Before parenthood, I thought that my other jobs were sometimes all-consuming, hard to stop doing, always in my thoughts. But they have nothing on parenthood. Momhood goes with me, wherever I go, even when I don’t take Sophie along.
This past weekend, I went to Washington D.C. to visit my 96-year-old grandmother who was in the hospital after a massive stroke. She needed someone to spoon-feed her the simple foods that she can swallow right now. She needed someone to listen closely to translate her one-word requests. She needed someone to massage her brow and her feet. She needed the things that Sophie used to need, when she was about one year old, and so it was surprisingly easy to be with my 96-year-old grandmother in the hospital. Nana wasn’t an infant, of course: my grandmother maintains her elegance, even in an intensive-care ward. My Nana also has the most expressive eyebrows in the world, so she could consistently get her points across, even in few words.
Nana told my cousin he should cut his hair — which was, to us, a sign that she is still herself, because she often tells my cousin to cut his hair. This time, he said, “Okay.” So I borrowed some scissors from a nurse, cut off his scraggly pony-tail, and grew surprised at how much fun this hospital-visit was.
Then, waiting for the flight back home, restless children kept coming up to me to say hello. A stressed-out mother yelled at her children for not sitting still. The kids seemed to have nothing to do. Finally, twenty minutes before boarding, I pulled out my ipad and showed them the apps I had installed for Sophie, just before Soph & I flew cross-country earlier this month. This momhood thing is hard to turn off, you know?
The kids in the airport lounge lined up to play with my ipad’s sketchbook app. They took turns, they figured out how to use the program, they each drew unique pieces of art with their fingers on the ipad. It was surprisingly satisfying, especially since I knew I wasn’t dooming myself to endless babysitting, because the plane would board soon.
But when I boarded, it turned out that I was seated next to the 3 most restless kids and their scolding mom.
So I chatted with her, since friendliness to other moms is easier than silently judging them. It turned out that it was their second plane flight ever. She was terrified every time the plane banked into a turn. She hadn’t known to pack snacks or toys for the kids. They were coming back from a conference for families with deaf kids, and she was overwhelmed, exhausted. She was sitting across the aisle from me, slowly relaxing as we chatted. Her 7-year-old deaf daughter was in the seat beside me. I showed this young girl the PuppetPals app, and watched her move the puppets about, much the way Sophie does. I showed her the photobooth app, another one of Sophie’s favorites. I like it that these aren’t video-games, really, they’re just ways to create something interesting. PuppetPals and Photobooth took up most of the 3-hour flight, but the girl also wanted to chat about the clouds, and Iowa her home, and what was below us out the airplane window.
My 4th-grade-training in the sign-language alphabet was failing me, and her lip-reading skills seemed to be failing her, so finally I turned on the ipad’s notepad app and typed to her: “We are crossing the Mississippi River.”
Intrigued by the ipad’s typing interface, she carefully typed back: “Love is good. You is you and love. Go you love is go and love is the love is and you is and a is.”
I have taken the liberty of adding punctuation to that Kerouackian stream. I have no idea whether she was simply typing the few words she knows how to spell, or what, but she kept grinning up at me after typing each line. I typed back, “You wrote a poem.” So she typed more:
“Good is and love are the happy. Go love happy. You is love and love you good is and is you a poem is river.
“Love is you and are good you happy is you love. Is you happy good. Love is good in you.
“Love is happy. You are love. Good happy is and love is happy is you in good is are.”
So there you have it. A gorgeous message, from a 7-year-old who is profoundly deaf (and probably delayed in her writing skills, too, but I’m not her English teacher, so who cares). It was exactly the message I needed to hear, on the way home from a weekend in the hospital’s stroke ward.
This parenting thing, it never stops. And it never stops being satisfying.
“And is you a poem is river?”