Eight In Human Years

by jkatejohnston

30 June 2014

Dear Max,

Enzo woke up in the near dark: “I can’t believe I’m eight years old! Duncan!” I don’t think I’ve mentioned that Enzo says “Duncan!” as a kind of all-around exclamation, transition word, remark-for-all-purposes. “Duncan!” Also, we celebrate Duncan’s birthday on the same day as Enzo’s.

He lay in bed, naked, with me snuggling and stalling him while Teresa quietly brought his wrapped presents inside from her studio. “I wonder how old Duncan is in cat years. He must be at least fifty-six.”

“How many cat years is one human year?” I said.

“I think six.”

“So Duncan if ten in human years…” I waited for him to do the math.

“What’s fifty-five plus six?”




“That’s impossible!” A pause. “Oh, I get it.”

Later I heard him tell one of his friends that Duncan is in his late fifties.

And all this reminds me that Teresa told me Enzo was in his bedroom reading Duncan one of his dinosaur books for about fifteen minutes. Reading, of course, means showing Duncan the pictures and telling him everything he knows about each dinosaur, which tends to be a lot.


I was reading Enzo Little House in the Big Woods, and in the book Pa was whittling. I asked Enzo if he would like to whittle.

“I would rather sew.”

“What would you like to sew?”

“A pillow.”

“What kind of fabric?”

“Silk. For Duncan, for his cat-carrier, and with the rest of the fabric, a scarf for Duncan.”


“Fishing is in my blood. Two of my ancestors have been fishing for generations. I am old enough to take the name of my great grandfather.” I think looking at old family pictures brought this on. One of my grandfathers had a charter fishing boat and the other was a devoted fly fisherman. Sometimes these things skip a generation or two.


I got Enzo a new flavor of Hubba Bubba. “Want to have a taste of this ultimate citrus? Or you can just smell my breath. Haaaahhhh.”


At Starbucks Enzo walked to the end of the counter to pick up his cold milk from the barista. I was still at the register paying for it. When he came back I said, “Did you say ‘thank you’?”

“I murmured it.”


“What do you think would be worse, riding off the rails on a train going over a bridge in deep water, or a bus crash?”

“Um, train.”



At Marie’s donuts, opening the white bag and inhaling deeply: “Whoa! That’s hard-hitting.”


After his bath: “I would rather die than take lotion one more time.”


“I just sneered.”

“Oh yeah? Lemme see.” He makes a face.

“Now I’m going to jeer: Go powder your nose!”


I’m the heaviest one in my class. Sixty-one pounds. That’s as much as a small grownup.


Happy Birthday, our sweet boy.