“How will I know when I’m an adult Saba?” the boy asked his grandfather. The grandfather looked into his inviting blue eyes, pools of clear water, careful not to fall into them.
“Do you want the answer all adults give to their children or do you want my answer?” the saba asked his eleven year old grandson, whose named happened to be Daniel, but this saba did not believe in chance. Daniel meant “God has judged me” in Hebrew, but every Hebrew name means something. One can’t escape from meaning in this country.
“I want your answer Saba,” Daniel said. His eyes flashed and he grinned.
The saba wondered how he did that. He didn’t answer right away. Rather he looked off into the distance, probably for the right answer to his grandson’s question. “You want to be an adult, yes?” the saba asked. That’s the way people in this country asked questions: they made a factual statement, ending it with yes? Or no?
Daniel said, “Sure, everyone my age wants to be an adult already.”
“Well,” Saba said, “if you want to be an adult, then you’re not one yet. As soon as you want to be a kid again, that’s when you’ll know you’re an adult.”
Somewhat disappointed by Saba’s answer, not because it didn’t ring true, but because it did, Daniel asked, “Okay, give me another sign so that I can know.”
“Well,” Saba said again, “do you love your children?”
“But Saba,” Daniel protested, “I don’t have any children! You know that, don’t you? I’m just eleven years old. Besides, you have to be married, like Mom and Dad, to have children.”
Saba was waiting in ambush for Daniel to say that. “When you’re an adult, you love your children more than you love yourself.”
“Oh,” Daniel said despondently, “I see. Give me one last sign, Saba, please.”
“Well,” Saba said yet another time, drawing this out as much as possible, “do you like coffee or whiskey?”
“I hate those things Saba!” Daniel said. “I don’t know how adults can like those drinks. Besides, what do they have to do with being an adult?”
“When you drink coffee or whiskey, not because you’re thinking about drinking coffee or whiskey, but because it makes you think about something else so far away, it’s over the horizon, then that’ll be a sign,” the saba paused to take a sip of scalding tea and lemon, crinkling his eyes toward the dipping sun, “unless, of course, you don’t drink coffee or whiskey, and then it won’t matter.”
Daniel pondered his saba’s words for a long time. “Saba,” he said, “you knew I wouldn’t understand anything you would answer, right?”
Saba answered, “Well, yes, I suppose I did.”
“So why did you answer me?” Daniel asked.
“Because you asked,” Saba winked.