Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Grandma's All Ears for Toddler's Little Voice

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Grandma's All Ears for Toddler's Little Voice

Article excerpt

When the phone rang, I had no way of knowing it was a call I would treasure forever.

Life is full of surprises, like a storm in the night that leaves you fumbling in the dark for a flashlight, then dazzles you with blazes of lightning. It makes you want to get up each day just to see what will happen, where the lightning will strike, and who might be calling you next.

Before answering, I squinted at the Caller ID, hoping to avoid a telemarketer or politician or anybody else wanting to sell me something.

Without my glasses -- which, as usual, were someplace other than where I needed them to be -- I could barely read the number. But the area code told me it was probably one of my kids.

"Hey, darlin'!" I said, clueless as to which darlin' it might be.

Then I heard it -- the sweet, small voice of a sweet, small boy, my first grandchild calling me for the very first time.

Randy is almost 2. As my mother would say, he "talks up a storm," but in a language all his own. It is a beautiful language -- mystical, magical and seriously comical. He has taught it well to his mom and dad and dogs and cats. They all have no problem understanding him.

He tries teaching it to me, too, whenever I come to visit. But we live 500 miles apart, so I don't get to visit often. It's a lot like a correspondence course, when what I need is total immersion.

To my credit, I have learned a few words ("Mama," "Dada," "dog"). The last time I saw him, a long month ago, he taught me some animal sounds (cow, "moo"; duck, "quack"; kitty, "meow"). I don't pick things up as fast as I once did. By the time I'm fluent, he'll be in college, too busy to talk "baby talk" with his nana.

Mostly, when he talks, I just listen. Listening to "baby talk" is like listening to music. You don't always need to know the words of a song to understand its meaning, or to feel it swell up your heart near to bursting. …

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