Mamie has forever suggested taking Ayo to a nursing home to provide some cackling cheer to sweet grannies. We finally got a chance to do so yesterday. Tata Mimi, our most recent guest (and German – Swiss – Béninois TCK), had been wanting to visit an older woman who used to faithfully pray for her family over the years. The last time she had seen Mimi was when she was two years old. Mimi tracked her down and we drove up north to her convalescent home with Ayo. There, we slowly made our way to Mrs. L’s room, stopping to chat with the elderly people in the hallway. We felt it was important for us all, not to just run straight to Mrs. L’s room but instead to honor these people’s humanity by slowing down and offering a smile and asking them a few questions. At first, I wasn’t sure what to ask, but Ayo broke the ice. One lady wanted us to know she had always wanted a boy and ‘wow, he’s a good boy!’. It was rather that he silently clung onto his mama, not so sure what to think of these people who walked so slowly, had short silvery hair and bright cherry walkers with handbrakes. The next lady wanted to give Ayo a soggy cookie, followed by a well-used plastic cup with crusty cookie crumbs and lipstick around the edge. Despite my discomfort, I remembered our deep conviction that Ayo’s life will not only to be a gift to us but to our wider community, so I gratefully accepted the grimy cup.
We later made it to Mrs. L’s room and found her lying in bed with a blanket over her. That was how she would remain for our whole visit. Mimi entered first so as not to overwhelm her. Ayo continued to cling onto mama. Mrs. L was a woman of few words but a constant smile. Mimi asked her if she remembered her family, which she did. Mimi soon introduced us and Mrs. L’s eyes lit up when she saw Ayo. She kept repeating: “They’re fun, aren’t they? I always wanted a boy. That’s why I have four daughters. Then I gave up.” We tried to take interest in her life, knowing that her storybook will one day be closed forever.. but initially struggling to find things to ask. At times, an uncomfortable silence reigned in the room. But we knew this was the highlight of her day (week? month?) so continued to inquire about her life.
As it turns out, Mrs. L was born in 1928 and lost her husband when he was 45 years old. She was an accomplished artist with a master’s degree in art. All the incredible paintings in her room were in fact her own. She paints all of her Christmas cards. Her four children were scattered across four States. She had been to Switzerland with her university, back in the day. We never would have known any of this has we not asked. A frantic train of thoughts continuously flooded my mind in that moment:
We would never have known about her life had we not asked!
What are the stories of these other elderly folks?
Isn’t there a more honoring place for older people to be than in a nursing home?
What struggles did she have as a mother of four back in the 40’s?
What would it be like to be a widow longer than to be a spouse?
Wow, life is so short.
What kind of a granny do I want to be?
Will I have a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye when I am older, or will I be an old embittered woman – annoyed that people came unannounced with a baby?
Without any living grandparents left to visit, I was so thankful for the gift Mrs. L. I can’t help but wonder if someone will visit me when I am old and just let me hold their baby. I wonder if they will just stay and ask me questions or if they will get bored of the silence?