Yesterday, a minor medical situation (not mine this time) rendered me temporary overseer of my five-year old nephew . . . all by myself.
My nephew whispered, “I think we need to pray.” You’re not kidding, kid-o, I wanted to say.
I watched the flurry of coats and shoes, quickly losing sight of my nephew’s whereabouts. Gathering my wits, I found him sitting on the sofa in the living room, his eyes closed, his little hands clinched under his chin, and his mouth moving rapidly. I sat down beside him and listened as he prayed for Nana . . . and for his developing cough while he was at it.
He and I went outside and watched the back taillights of his mother’s car until we couldn’t see them anymore, (a silly family tradition), then headed into the garage where I tried to distract him with darts. Magnetic ones. That killed about ten minutes, then we were back inside staring at each other.
Nephew asked if Nana was going to die, and I said that I really didn’t think so. (I resisted the urge to say that any of us could die at any moment). Figuring that they had reached the Emergency Room by now, we sat down and this time I prayed for Nana and for wisdom for the doctors and nurses.
After some milk and cookies, Nephew suggested that we play ‘fiery plane crash’ (with a Hess fire truck to the rescue). I dug around instead for something a little more calming. I found Pap’s train documentaries on VHS.
“What’s this?” Nephew asked, turning the videotape over and over. “And why is it floppy?” he wiggled the front-end of the cassette.
I explained how a tape works and popped it into the machine. Soon a steam engine was chugging along the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia. I should have put the sound on mute, because every few seconds (and I do mean every few seconds) Nephew would ask, “What’s the man saying? I can hear him, but it’s like he isn’t speaking English!”
Admittedly, the film was a bit over my Nephew’s head despite his love for trains. With the help of my simplified (and exhausting) commentary, he soon settled in contentedly for what he later described as “a very long video.”
When the documentary ended, Nephew announced that he was hungry again, and I realized that it was time for dinner. His favorite dish is mac ‘n cheese, but we couldn’t find any elbow pasta anywhere (and I do mean anywhere). My helpful assistant had every door and drawer in the kitchen hanging open as visible proof of an extremely thorough search.
As I was making his dinner, I started singing a little Sunday School ditty that I hadn’t thought of in years. Soon Nephew was singing along as he played with his racecars on the kitchen floor.
When I put some angel hair pasta into boiling water, Nephew asked, “Who gave us spaghetti?”
Oh boy. “God did. He gives us everything that we have.” I answered.
“But how?” Nephew asked.
“Well, he created the plants and everything that goes into spaghetti, then he gave people the ability to figure out how to actually make it.” I replied.
His eyes got big and he squealed, “You mean God gave us the recipe?”
The phone rang, interrupting my response. It was Nana herself saying that she was going to live, and that they’d be right home after a stop by the pharmacy.
As I placed Nephew’s modified mac ‘n cheese on his divided plate along with a side of chili, some sliced tomatoes and a Lebanon bologna sandwich (a strange gamish in hindsight), he continued his intense theological grilling.
He asked questions like “Is God dead?” . . . “How tall is God?” . . . “Why can’t we see Him?” . . . “Can God reach down and touch us?” These questions inevitably led to Jesus . . . and more questions, such as “Why did Judas betray Jesus?” (I hadn’t even mentioned Judas or betrayal.)
Our lively conversation was interrupted by the sound of the garage door. “I’m going to give them big hugs!” Nephew exclaimed as he finished the last few bites on his plate and rushed to the door.