I call my
4-year-old grandson “my little guy” and “The Dude” and I love that he’s so cuddly
I buckle The Dude into the car and power
up an iPad to ensure his contentment during a ninety-minute ride from the
American Riviera to the Big City.
My little guy giggles with delight
as he battles dinosaurs that eruct comical side effects from his screen.
Dinosaurs are his passion, and he has
collected very many dinosaur toys, from plush ‘sauruses of one type or another
to hard plastic dinosaurs in all shapes and sizes, to a walking, roaring,
lit-up Dominus T-Rex—his favorite dinosaur of all, almost as tall as
He knows more names of dinosaurs than I ever knew existed.
Forty minutes on, rolling through
Camarillo, The Dude feels a twinge of impatience.
“Are we almost there?”
It isn’t a whine, just a legitimate
question for an active little boy sitting in the same spot for what must feel
like an eternity.
“See those mountains up ahead?” I
say, pointing through my windshield to the Conejo Grade in the distance. “We’re going to zoom right over them to the
“Zoom over them?” he says in
wonderment, and maybe that’s one of the things I adore most about this little
guy, his sense of wonderment, and his ability to absorb, process and retain new
information—and then play it back to me, often with a new twist.
I tackle the grade with ferocity,
zigzagging lanes to overtake cars whose engines are challenged by the road’s
seven percent incline, cresting the peak and commencing our descent.
My little guy is momentarily awed by
my fancy steering, and cheers me on, with glee, before reabsorbing himself with
colorful dinosaurs dancing across his screen.
Soon we ramp off, cruise city
streets, and he looks around enthusiastically, repeating my words with
glee. “City streets!”
A few minutes later we arrive at
LA’s Farmer’s Market, a landmark since it was founded in 1934, and a regular
go-to for my mom and dad, my brothers and me, when I was a freckle-faced little
Much of Farmer’s Market is the same
as it was half-a-century ago, starting with the pie maker whose large picture
window allows for shoppers to watch the bakers at work kneading dough and
filling tins with pie crust and fruit.
I pick up my buddy and show him the
action, and for fifteen seconds he is mesmerized by the activity on other side
of the partition.
My little guy’s favorite food in the
whole world is pepperoni pizza, and that’s why we’re here, because the best
pizza pie from my childhood is served at Patsy D’Amore’s, part of what may be
the world’s first food court, if unlike anything you see in shopping
For a start, these stands are all
mom-and-pops, the way America once was.
My little guy doesn’t just eat
pizza; he has a love affair with it.
I devour my own plain slice, I watch him bite into pepperoni, cheese and tomato
sauce, his bedroom eyes savoring the flavors.
Adjacent to the pizza shack is Bob’s
Donuts, so when my little guy is finished I lift him in my arms and point out
all the varieties of freshly made donuts.
“Which one would you like?” I ask,
though I already know he will choose a donut with pink frosting and rainbow
(When you ask The Dude his
favorite color, he always answers, “Rainbow.”)
Back at our table, while I sip
coffee and nibble an Old Fashioned, my buddy dives into his frosted donut,
literally, head first, licking at the sprinkles, eventually leaving the dough
for sparrows that make their presence known with bold approaches.
My little guy delights in little
birds, in living creatures of all kinds.
He loves animals, especially dogs, and it is uncanny how much canines
They are drawn to the innate
warmth he radiates through their sixth sense; they snuggle into him, lick his
face, and in return he strokes them with a tenderness that prompts dogs, large
and small, to roll over, wag their tails, and refuse to leave his aura of
genuine affection and happiness.
Afterwards I walk hand-in-hand with
my buddy to an old wishing well.
When I was his age I marveled at the
hundreds of coins at well’s bottom.
I hoist my dude up onto the rim of
the well and hand him a quarter. “Make a wish and toss it in.”
My little guy thinks about this very
carefully with his dreamy eyes, and finally says, “I wish I were alive.”
“But you are!” I chuckle.
And like most little boys he is
already on to the next thing. In this
case: a toy store.
Eagerly, his little legs keep up
with my adult stride as we weave around stands that sell nuts, stands that sell
fruit, stands that sell chocolate, and fresh produce, and so on, until we
My buddy is in his element now, and
he knows precisely what he’s looking for:
It does not take him long to
identify his prize: a plastic cylinder
filled with different colored miniature dinosaurs.
Once in his custody, he spills this
collection onto a picnic table and sets them up, one group facing the other in
preparation for battle, all the while sucking a blue Tootsie Pop I chose for
him at a candy stand.
At some point, and I have no idea
how it happens, I turn around and my buddy is gone. His toy dinosaurs remain on the table but he is nowhere to be seen.
I jump up, panic-stricken, looking
around in all directions, a sea of people around me but no little guy.
I take a few steps, peer down an aisle,
nothing, a few steps the other way, calling out to him, in normal voice at
first, then louder, and louder still.
And just when I think I’ve lost him, I hear, “Here I am,” with a joyous
We commence our drive home and my
little guy is tired, and perhaps weary of the road, because in no time at all,
hypnotized by passing scenery, he falls into deep slumber.
I have my routine in the evening, a
couple glasses of wine with friends at a nearby restaurant, and it twinges my
heart when my little guy tugs at my leg, begging me not to leave, and then,
this ritual over, he waves at me through a window as I depart, and blows me a
He’s waiting for me when I return.
“Papa?” He is standing at the top of the stairs, and
when he knows it’s me, he comes sliding down, literally, by the seat of his
Bedtime. Which means anything but
sleep for my little guy.
“Let’s fight!” he says, a glint in
his eye, his body twisting with boundless energy after he climbs on the bed and
grabs a pillow.
And then we are at it, clobbering
one another with pillows, and he especially delights in landing a pillow smack
across my face and I react like a cartoon character, sounding off “boing,
boing, boing” as I back up and crash into a wall.
By this time, my little guy is
thirsty. I twist the cap of bottled
water and hand it to him and he raises it to his mouth and drinks with sound
effects—glug, glug, glug—that make me laugh, and he says, “What are you laughing
at?” and this makes me laugh even more.
Finally, my energy ebbing (while his
still flows), it is time for a bedtime story.
“Five minutes,” he says. (Everything is always five minutes with my little guy.)
And so, five more minutes of horsing
around before we lay down for a story, more a dialog about a business project
we’ve been devising between us in the preceding weeks: our own restaurant, the Dino Dinerie.
The theme, of course, is dinosaurs, and we
are in the process of refining our menu.
Raptor Tails in Spinosaurus
Pterodactyl wings in
My little buddy has a great sense of
humor, and we laugh with every new menu item.
After going through it a few times,
my little guy turns on his side, and then he turns back to face me. “Will you be here when I wake up in the
And I watch as his eyelids slowly
dip… lower, lower, and lower… until they close… and my little buddy is fast
The Dude usually awakens
before me. He likes to place his face
inches from mine and wait for me to open my eyes.
But on this morning, I awaken first
and I feel him snuggled into my back.
turn so that I may study his delicate facial features and thick jet-black hair
while he is still asleep, and such a good sleeper he is.
But all I find is a pillow that
somehow made its way beneath the bedcovers.
I look around and still I don’t see
my little guy.
So I amble out into the hall, into
the living room.
“Hey, buddy,” I call out. “Say here
I check that the door leading to the
garden is closed, and it is, so I gather he’s playing hide-n-seek with me, and
I look around, but cannot find him anywhere.
“Say here I am!” I repeat, giving up.
“Who are you talking to?” I hear
from my daughter, on high, in an upstairs bedroom.
“My buddy,” I say. “Is he up there with you?”
“What are you talking about?”
Now I know they’re both playing a
joke with me; he’s probably tucked into bed with her, giggling as I struggle to
I head up the stairs and into their
My daughter is sitting up,
“He’s not with you?” I ask.
She looks at me in disbelief. “I don’t have a son, dad.”
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about my little
guy. Your son. My grandson.
Where is he?”
My daughter nods. “How old is he, dad?”
“Four-and-a-half,” I say.
And the nodding of her head turns sideways. “Would’ve been. Don’t you remember?”
“That’s when I had an abortion—about
five years ago.”
“I was only eighteen. You said I wouldn’t to able to raise a child so young, as a single mother. Don’t you remember?”
Feeling greater despair than I’ve felt my whole life, all I can hear is a little voice in my mind asking, Papa, where are you?
And I remember what
my little guy said at the wishing well. I wish I were alive.
In March 2012, my eighteen-year-old
daughter found herself four-months pregnant.
Her obstetrician scribbled the name
and number of a late-term abortion clinic onto a notepad and handed the
notation to my daughter.
We did not go that route.
Thankfully, my daughter gave birth
to a beautiful boy five months later.
I cannot imagine how life would be
without my little guy.
I cannot imagine how I’d feel today
if I had paid, to scratch from my daughter, from this world, my own flesh and
This affectionate soul adored by
My very precious grandson.
On this day of remembrance for aborted children, I honor and pray for all the beautiful souls that were not allowed to take their journeys through life.