Friday, December 5, 2008

Huh. Wow. Bleak. Merry Christmas!

I really wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not. Do people take babies to nursing homes where they have no friends or relatives in residence? Will he make the old folks sick? Will they make him sick? Will the whirling Hurricane Thumper break fragile bones as he tears gleefully through the joint?

So I called, and said, "I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but here's the thought I had..."

The lady said, "Sure! Great! I don't know if he'll be scared or not, but we'd love to see him!"

I asked, "Is there a common area where people gather?"

She said, "Yeah. Yeah. Or you can go to people's rooms."

Oh, no. Individual rooms? How would that work? Knock knock. "Hi there! I thought you'd like to look at my baby!" No. Plus, I reasoned, there's probably a lot of stuff for him to get into in a person's room. I figured we'd start in the lobby and see where the boy's feet took us. I checked with the missus to see if she had any objections (she did not), so I decided this afternoon would be the time.

I almost talked myself out of it, because I have a strong aversion to awkward social situations. This is the reason I can almost never sit through an entire episode of The Office without changing the channel. I'm terrible at making small talk. I'm terrible at introducing myself to strangers. But I told myself there was a reason the idea came to me, and I couldn't find out what that reason was if I never followed through. Besides, I figured young Thumper would do all the work and break all the conversational ice. I even Googled for tips for visiting nursing homes, but when the pdf I found suggested reading Scripture, I thought, "Well, we'll just wing it and see how it goes." So we did.

We started in the lobby, and I immediately felt like maybe this would be OK. There were two residents sitting in the lobby, and one was very friendly and chatty and seemed quite taken by the boy. He played shy at first, but he warmed up pretty quickly. They talked about the Christmas tree, and how pretty it was, and how those were indeed balls hanging from it.

"Gummas?" He asked her.

"Yes, I'm a grandma," she answered.

"Gumpa," he said, and toddled off down the hall.

He found a few grandpas, but the grandmas were much more susceptible to his charms. There was a little lounge area right by the central nursing station, and a group of residents that waxed and waned from as few as five to as many as ten gathered here. Thumper again went shy, but when the friendliest and most talkative of the bunch rolled her walker towards him and told him it was a car, he grabbed it and "vroom, vroom"ed it all around. I followed him around and made sure he didn't slam it into anybody. She was very sweet to him. Every few minutes, she would ask me how old he was. I would answer. She would say he was a big boy and tell me she had four little boys just like him. Then a few minutes later, she'd ask me again.

One nurse took up a defensive position in front of a wheelchair-bound resident's feet, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, "We have to be careful of her feet."

"OK," I said.

"Bless you," she said, and disappeared. I was immediately certain that Thumper would eventually trip and fall and snap one of her feet off at the ankles.

But of course, he didn't. He was the charmer I was sure he would be. He flirted with the four friendliest ladies who flirted back. He slowly approached one stone-faced gentleman, waving and saying, "Hi! Hi!" When the man didn't respond, Thumper let him be. He ran and ran laps around the nursing station, filling the room with laughter, both his own and that of the staff and a few of the residents. He explored down two of the hallways, peering into the rooms, but always came back to the four ladies in the middle. He sang, he jumped, he danced, he stomped, and he spun in circles. And when we waved goodbye to everyone and left, even the stone-faced man smiled and waved back.

So that's a success, right? Then why do I feel so bleak about it? I'd like to say we'll go back again, but I'm not sure. Why?

So many people just sitting and staring. Those dark rooms occupied by tiny people staring silently off into space or peering into miniature televisions, intently watching a mulleted John Stamos on Full House.

The anxious woman who raised her shaking hands and said, "No, no, no, no, no, no..." to Thumper whenever he approached her. So of course he was fascinated by her. She had a beat-up, red stuffed animal hanging from the side of her walker. He wanted to touch it. She very much didn't want him to. He kept coming back again and again, and filled her with the same anxiety every time.

The woman who every few seconds moaned piteously, "I'm all alone..."

But most of all, I feel like I'm being presumptuous, or condescending, like I'm walking through the door and saying, "Hey, you sick and unhappy people! I'm here with my adorable baby! Cheer up and pay homage to him!"

Yes, he made some people smile. And yes, some people either completely ignored him or were put off by him. And yes, I was generally uncomfortable and a poor conversationalist except when asked direct questions about the boy. I don't know if this will become a thing with us. I tend to think not. And that makes me feel a little guilty.


Amy said...

You are completely amazing that you went. And you didn't even have someone in particular to see. I'm the granddaughter who's going to hell because my poppa is in a care facility less than four miles away and I haven't seen him in a couple of months. Really, you did a wonderful thing.

Jennie said...

You dun gud. You tried it, it worked meh, on to something else!

tricia said...

If you only made one person smile wasn't that a success and worth a return? I think so.Maybe next time after first conferring with the staff Thumper can give out cookies.Great job!!!!1

Phoenix Rising said...

What a wonderful gesture! To forego the discomfort that you must have felt jumping into the middle of their personal lives to share some joy and happiness ... wow!! I agree with Tricia. To bring even one smile to someone's face and share the wonder of Thumper's youthful spirit is a resounding success and something you should take pride in facilitating. WTG!!

I, Rodius said...

Well thanks! Maybe we'll give it another try some time. There's another nursing home not far from here. We should see if that one suits us (me) better.

Lisa L said...

Its taken me several days to respond. Because one of my jobs involves a ton of nursing home work. And I was amazed at your kindness and good intentions taking Thumper to the Home. What an awesome thing you did. Yet....the outcome? Its not always what you would imagine. I know. I remember taking my eldest child at 2 years of age to an Xmas luncheon for the elders in our town. Some of the elders were cool and very happy to see the kids. However,I will not forget the lady who told the kids to 'shuddup' more than once. It was more than she could stand. I wonder, in retrospect, if she was the worn out mum of 10 kids? If you did go back to that nursing home? I'd take your little one to see the mom of the 4 would make her day..even if her repetitive questions drove you nuts. You did a wonderful thing,man. Just from a nurse's point of view? After your visits I would use some Purell to clean you little guy's hands. Nursing homes are magnets for bacteria...(not trying to make you paranoid..I'm just being a realist.)

anniemcq said...

Rodius. You are a good man. My dad was in one of those nursing homes and I was seven hours away. I know he would have been so happy to have met Thumper and that our visits would have been filled with talk about the adorable toddler.

Thank you. You inspire me.

I, Rodius said...

Well, crap. If I'm going to be an inspiration, I guess I better actually get out and do more.

I, Rodius said...

Oh, and thanks, Lisa L. I just realized I never responded. Sorry about that. I appreciate your comment. I definitely wiped the boy down. We have antibacterial wipes we take with us everywhere ever since he'd get sick whenever I took him to Radijazz.

old man neill said...

I too have a strong aversion to awkward social situations. But I've found the more unnerving the social situation, the bigger the payoff.

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