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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Ohhh…. (02/04/10)

TITLE: Baba Was My Name
By Michael Joshua


“Who do you want to win the Super Bowl,” I asked my grandson.

“My team, baba”

“And who is your team?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.

“The purple team,” he replied.

“Hmmm… who would that be?”

“He means the Vikings, dad,” my daughter volunteered impatiently.


“But they’re not playing, they lost,” he said sadly. I think he even shuffled his feet and lowered his head.

Since the time he was about nine months old, he had been watching football with grandma. She’s the football fan in the house. Me? I only watch it if I pass through the room, although I will sit through a playoff or SuperBowl game. It gives me a good excuse to sit on the couch, eat chips and drink beer, and no one counts how many of each I consume. It is usually a good day. Of course, he didn’t learn to be a Vikings fan from his grandma, she likes the Broncos and the Colts. He got his love for the Vikings from his daddy and other grandparents – born and bred Minnesotans – they might even bleed purple. I know they all sing the fight song word for word.

When he was little grandma was able to get him to say “touchdown” and raise his arms in the air. You couldn’t really understand him though. He tried to say it sometimes, but it just wasn’t clear.

It was several months later that we learned why we couldn’t understand him.

“He has apraxia, there is a neurological disconnect from his brain to his mouth, he just can’t form the words,” said the speech therapist.

We spent the next four years using a combination of sign language, intensive speech therapy and trial and error to understand what he was attempting to say. Most times, he just didn’t even try to talk, it was too frustrating for him. He enunciated vowel sounds, but not consonants.

Friends and strangers alike looked at him quizzically when he would try to talk, after all, he was almost five years old. We said, “He suffers from a speech delay.”

“He understands everything, but cannot get a response out.”


At five and a half, the most common phrase he used was: “The words are stuck inside my head.” Of course, we had to translate that for other people; only family members understood the words, and the meaning.

Now he is over six years old, in kindergarten. He had always called us baba and mom-mom. His other grandparents were nana and papa – heavy on the ‘p’ sound. After a week in kindergarten, we were informed: “Me not say mom-mom baba, that for babies. Now me say it right way, gaama gaampa.” It was so cute, the way he stretched out the first ‘a’ but didn’t get out the ‘r’ at all. But, it made us a bit sad, we tried to get him to hang onto the baba mom-mom monikers for us, to no avail. He was in school now and he knew the right way to say it. Whether we liked it or not, that was gone.

Now he lives over an hour away, he’s in kindergarten, we don’t see him as much – but we talk daily. He has a sleepover with us on Tuesdays, we make sure we read a book, watch a cartoon, and I pray over him when he is falling off to sleep.

The last thing he hears on his sleepovers from me is usually, “I love you to pieces.” Of course, this is right after, “Go to sleep, you have school tomorrow.”

His response is always a hug and -


“Night-night, gaampa”

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This article has been read 442 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chely Roach02/11/10
Perfectly bittersweet. This made my spirit sigh. Excellent writing...
Brenda Shipman 02/15/10
Dear Baba, you are one terrific grandpa, and this precious boy is very blessed to have you and your wife! Great writing.
c clemons02/16/10
Very sweet, good job.
Lisa Johnson02/25/10
Very sweet, tender story. I love stories like this. Well done.