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Monday, December 10, 2012

Old and New

Our little family went to go visit Baba (my grandmother) on Saturday.  I had told Baba earlier in the week that we would try and go see her over the weekend and lo and behold, we were able to make that happen.  It is not always easy to eke out the extra time on a weekend when the laundry list of unfinished weekly tasks gets dragged out from under the pile of accumulated mail, but we made it happen.  Luckily there were no enormous tasks planned for the weekend outside of getting a Christmas tree for our house.  So instead of making two separate trips out, one to see Baba and one to get a Christmas tree, we made it one long trip that lasted a good 5 hours including travel time.  The first stop was to go see Baba.  When we got there, my wife and son waited down in the lobby while I went to go get Baba from her room.  The main reason for them not going up to Baba's room was to avoid any germs that might be floating around on the upper floors.  That and what I came to realize would be an influx of elderly swarming our son kept us all down in the lobby.  When I went to go get Baba, she was utterly surprised.  As is the norm now, she didn't remember my name, in fact she thought I was my brother, but she was more than ready to make the trip downstairs to see her great grandson.  She was overjoyed when she got downstairs and saw our son running around the lobby, playing with his cups, and just being a normal 14 month old boy, nuts.  We sat and played, talked, and the whole time Baba had a huge smile plastered on her face.  She couldn't stop talking about our son.  It was completely adorable.  While we were there, a few other elderly people came to the lobby to visit.  One was a woman confined to a wheel chair, partially disabled, with a pink helmet covered in little stars on her head.  She couldn't even use her hands to propel herself forwards, she needed to use her feet to inch her way forwards in her wheel chair.  When she approached, our son looked a little shocked.  The lady was holding our her hand to hold our son's hand briefly, except he wanted nothing to do with the distorted extended hand.  I showed him how she wouldn't hurt him by holding her hand, but nothing would bring him closer than 2 feet to the lady.  To his credit, he didn't go run and hide or scream his head off, he just crouched and stared, bewildered almost at the look of this lady.  I don't know what happened to this lady, or what her current predicament was, but she was kind and gentle hearted, only wanting to get a glimpse at the new life scurrying around the lobby.  She left for a little bit, came back and tried again to no avail, and then left after a few minutes for the second time.  I only hope that people come to visit her there.  It seems that overall, there aren't as many visitors as I would have expected for a Saturday.  But maybe that is just me. 

In the midst of running around, catching our son whenever he would try to run out of the lobby and down the hall, another gentleman with a walker came to the lobby and sat for a little bit to watch our son and his antics.  He talked to Baba a little bit, asked our son's name, but was otherwise fairly quiet.  It seemed he just wanted to sit there and watch our son for a little while.  After a few minutes, he ambled away with his walker, only to return with a package of little cookies for our son.  He was very kind, offered them to our son, but as with the other older lady in the wheel chair, our son didn't get closer than 2 feet to the gentleman.  I took the cookies for him, knowing quite well that we would be eating them instead due to the fact that our son has not eaten cookies yet, and thanked the man profusely.  After the man left, Baba mentioned that he is all alone at the facility with no one coming to visit him.  I don't know if its the truth or not due to Baba's faltering memory, however I have a tendency to believe she is not far off the mark as he was overly friend with anyone he saw, probably in an effort to at least have some human contact outside of the normal residents there.  When I heard that he was essentially all alone, my heart went out to him.  Its disheartening to think that there are probably a good number of people at this facility who don't have that many people who come to visit them, if any at all.  I can't imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes; elderly, on the decline in life, most with a disability of some sort, and have relatively few if any visitors, not even family.  No wonder they get excited when they see a little child running around, reminding them of new life just starting off, no prejudices, no biases, only curiosity and in the case of our son, perhaps a little fear.  Even Baba who has visitors regularly (my mother almost every day, me once a week), got overly excited when she got to see her great grandson.  When asked how she remembers my son, she had only this to say, "This is something new, how could I forget?"  It just goes to show how innocence sometimes trumps everything else around.  Baba remembers her parts of her childhood, some events and people in the middle of her life, and she definitely remembers our son.  Perhaps it is those times that bring the greatest amount of joy that stick in her mind.  I must correct myself as she probably experience such joy at the birth of my mother, my late aunt, her other grandchildren, etcetera; my son just happens to be the most recent addition to our family and the one that Baba is closest to in time.  Who knows how it all gets filtered in her head, I sure don't, but I do know that it made Baba's day as she couldn't stop talking about it when my mother went to visit her later. 

On the part of my son, I can understand his "fear" or uncertainty of the elderly.  After all, he is used to seeing younger people on a regular basis, ones without excessive wrinkles and the occasional deformity.  There is more uncertainty or fear amongst the elderly than with other people.  He doesn't have too many problems with my grandmothers.  My grandfather, Dziadziu however, is a different story.  Despite the fact that he sees Babci and Dziadziu (grandma and grandpa in Polish), he still gets a little scared when he sees Dziadziu.  On Thanksgiving, when my grandparents were leaving, I witnessed an interesting occurrence with our son.  I was holding him in my arms when they were leaving and Dziadziu came up to say goodbye.  He got real close to give my son and I a kiss.  When he got to my son, he started quivering in my arms, totally uncertain and a little freaked out.  To be honest, as much as I love Dziadziu, he does look a little freaky now (and I mean that in the best possible way).  His ears are elongated, his nose as well, and he is hunched and wrinkled.  Essentially, he looks like an older person, probably the way I will look when I approach that age.  But it is what it is, our son doesn't know any better yet, hasn't had the exposure and definitely doesn't have the understanding yet that this is how people age.  We start small and wrinkle free and as we grow and deteriorate, our skin starts to sag, as does our bodies, and we almost regress towards the point in which we started.  The only difference is, every part of our body doesn't shrink in sync.  We may start to sag physically, but our skin does not shrink accordingly, nor does our hair retain its sheen.  Its part of life that will take a while for our son to figure out and get accustomed to.  I am still glad that he gets to see his great grandparents on a fairly regular basis.  Even if he doesn't yet understand the generations present when we gather, almost stretching a hundred years, perhaps he feels it or at least gets an inkling (although that is probably also a stretch).  There is so much that he still has to learn.  Right now, everything is simple and according to his plan (which no one else knows about).  I love seeing the interaction between old and new though, my grandparents and him and the joy that he brings to them.  As we were sitting in the lobby with Baba, she couldn't help but tell everyone that walked by that my son was her great grandson, she was just so excited to be able to witness this new bubbly life that she needed to share.  I can at least rest knowing that she had a good day on Saturday and hope that more days are good rather than bad for her.