On Monday, Kevin, Brendan and I visited my mother at Mercy Circle, the retirement home on the southside of Chicago where my mom lives. My mom is 92, and she was thrilled to see my sons.
“Well, you both have red hair!”
“Yes, we do, Grandma,” smiled Brendan.
“And yours is curly,” she said pointing to Brendan, “and yours is straight,” she indicated toward Kevin.
“Yes, Brendan got the Scannell curls, and Kevin has Neylon hair,” I explained.
“I bet people say things to you about your hair.”
“Yes, they do,” Brendan confirmed. “A woman once stopped me on the street and asked me if my name was Conner. I said, ‘Close, but no.’ She said she was looking for her red-headed son that she gave up for adoption. She thought I might be him.”
“Hmm, I hope she found him,” replied my mom.
I witnessed this interaction as my wheelchair-ridden mom adoringly held each boy’s hand. They stood awkwardly accepting her praise for a family trait they did nothing to acquire.
We stayed for awhile while Brendan repeated that he lives in LA, and Kevin reiterated that he lives in New York. She was intrigued that they came such a long way to see her.
We wheeled her down the hall where fellow residents, mostly nuns, were watching A Christmas Carol. My mom introduced Brendan and Kevin and explained that they live far away. Each woman reached out to hold the boys’ hands, and they complied with grace.
One of the nuns said, “You both have red hair,” and I thought, here we go again. Brendan and Kevin smiled and nodded. My heart swelled as I witnessed the beautiful dance between elderly and youth, basic observation and welcoming acknowledgement, the quest for connection and the gift of presence.
When it was time for us to leave, my mom wanted to escort us to the exit. At the door, she extended her boney, discolored hands, grasped Brendan and Kevin’s lily smooth fingers, looked into their eyes, and said, “Please visit again. Next time, you don’t have to bring your mother.”
She’s still got it. We doubled over laughing.