My 15-year-old grandson Evan has spent a little over a week with me. He is a great kid and I love him dearly. But, teenagers are different, very different.
The time we have spent together has been fun and a wonderful learning experience.
First of all, I discovered he does not eat vegetables. None. It’s almost as if they are radioactive. You can’t hide them in any dish.
“Pop, I like meat, almost any kind of meat,” he proclaimed.
True enough, he cleaned out the entire barbecue leftovers in the fridge, including some very old sausage that I had planned to throw out.
I asked him if the sausage smelled funny or taste odd, but he said no and added that it was actually pretty good. He didn’t turn green or fall down holding his stomach so I guess everything went well.
Other than meat, he wants 90 percent of his food fried (I guess barbecued makes up a lot of the final 10 percent). Baked? I don’t think so!
He loves this college football video game that he plays while laying across the bed, clicking buttons while directing computerized players across the football field on a television screen. He has a headset on with a microphone so that he and friends can chat about the game, or so he says. We all know there is a nefarious conversation going on. I mean these are teenagers.
Like most teenagers, Evan keeps his cellphone in his hand or nearby. You ever watch teens in the mall? (Oh, yeah we did the mall, too.) They talk, walk and text. They call it multi-tasking. I think their limited use of the vocabulary makes for #boring conversations.
There were times when we listened to rap and hip-hop music. (I like some of it.) I think he was surprised when I let the rap station remain on and that I engaged him in conversation about the names of the rappers and singers.
The keepsake episode of his stay occurred when I dragged him into a big box bookstore. I treat bookstores with the same hallowed respect that I give to libraries. So, I’m usually shhhh quiet in there.
As we perused the bookshelves I said to him: “Dude, you need to find something to read.”
With a straight face and measured cadence he responded: “Pops, I do read. I read emails and text messages.”
I probably laughed loud enough for everyone within earshot to hear me. (I had a similar response years ago when my then 7-year-old son had gotten into trouble at school. He watched as I talked to his teacher. Then when I came over to ask, “What did you do?,” he answered, “How much do you already know?”)
Evan explained that he had just finished a tough summer school session and wanted a break. I gave in. After all, he would be reading a lot of drive-up fast-food menu boards, restaurant menus and, yes, the trinity of teenagers: text messages, emails and Facebook entries.
There was something else about our time together that made me more forgiving of his reading habits.
He always answered me with “No, sir” and “Yes, sir.” He said the same thing to waiters and waitresses and the lady in the loudspeaker at the drive-up window. Best of all, he did it when he didn’t know I was around.
Evan is no angel. He has his moments. But, I discovered that he has a quiet thoughtfulness and that says a lot about his character. And, you know what, you don’t have to be a big reader to be kind and respectful.
Edward Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.