I took little guy to a community music hour at a retirement home up the street. We had so much fun I almost feel bad about counting it. But I didn’t think it would be fun.
I was afraid if I came here, I’d be washed with guilt. Six hundred miles away, my own grandma sits in an assisted living center much like this one. I visit when I’m in town, but that’s rare. I could call her anytime but I don’t. I don’t know who will answer. It might be my grandma who taught me how to paint and solve crossword puzzles and made me turkey sandwiches with butter, or it might be her shell with no memory of who I am or the hours we’ve spent together decades ago. Selfishly I stare at my phone and choose to not risk my hurt feelings rather than make her day. I wish I chose to call more often. I need to call. It didn’t feel right to visit with old folk strangers when visiting with my own grandma scares me.
I went because I have an adorable son. I knew he would make people smile. And also the 4pm start time fit nicely in that ridiculous time period between nap and dinner that feels like eternity.
I wandered around the halls a bit before I found the right room. As soon as we walked in, a sweet lady in the corner waved us over and hollered that the blonde baby wants to sit by her. Her hair looked to have been recently coifed and her makeup fresh, though her eyebrows seemed drawn with a shaky hand. Her lipsticked smile stretched across her face as we sat down. She reached out her manicured hand, cold and delicate and clenching a tissue. It should have made me wince but it only reminded me of my grandma. I shook her hand and told her my name and Rafe started performing some his adorable baby tricks. She clapped and was more delighted with each move he made. I was glad he was there as a buffer, because I know I was still acting nervous, waiting for the wave of guilt to wash over me. It never did. It felt good to be there. Laughing and playing with other grandmas doesn’t mean I love my grandma less.
(I know that sounds silly, but it was a legitimate fear.)
I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as other people’s children. So maybe that means there aren’t other people’s grandpas and grandmas either. We can all just take care of each other. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines of poetry: “At the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.” Alright so that’s not a line of poetry at all. I thought Anne Lamott wrote that, but Ram Dass did. I have no idea who that is, but my ignorance doesn’t make the sentiment less beautiful.
So we sat in a circle and shook our shakers and sang our songs and listened to the kazoo club perform a few songs from its repertoire. (If you aren’t chuckling, go back and read that again. The senior center has a kazoo club. Amazing.) A man played the spoons like my great grandpa George used to. I heard another man make two separate jokes about condoms within an hour. My friend with the squiggly eyebrows asked three times how much longer this was supposed to last before she grabbed her walker and made a run for it.
The whole afternoon was such a joy. We can’t wait to go back. But first, I need to call my grandma.