Sunday, December 16, 2007

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

....I got to see through my son's eyes. And how clear was the view.

My mother works as the director of a large assisted living facility here in Cackalackie. This afternoon, said facility hosted a Christmas party complete with Santa, sugar cookies, candy canes, and crafts. It was really adorable, and the kids enjoyed the extra opportunity to visit with the jolly, fat, bearded guy one more time for last minute requests....because as you can imagine, telling him what you want once just wasn't enough for my daughter. Nope, she thought of MORE things she wanted and had to see him just one more time.

Anyway, in attendance at the party were of course, lots of grandkids and their parents, grandparents, and in many cases, great grandparents. Guests ranged in age from 8 month olds just taking their first steps to a few fragile women in their mid-90's who had already taken their last. And once again, I was struck by this circle of life....this return to helplessness and the need for loving care when navigating what seem to be the simplest of tasks.

But what struck me even more than the shared experiences of two generations who are seemingly in stark opposition to one another, was the wonder each inspired in the other. In a room full of people normally overlooked by the more capable, and able-bodied of us, it was the dimpled hands that were quick to reach out and caress the wrinkles of gnarled fingers with awe and abandon. It was the cheurbic faces that buried themselves in the warmth of years-worn, hand-knit sweaters without reservation. Wide eyed babes gazed upon fragile forms held firmly to their wheelchairs with strategically placed pillows and blankets without judgment or fear. And clouded eyes looked with awe upon small forms bouncing with ease through a room full of endless wheelchair obstacles.

And as I watched my 21 month old son crawl his way onto the lap of yet another sweet old woman resting comfortably in her wheelchair, I saw how much they needed each other. How they fed each other.

She lit up at the touch of his pudgy, taut, little fingers. She delighted in his incessant babble, and miniaturized adult gestures, hungry for the touch and attention of someone who was able to look past her frailties and ill-health. She devoured him as he looked with wonder upon her frail form instead of the sorrow that she was used to seeing reflected in the eyes of her children and caregivers.

And he....well, he came alive in the midst of his captive and adoring audience. Performing the best of his adorable "toddlerisms", he egged her on, getting the very attention that I sometimes find myself too tired or too bored to provide.

They needed each other. They fed each other's spirit. And in lives where they often find themselves regarded as burdensome, they alone were able to look upon one another with wonder, admiration, and awe. And I thought to myself how sad and ironic it is that we middle-aged folks, with our 20/20 vision and intellectual acuity miss so much. How sad that so often we are blinded to the wonder of these people not by naivete or failing eyesight, but by our responsibilities and our fear of death. Perhaps it is the innocence of a child, ignorant of life's imminent demise and its often slow and sometimes cruel progression; and the wisdom of age, appreciative of all of youth's possibilities that allow these two generations to see each other so clearly. With so much love and abandon. With an understanding that only those on the cusp of life's beginning and end can muster.


Karen said...

Just beautiful.

Magpie said...

Lovely post. I remember taking my sister's kids, and then my own baby, to visit my grandmother in her assisted living place. The old ladies always just swooped down on the kids.

The town next to me has a daycare center for little kids AND the elderly. They are both separate and together - it's a really nice thing, all around.