The Art and Joy of Deep Conversation

My grandson, Levi, has reached a new plateau in communication and conversational skills. He has progressed to where he now grasps both the sounds of words and their intent and can twist them to his own purpose. Some still cause him to break into raucous laughter, such as clump or zucchini, for which there is no rhyme or reason. Others he merely likes the feel of them as he repeats them whenever the spirit moves him.

I’ve written about this progressive development before, (read it here), but now the vocabulary, coupled with his grasping of the concept of numbers, increases daily.

Books that once seemed just entertainment are now referred to with astounding specificity. It’s no longer enough to grab a pile of books to read—which used to be all he wanted—now he handpicks the daily book list, depending on his mood.

Some of these newly acquired words are eminently clear, and others require a bit of deciphering, but each day brings something new. His skills at listening and, more dangerously, repetition also grow more deliberate.

Some words he now uses lack preconceived notions of their context. The other day, when asked what he wanted for breakfast, he immediately answered with one of his newest words.


A response both honest and straightforward, lacking any preconceptions about the appropriateness of the answer. It was sheer honesty.

That’s the beauty of youthful innocence. Society has not bombarded Levi with cultural demands about the “right” thing to say. When asked a question, he doesn’t consider the consequences of the answer. He merely gives it in the best and most honest way he can.

There are moments—and they seem to compound daily—where he grasps a new word through his almost supernatural hearing, and runs with it. Some are funny when he places this newfound sound in a totally out-of-context exclamation. Some are certain to bring a sharp rebuke from my daughter about “teaching” him such things. But they are all part of the process.

The genuine pleasure is the once exciting first sounds and babble have transformed into conversations. We’re not quite at the point of discussing philosophy, the existence of alien lifeforms, parallel universes, or the nature of life, but it is only a matter of time.

For now, I settle for the “Pickles” for breakfast responses to my many questions.

And while I have your attention, I’d like to take a short, informal poll. First, speaking of things I am banned from teaching him, I was advised, nay I was commanded, not to teach Levi the following.

Great big gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts, mutilated monkey meat, baby birdy bloody feet (repeat verse) and I forgot my spoon.

I think it is harmless, what say you? I mean, it is only a matter of time before he reads this himself. Or even better, writes his own witty ditty.

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