Kittredge: Babies

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(Host) Commentator and minister Susan Cooke Kittredge was struck
recently with the thought that while we are engaged in one endeavor, we
sometimes see other aspects of our lives most clearly.

I have spent most of this summer delighting in my twin grandbaby girls
who were born in July. I have snuggled and rocked, walked, soothed,
smelled the infant ambrosia at the nape of their necks and laughed at
them. For all their delicacy and the supreme softness of their skin,
they are serious little creatures working very hard at adapting to the
new world in which they find themselves. Their antics are endearing and
endlessly amusing.

Recently I was in the waiting room of a
doctor’s office, sitting for close to an hour with a half dozen other
patient patients. Among those was an elderly man who had been brought in
by his daughter and her husband. As it was lunchtime, she had dutifully
packed him a sandwich, a bag of chips and a cookie. He wanted to eat
the cookie first, not the sandwich, and protested with some vehemence.
His daughter was insistent that he couldn’t have the cookie until he’d
eaten the sandwich, rolling her eyes as she spoke to him in a tone that
was just the slightest bit patronizing.

He was irritated and did
not demure from telling her so. When she explained that, "The cookie
has no nutrition," he said, "What rookie has no ambition?"

And the other patients who had been suppressing their giggles to this point, peeled forth in laughter.

it’s because my own parents have not been gone long that I cringed. I
know what it’s like to care for someone who is both maturing and
regressing at the same time. It takes a lot of patience, love, endurance
and a sense of humor is a great asset. We used to – and still do – dine
out on some of the whacky, wonderfully entertaining things my mother
said and did.

But I suspect I cringed not because I remember
laughing at my own parents but because I’m next in line. It won’t be
long before my own children will be sharing stories about the
ridiculous, stupid things I’m doing in my advancing years – if they
aren’t already.

While helping my daughter, son-in-law and their
babies, I have thought a lot about my parents and especially my
grandmother. I remember how hard it was for her to function in the world
with crippling arthritis, dimming sight and diminished hearing. But I
remember too how brave she was, how soft her skin was, how much she
loved good cake, and how she cooed in delight when I rubbed her back.

said that old age is a second childhood, meaning to suggest, I suppose
that as we age we become dim witted and dependent. But maybe it’s also
an opportunity for those who care for the elderly not to laugh at them –
though sometimes it’s irresistible – but instead to admire the effort
it takes for them to adapt to their new reality and to stroke gently
their soft and delicate skin.

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