belt with anything he can find or begs his mother to loan him: a hole punch, stapler, stamps, compass, clips, tape, etc. “Anything that I’ve told him that he does not need to leave out for the babies to hold,” my daughter told me. ‘He fills his tool belt until things fall out and then he asks, ‘Why won’t they stay in there? I am a worker man and I need my tools to fix things. What can I fix, Mom?”
She hands him something to staple or clip, “You can fix this.”
He works on it for a while, “Okay, Mommy that is fixed, what else do you need fixed?” By the end of the day, odds and ends of stapled, taped, glued or punched papers and boxes clutter the house courtesy of the worker man.
His parents served as workers during last week’s snowstorm and built a snow fort. When Eli went out to play in it, he pulled up the flags on metal rods staking out their yard to pretended they were arrows. Thrusting them into the walls of the fort he slumped down and sat still for a long time because, “I’m dead. The enemy has got me with the arrows.”

For a worker man, busy learning to be a wiseman, it was the only time he sat still all day.
 (Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at