Monday, January 18, 2010


I bet you thought this post was going to be about Martin Luther King and his tremendous push for equality. Sure we owe him a big huge thanks for changing our country's views on race and integration. However, I have my own thanks to give when it comes to lessons on equality, and this one lives a little closer to home.

It has been seven months since my mom moved into her new apartment. Transition seems to be a word that will forever be in our vocabulary. She seems to go through phases during this forever transition of leaving her old home, and moving into her new residence; She has days where it seems to be going really well, we pray it stays that way. A few days later bring frustrations and pleas to take her home.

One thing has stayed consistent for the entire seven months, my mom is well liked. She always has been. People have always seemed to seek her out to make conversation and attempt to befriend her. This used to come so very very easy for her. Her comprehension and language continue to slowly slip so this is proving to be a bit more difficult. Her love for all sorts of games seem to bring her together with people of all ages and stages in life. Whether it be a high school volunteer or an elderly resident from their own apartment building, my mom never seems to miss an evening of Bingo or Bunco. "I won," She'll tell me, "but I have no idea why!" The lighter side of dementia.

Lately when the girls and I go to visit we bring a game along for my mom to play with us. It helps keep Mallory occupied so that we are able to spend a little bit more time with my mom. The favorite game? Cootie. That will bring you back. You know the one. You have to roll the dice to get caterpillar pieces to build the little bug. The first time we brought the game one of the residents was sitting in the common area drinking some juice and reading the paper. I asked Mallory if she thought Jim would like to play with us. She marched right up and asked him "Jim do you want to play Cootie with me?" Jim is afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis and is wheel chair bound. Like my mom, he is too young to be fighting such a terrible disease. Jim took Mallory up on the offer and for the next 30 minutes the four of us were engrossed in a very lively game of Cootie. Mallory was the first to finish building her caterpillar, which left my mom and Jim eager for the next visit when a rematch would take place.

Mallory asked before we left to visit my mom today if she could bring Cootie. "I want Jim to play with us!"

When we got up to my mom's floor Mallory gave a big hug to my mom and then marched up to Jim and said "Hi Jim. Do you want to watch me do my George puzzle and then we can play Cootie!" He watched her do the puzzle and he, once again, lost to her in Cootie. Smiles on every body's faces. A fun time had by all.

I watched her interact with a few more of the residents as the morning went on. It certainly didn't take Mallory anywhere close to seven months to realize that this was grandma's new home and the other residents were her neighbors. When new fears abound as Mallory grows up one fear has, so far, been kept at bay...the fear of people who look different, and act different has never seemed to phase her. And for this, I owe thanks to my mom. Sure this disease sucks. Sure I wish my mom wouldn't have to deal with any of it. But we have to spin it. We have to find the smallest of silver linings to get us through. Today, I found mine. Teaching my daughters equality will come a whole lot easier. Mallory knows to treat us all the same. At this young age, she is well aware of differences in people, but she doesn't bat an eye at it. Jim can roll his own dice, but needs help putting the parts together. So what. Grandma needs help with everything from rolling the dice to putting her caterpillar together. Who cares. Charlie walks with a walker and Sharon uses a cool bed for a wheel chair. Not gonna bother me.

It's amazing how kids adapt to situations. Watching her realize that this place is just as great as grandma's old house gives me a sense of peace. I hope she never forgets that no matter what you look like or what your abilities are, that everyone deserves to be treated the same-just as long as she can beat the pants off you if you challenge her to a game of Cootie...

1 comment:

Sara Sylvester said...

Sounds like you have a special education teacher in the making. What a special thing.