Those of you who have read my previous writings are quite aware of the fact that I am the happy grandfather of a young mighty warrior named Taelor-James. Those of you reading this as your first sample of my writing can find several previous pieces (such as The Arrival of a Mighty Warrior) to get further context into the apple of my eye that I simply address as “Butter Bean”.
I will also provide a little bit of context here so that the feelings I have about Butter Bean can be better understood and appreciated. First of all, I ask that you forgive me if I use the names Taelor, Taelor-James, Mighty Warrior, or Butter Bean rather freely and interchangeably as they are all one and the same. Taelor entered the world (and our hearts) on a Sunday morning in 2012. He came into the world pink, crying, and breathing. One eye blink later, he was suddenly doing none of those things and had to be resuscitated. It was a frightening and traumatic ordeal but the little mighty warrior recovered quickly.
Some brain damage was detected that resulted from the problematic birth. As a result, Taelor had some developmental delays. For example, He was late to start speaking compared to other kids in his age group (1-2 years at the time). In order to teach him to communicate, we taught him some simple gestures in ASL (American Sign Language). Like most boys, his communications typically revolved around food consumption. He learned to sign phrases like “more”, “please”, and “thank you”. One day, as we were all sitting outside at my patio table. I had been working every day on teaching the word “Mommy” to Taelor in ASL. With your outstretched right hand, you touch your right thumb to your chin. For days on end, I would say Mommy and put my thumb on my chin. Butter Bean would not mimic the sign. We would all joke that he was not interested as it didn’t revolve around food. That afternoon on the back patio, I looked at Taelor while speaking and signing the word “Mommy”. Taelor pointed to his Mommy and placed his thumb on his chin. We all rejoiced and celebrated this accomplishment.
As Taelor began to speak more words (as opposed to signing them), we dispensed with the use of ASL in order to encourage speech development. At around the age of three, Butter Bean would display an interesting tendency. At the time, Taelor and his mother, Brianna, were living with us (along with her fiancée, Mike) as well as my younger son, Caleb. Taelor did very well with identifying his mother and grandparents. Mommy, Nay Nay, and Pop Pop came to him rather easily. One day, I was standing in the kitchen holding Taelor in my arms. My son went to the refrigerator to get a drink. Without provocation, Taelor pointed to him and said “Caleb” as clear as a bell. When I tried to get him to repeat it, he wouldn’t say it. This became a running theme of Taelor saying new words but would not repeat them when asked. He apparently didn’t like to be put on display. That’s OK, his Uncle Caleb was the same way (and still is).
In 2016, as Taelor was approaching four years old, the family faced a huge transition as Brianna, Taelor, and Mike moved into their own apartment. This was a huge adjustment for all of us. Taelor had lived with my wife and me since he was born and was now not going to be (quite as much) a part of our daily lives. Fortunately, they did not live far away at all. Additionally, we would converse frequently by phone or video chat.
There was another saving grace during this time period. Taelor was enrolled in pre-school. Around the same time of his enrollment, I was laid off from my job after 7 years. As a result, I got the opportunity to drive Butter Bean back and forth to pre-school. Since it was only a 2.5 hour span, I would arrange any job interviews around it. The hardest part of this arrangement came when I suffered an ankle fracture in January 2017. This sidelined me from driving anywhere for about 3.5 months as I could not bear any weight on my right foot during that time. As soon as I was cleared and comfortable with driving again, Butter Bean and I were back at our morning routine.
These morning routines were something Taelor and I looked forward to immensely. I’d go to his apartment and have a cup of coffee with Brianna while Taelor finished breakfast. After breakfast, Taelor would get his book bag and say: “It’s time to leave the BatCave and go on a mission.” He would make it clear that my Ford Focus was the Batmobile ONLY when he was in it. Otherwise, it was Pop Pop’s car. That made it pretty clear which one of us was Batman.
Yesterday was his final day at pre-school. Next year, he will start kindergarten and be bussed to school. I think it’s wonderful. Kindergarten basically translates as garden of children. What better place could there be for a healthy, developing Butter Bean?