My grandson Hasan wanted to spend the night with me, so I picked him up on my way home from work. We played on the computer, constructed a model car together, watched a little television, brushed our teeth and put on our pajamas. Then he asked me, “What color is our brain?”
“Pink,” I said.
“What color is a very young brain?”
“What color is a very old brain?”
“Pink,” I said, “I’ll show you.” I dug out my beautifully illustrated atlas of anatomy and flipped to the section on the nervous system. I showed him the pink brain, with its packed convolutions, and I showed him where the spinal cord enters the lower part of the brain. Then I ran my fingers down his spinal cord. He stared.
“How do the five senses work?” he asked.
I flipped to the eye picture and told him about how light enters the pupil and how the optic nerve is connected to the brain.
“How do we hear?” he asked.
I flipped to the ear pictures, and showed him the inner anatomy of the ear, which conveniently looks like musical instruments (if you apply a little imagination).
“How does burping work?”
To the digestive system…
“How does the pee pee get made?”
To the kidneys, ureters and bladder pages…
“The poopies?” Back to the digestive system…
“How does our hair get white when we get old?”
To the section on aging…He stared at the drawings of people at various ages, their hair becoming white and their flesh becoming loose. He wanted to know where each of his family members stood in the lineup.
We sat with that book for nearly an hour, he asking questions and me flipping the pages to show him pictorial answers.
Finally I saw his eyelids droop, so we went to bed. I was relieved he hadn’t asked me about death.
He turned from side to side, unable to fall asleep in spite that he was tired and it was nearly midnight.
“I can’t fall asleep,” he said. “I want my mommy!” He became agitated and I wasn’t able to help him recover his usual good mood. I had to phone his mommy, waking her, and ask her to unlock the door for us. I took him home, feeling sorry that he had suddenly felt so unhappy.
Next morning, he phoned me early and said, “Grandma! Don’t tell me anything more about the body at night time. I just get so confused! I get sooooo confused!”