by Charity Griffin
In order for you to understand why I write my stories, you must know a little about me. I want you to know that I share my experiences with you not only because of how they make me feel, but also to give you the tools you may need in your life in order for you to become the person you want to be. My experiences come with lessons. It has taken me many years to welcome and trust that these have been given to me in order to help me become the person I want to be in my life.
For me, my teachers and mentors have mostly been the elderly and the handicapped populations. I am still not sure as to why this is. I have learned not to question it. I embrace these lessons and I always look forward to the next one.
I grew up in a home with my mother and step-father. My mother, loving and wise and my step-father, controlling and prejudiced towards everyone and everything. It is through my mother that my heart remained open to people.
My mother has worked with handicapped people for over 30 years. When I was very small she would sometimes take my brother and I to work with her. Back in those days she was the boss and it wasn’t uncommon for children to visit with their parents while they were working. When I would visit my mother’s work, there was always a man and a woman there that my mother would take me to visit. Although they have both been gone for many years, I still remember them like it was yesterday.
Alan was a very overweight man that dressed only in Coverall’s and a white t-shirt. His speech was slurred and I had a hard time understanding him. It seemed to me that he was always in a bad mood, according to the expression on his face when I would first see him. My mother would take my brother and I by the hand and walk us over to see him. It used to scare me. As soon as Alan would see my mom, his face lit up like the fourth of July! Oh yes, I instantly knew, he loved my mother!
Cevey was another one of my mother’s patients that I was taken to visit. She was a very short, tiny Hispanic woman with a grotesque under bite. It was hard for me to understand her when she spoke. She also frightened me. Cevey would come up to me, inches from my face, and carry on about how cute I am! (I assume this is what she was doing because at the time I could not understand her. It was only through my mother’s translation that I knew what Cevey was saying!)
My mother always brought Allan and Cevey treats when we would visit. Allan loved coloring books and farm animal story books. Cevey loved candy! Without fail, mother always had a special treat for both of them.
As a small child I was only able to understand a small part of the reason my mother did this for them. For a long time I thought it was so they wouldn’t hurt us while visiting! Kind of like a peace offering!
It wasn’t until I met Grace 3 years ago that I would truly understand why my mother loved Allan and Cevey so.
Grace was born in 1934. There were complications during her birth. The umbilical cord was wrapped around Grace’s neck for several minutes until two doctors were able to free it, thus causing brain damage.
Today, Grace appears physically normal. She has thick white hair; she is short, like me and dresses in jeans and a colorful t-shirt. I met Grace while doing my monthly clinic at a senior center. She came up to me to introduce herself. The first thing I saw was her smile. She has a glow that radiates off of her. I told Grace my name and to my surprise, she threw her arms around me and said, “I’m happy to meet you Charity!” I was somewhat in shock at her excitement to meet me.
Grace sat as I soaked her feet to trim her toenails. She told me all about her life and about the precious dolls she had ay home. Grace did not have any children of her own and because of this I believe this is why she has so many “babies”. Grace lives with her sister and has a room that is solely for her dolls. She has named everyone one of them and knows exactly what each one is wearing and where they are “sleeping” when she is gone. Grace has named one of her dolls “Charity”. Grace tells me every month, “Charity doll and Grace Doll sleep in the crib and are best friends”. Even though I have heard this before, I never tire from hearing it!
I am so blessed that I have the opportunity to visit with Grace each month. When I do, it fills my heart with joy. While at the Senior Center I have watched Grace many times as she speaks with others. It is clear that she brings a joy to everyone she meets. She speaks to people through the love that is bursting in her heart and I have never heard her speak a negative word. Her smile continues on her face until it’s time for me to leave. She hugs me and tells me how much she will miss me. Seeing Grace is bitter sweet for me. I am filled with joy at her presences but then am saddened at her facial expressions when I have to leave her.
Grace recently brought me a pair of crochet slippers she had made for me. She made them in my favorite color, pink! When she handed them to me I could not keep back my tears. I am not sure what is more valuable to me, the look of excitement on her face giving them to me or the gift itself. I told Grace how much I appreciated her wonderful gift. Her eyes lit up as if she had just given me a thousand pounds of gold, and it’s funny because that was exactly how I was feeling inside!
The slippers are in my cedar chest, at home, with all of my other prized possessions given to me by my friends. They will stay here along with a copy of this article to remind me always of Grace.
Grace is another perfect example of the people that are here making a difference in our world. She see’s life through those glasses I have previously spoken about, the glasses which I try and see through every day. When I have a bad day and am taken back by life’s troubles, I remind myself that these heartaches only last for a moment; they do pass as quickly as the come. I remind myself of my little friends that have taught me so much. This teaches me to be compassionate and when you have this, your world opens up and the fog is lifted from your sight.
It wasn’t until writing this article that I fully understood the expression on Grace’s face the day she gave me the slippers. I now know exactly how she felt because I
feel the same way knowing I am going to take her a copy of this article next month. I am so excited to share with her how I feel about her!
My experience with Grace has shown me why my mother loved Allan and Cevey so much. I laugh at myself because the answer is so simple and I could not see it before, the answer is; they loved her!
When people are able to express love without words, and are able to feel love without words, is when wonderful things start to grow in all of us. Put your glasses on and look around, it’s all around us; all you have to do is look!
A Special thanks to my mother, without you, I would have never been able to find my glasses!