My second granddaughter, 16-month-old Sienna, isn’t quite talking yet. Well, she does say a few words: momma, daddy, big, ball, and bawl (yes, I’m counting that as two words).

Supposedly, at her age, she should have a vocabulary of about eight words. As a grandfather, I have two jobs. The first is to tell everybody not to worry — Sienna is very bright.

And my second job is to whisper “grandpa” to Sienna 8 million times so that will be her next word.

As far as Sienna being very bright, that goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Sienna’s obviously a genius. She gets everybody to run around and do her bidding by just grunting and pointing.

And if that’s not proof enough, she can hide a valuable necklace or the remote control where nobody can find it, and she instinctively knows which cardboard puzzle piece tastes the best.

Sienna’s parents, my daughter and son-in-law, aren’t really worried about this. However, her being a slightly late talker immediately brought the rest of our family into action.

Aunts, uncles, and cousins all gathered and came up with reasons for Sienna’s slightly limited vocabulary. These reasons consisted of excuses, denials, conspiracy theories, alternative facts, exaggerations, and anger.

In other words, it was a typical dinner at the Rosen house.

My Uncle Hy, who is considered the intellect of the family because he has a subscription to The New Yorker (although I think he just reads the cartoons), immediately brought up Einstein. Uncle Hy said it is a well-known fact that Einstein didn’t talk until he was 3.

Unfortunately, Uncle Hy then added that Mussolini didn’t talk until he was 4. None of us thought that Mussolini was a great role model.

Cousin Arnie, who loves to watch Animal Planet, said that Sienna is talking but she’s using sign language, like the famous chimp, Nim, or Koko the gorilla.

Uncle Hy then said, “You realize you just compared Sienna to an ape.”

“At least I didn’t compare her to Mussolini,” Cousin Arnie retorted.

Aunt Irene, who never found a conspiracy theory she didn’t like, said, “Sienna’s not talking because of the fluoride in the water.”

Cousin Shirley, who has a knack for saying the obvious, chimed in, “Sienna can say five words, and the average is eight words, so that’s a three-word difference.” She then smiled as though she solved the problem.

Uncle George said, “Anybody can talk. It’s the smart people who know when to keep their mouths shut, like when my wonderful wife, Flora, said she was worried that her dress makes her look fat. I knew enough to keep my mouth shut.” Flora then punched him in the arm.

As the family continued bickering, I sat down next to Sienna. It was just the two of us, and I told her I was sorry for all this craziness.

Sienna then looked at me and said, “I just wish they would be as quiet and as smart as you, Grandpa. They are just projecting their own fears and problems onto me. I am going at my own pace, and I’ll talk when I’m ready to talk. And when the time is right, I will do great things for myself, my family, and my country.”

OK, she actually said, “Blobityyaayaa.” But I could tell by the expression in her eyes what she was really saying.


Sy Rosen has written for many TV shows, including The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, M.A.S.H., Maude, The Jeffersons, Rhoda, Frasier, Northern Exposure, and The Wonder Years. He now spends much of his time telling jokes to his grandkids and trying to convince his wife that he’s funny.

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