Friday Flotsam 12.2.2011
He tears down the hallway, dodging an unused walker parked against the wall. He turns the corner and the room echos with the "clop clop clop" sound of his shoes slapping against the tile. He lets out a squeak of joy, the smile spread wide across his face as he approaches their table.
He stops fast and shoots his hand up above his head, giving his signature wave. He looks from person to person, as if he's greeting each one personally.
Slowly, the gray heads lift. They turn away from their lunch trays filled with soft food, and look for the source of the commotion.
Their eyes widen. They reach out their knarled hands to him. Some begin to coo at him. And then smiles spread over their faces too.
It's a magical moment to see the very old respond to the very young.
We've spent the past several days at a home for memory impaired people where The Man's father has lived for the past year. He was diagnosed four years ago with severe dementia, likely Alzheimer's, and now this vibrant, loving, and joyful man is at the final days of his life.
The Man flew out on Friday. Little Man and I joined him on Tuesday. (I won't go into the details on our travels other to to say it involved cancelled flights, an exhausted toddler, and a fair share of screaming. But we made it.) The return to our hometown has been difficult for the obvious reasons.
But it has also been joyous.
It's the first time that our extended family have met Little Man. And the first time for him to meet his Grandpa on daddy's side. While we are with Grandpa at the nursing facility, The Man's family gets to spend time with our Korean tornado. And when we go home, my side of the family is enjoying him. (For those of you that didn't know, The Man and I are both from the same small town.) He has met his cousins (there are 4 other 1-year-olds in our family!) and they've had rollicking good times. Little Man has been beaming from ear-to-ear.
There's also been joy as I've seen our son's outgoing personality bring smiles to the other residents who live at Grandpa's nursing facility. He's quite a social butterfly and he loves to run through the dining area at lunchtime, waving, smiling, and occasionally, handing toys to people. I admit that I would love him to be a bit more reserved with strangers and clingy (I know that's my attachment issue and not his) but I also admire his confidence and am proud of it.
I'm learning more about how Little Man and I work together as mother and child. Sometimes in their excitement the residents approach Little Man a little too forcefully (several women have attempted to pick him up or take him from my arms). He isn't an outwardly expressive child and he wouldn't cry or throw a fit if they were to pick him up. But I know his signs of stress---they are subtle. Signs that I have learned in these past 6-months. I step in to shield him from their embrace or politely refuse to let them hold him. He seems to relax more, knowing that I am there to keep him safe.
And there's also been joy in some of his milestones this week. He also started signing to us---he uses the word 'please' often. Occasionally he'll do 'more'. We knew he could do them, but he's just stubborn and refused. So it's really great that he's finally chosen to communicate!
And he's started calling me Mama. Not sure if it was his stubborn nature or he just didn't know what to call me, but he hasn't called me that in all the months he's been home. These past few days he's started saying it! When he's crying. Or happy. Or wants something. He doesn't say it alot yet, but I wasn't prepared for how deeply this would touch me each time I hear it.
This is such a bittersweet time at home for us. We experience these joys as we wait for such a sorrowful moment. Grandpa hasn't passed yet, but we know it's a matter of time. Until then, we stay with him, surrounding him with love.
I suppose an upside to death is that it helps the living remember the fragility of our lives. Today I am reminded not to hold on too tightly to the fears in life. To enjoy the small successes.
And to take time to marvel at the brilliance of a small child at the beginning of their life, reaching out to those at the end of theirs.
To play: How to make bathtub puffy paint
To decorate for the holidays: Ditto
To keep them entertained: 25 indoor activities to keep your toddler occupied this winter
To splunk: Make a cave
To remember: Savor it anyway
To be Superfly: Give little shoes the superhero treatment
To eat! Tofu Jeon