“Today we bid a fond farewell to Ollie and Enrico,” Ian announces.
I look up from my Sci-Fi book and consider a mad leap into another interesting dimension—a conversation with my son. While sitting in the doctor’s office the past few weeks, we’ve enjoyed a little one-on-one. Through these choice moments, I think I’ve discovered that my son’s primary love language is quality time (quality talk time).
I shut my book and look inquiringly at the kid, who is scanning the anatomical flip charts on the wall, (no doubt memorizing all the potential bones of the hand that he has yet to break.)
“Enrico and Ollie?” I ask bemusedly, knowing the names have meaning, but wondering if I have time to hear the whole explanation in the two hours we have left waiting for the doctor.
It seems he has named the two pins that have begun to protrude from the healing joint in his pinkie.
“Yup,” he responds. Ian has had a proclivity for naming inanimate objects since he was a toddler, when Rope and Rock were his best friends. "Oliver Cromwell and Enrico Fermi."
“Right! ...huh?” I give my typical response that means, “Gee, I can’t wait to further clarify my ignorance of history, current affairs and future scientific theory.”
He waits and shuffles to the next flip chart--the one about feet. (He has honed the science of the pregnant pause.)
I finally break, “Tell.”
“Well, Ollie of course for Oliver Cromwell.”
“Ha! The warmonger.” I knew this! Last night was the cram for the 20th Century history exam and I wandered by the computer room at a crucial moment to sneak a peek over his shoulder and I spied that name! HA! I could have figured that one out—given enough months.
“And Enrico,” he speaks as if uninterrupted. “for Enrico Fermi, the Italian Nobel prize-winning nuclear physicist.
Whew. It’s as innocuous as that. This time I can totally follow his reasoning.
He’s been laid up with this incapacitating injury, (forcing him to turn the pages on his books with his right hand) with nothing more to do than further his fixation with history, wars, and battle accoutrements. He will ace the 20th Century final because it aligns nicely with his life-long pursuit of the trivial.
My smugness is interrupted by his next words, “Fermi of course is for ferrum, Latin for iron, whose chemical element is FE, and Cromwell…” I begin to sense the familiar crack appearing in that whole other dimension.
“… is Chromium, which is CE,” and there it is, the creation of a black hole and I’m sinking.
“Combine CE with FE and add ME.” Here he breaks into his standard grin that forewarns that he is about to go witty, “I, of course, am carbon” he smirks.
“… and that makes up the chemical compound of the two pin’s composite makeup,” he ends in triumph.
“Huh? ” again me, with my brow furrowed and my mouth ajar.
“Stainless steel,” and with that pronouncement, he goes back to the chart and continues his insouciance.
“Duh!” This wasn’t actually verbalized, but it’s the same.
“That’s nice, honey.” I murmur. I give the standard parental response that's been used since the dawn of time for teens to disguise a parent's pure panic or confusion.
Often I revert back to the sage advice, “Never let them think they’ve thrown you. Just cling to the edge frantically and eventually they will toss you a line. Or if you are lucky, they will just leave you there to dangle in peace.
And he does.
I cower on the bench, fumble with my book and wonder where in the Universe will this darling ever find his place to Live Long and Prosper.