Last night I had a date, the second in as many weeks, with a much younger man. His name is Eli and he will turn four next month. He's my younger grandson.
He chose Steak 'n' Shake where he had his very first Very Berry Strawberry Milkshake and a hamburger platter. The shake disappeared quickly.
Two weeks ago, I had taken his older brother, Reubs, to Cracker Barrel, his choice. I love these outings where we can talk and laugh and imagine. By taking one boy at a time, that child gets all the attention.
Unfortunately, the S 'n' S sound system was blasting rock music. Though Eli sat right next to me, I couldn't hear a word he said, so I asked the server to have them crank down the volume. She said she would, but it continued to blare, so I asked again.
"I told them."
"But we still cannot hear one another. Restaurant music is supposed to lend to the ambiance, not drown out all hope of communication. If it cannot be turned down, please cancel our orders."
This time they turned it down. Further, they changed stations to something more pleasant.
The loud music might not have bothered most people, but we wanted to talk. This was a special event for us. Eli had been asking me about it all week long, and I had looked forward to solo time with him.
I must confess to being a chronic people-watcher and eavesdropper. (That comes with being a writer.) Too often, I've watched people in restaurants--couples or parents with children--dining in silence. Sometimes they gaze around at other diners or at the decor, not even making eye contact with the person they are with.
This is especially disconcerting when the other person is a child. When the parties are adults, they have apparently reached a mutual agreement that conversation is unimportant. But children love the attention. They want to talk, to share their dreams, to tell about their adventures, real or imaginary. They're on a journey toward adulthood that will be intersected with the tumultuous teens. Those same adults who cannot find it within themselves to carry on a conversation with a young child over dinner will be blindsided when they have reticent teens.
"Why won't he talk to me?"
"I had no idea that she was ______________." (You fill in the blank.)
"I cannot communicate with him. It's as though we speak two different languages."
So I cherish my one-on-one dates with my grandchildren. They are blessed by having parents who also value them and care about what they have to say.
Guess what. Eli wants to be a doctor and a super hero when he grows up. I'm pretty sure he'll make it.