I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
When I was a little girl, my father sometimes used to take me to the nursing home when he was calling on patients. I can remember people’s faces lighting up when they saw me, a funny-looking freckle-faced kid, whose hair was a nondescript dishwater blonde and always looked a mess.
Sometimes those gnarled old, wrinkled old hands would reach out to touch me, and the introvert in me would recoil, but my father would gently reassure me that it was okay. They wanted to touch my arm, my face, my hair. They wanted to make sure that youth was real, not just some dream they had had a long time ago.
And now I take my own daughters to the nursing home. We go to visit my mother. She doesn’t know their names, or even mine for that matter, but she smiles when she sees us.
“They’re good ones,” my mother answered. It’s her way of saying that she approves. She’s glad we came.
We talked for a few minutes about nothing. My mother can’t carry on a conversation any more. She can agree with whatever is said, and little more than that.
The lady in the wheelchair motioned to Hannah to come over and Hannah obediently did. I watched the wrinkled hand rest on Hannah’s arm as she whispered something in the girl’s ear. Hannah smiled.
A few minutes later Hannah said to me, “Mom, she wants to talk to you now.”
Sure enough, the lady was waving me over, so I went.
“Your girls are beautiful,” she said, “so beautiful. Thanks for bringing them in.”
She gazed at Grace and Hannah as she spoke. Was she remembering her own youth? Was she picturing pony-tailed friends and games of hopscotch? I thanked her, but I’m not even sure she heard, so lost in her thoughts was she.
Some many little things can make a big difference. Sometimes it’s just our presence.