On a recent visit to the nursing home, the boys and I couldn't find Grammy in any of her usual spots. We were finally directed to a small kitchen area, where she was seated at a table with 5 other residents. The activity leader was conducting a cooking activity. They were rolling mini hot dogs in dough for "pigs in blankets".
While Jemberu loves pigs in blankets, he doesn't love them enough to interact with the "old ladies" so he stayed out of view in the hallway. Mikias loves talking with the nursing home residents and loves pigs in blankets, so he walked in to join the fun.
An adorable woman, probably in her nineties, in a soft pink sweater took one look at Mikias, clapped her hands together and exclaimed "Oh look at him! He must be from Africa!"
Mikias can be self-conscious. I wondered how he was going to react to her odd greeting. He responded the same way he did when we once spotted an elderly couple kissing loudly in a small recreation room. Mikias looked at me, gave a little smile and raised his eyebrows as if to say "That was unexpected!"
The woman in the pink sweater motioned him to come to her. Mikias was wearing his favorite Red Sox shirt. She asked him if he played baseball. He told her he does. She played too, when she was in high school. They had an interesting (if slightly confusing) conversation. After a few minutes, the activity leader handed her two freshly baked pigs in blankets. She immediately gave one to Mikias. She also gave him a dixie cup of warm diet ginger ale and they had their snacks like old friends.
Although I have come to expect the unexpected in our nursing home visits, the Africa comment took me by surprise. In all likelihood, she has some form of dementia and doesn't know or recall that commenting on a person's race is not considered a good conversation starter. Either way, I was proud of Mikias for knowing that what she said was not meant negatively or to make him feel self conscious. She was delighted by him and happy to spend that time with him.
Meanwhile, Jemberu kept walking past the door of the room trying to look hungry and saying "Smells so good in there." and "Hot dogs are one of my favorite foods."
Because I wanted him to be driven mad with desire for the wieners, I ignored him in the hopes he would come in and at least interact with his grandmother.
He did take a moment to finally greet his grandmother from the doorway. "Hi Grammy. Your snack looks good. Are you going to eat both of your pigs in blankets?"
She told him he could have one but only if he came in and gave her a hug. Smart woman. She got her hug and he got the wiener. Win win.
I admire the way both boys handle their nursing home visits. I appreciate the way that Jemby avoids situations he is not comfortable in yet manages to give his grandmother the love and affection she deserves and needs. I appreciate the way Mikias accepts the residents just as they are and how happy he really is to spend time with them.
I used to think of going to the nursing home as a chore. Thanks to my boys, it has become an adventure, full of unexpected moments.