My Mission, part 2

Christina was beautiful and fair; half Caucasian half Mexican with a lot more Spanish blood than Indian. At 16 she ran away from the controlling and prison-like existence her father had imposed upon her. Because her mother had died when she was only seven, and her father had disowned her upon learning of her pregnancy, she had called me, a friend of the family, for support. I went through the pregnancy with her and was at her side for Ally’s birth. When the nurse handed the little whimpering bundle to me, I knew that God was handing her to me. Her tiny brow was furrowed and I gently rubbed her forehead until she relaxed. God was telling me to protect her, to take care of her, and to be there for her. I softly told her that everything was going to be okay, and that I would take care of her. Her father chose not to take responsibility and she had no grandmother so I, having no children of my own, at age 45, asked Christina if I could be Ally’s “grandma”. Christina welcomed the help and the free babysitting.

I did a lot of babysitting and loved every minute of it. I loved Ally as if she were my own. I clothed her, fed her, bathed her, sang to her, and rocked her to sleep. Christina spent almost every weekend with us, so I could look after Ally while she went out to be a teenager. Back in her father’s good graces, Christina had additional financial help and a place to live, and Ally had a grandpa.

Ally was not quite two years old when her mom again encountered the father of her child at a nightclub one evening. She brought him to my house that night to take a peek at their sleeping child, and then arranged a visit for them later that week. He seemed to be happy to have his daughter in his life, and his mother was even happier. After all, Ally was adorable. She was a bright and engaging toddler who warmed the heart of everyone she met. His family fell in love with her instantly and enthusiastically welcomed her into their fold. Incredibly, his wife was gracious and accepting of the child, at which I have always marveled. Whether she was truly a saint or the victim of her domineering, stereotypical Hispanic husband, I am not certain. She had a son only 22 days younger than Ally, which explains why he was unwilling to take responsibility when he learned of Christina’s pregnancy. After several visits I hoped that he would continue to be enough of a presence in Ally’s life to give her the security and connection with her father that every little girl needs. I knew her life would be difficult, and I dreaded the day when she would learn the details of her birth, but as long as her dad stayed in her life, she would know who she was and that she was loved by her father. Christina didn’t see it that way. When she had become pregnant, she was unable to wrangle him away from his girlfriend. She no doubt hoped she could now seduce him with the darling princessa they had conceived together. When that didn’t happen, Christina had little use for her daughter’s father. By now she had met Mr. Charming, a handsome and sensitive man with personality plus and several years her senior, and she cut off all contact between Ally and her father. She told me that Ally had said she no longer wanted to visit her dad, and I believed her.

When You Think Words Are Not Enough

I can barely hear the faint melody of Glenn Miller’s trombone bellowing out Moonlight Serenade in the next room. I’ve always loved the big band sound, as I was raised on it. My parents played the music of Harry James, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and all the rest on our old HiFi in the 60s. Music from the 40s seemed ancient to me as a youngster, but I still appreciated it. Perhaps because they loved it so, I cherished it more. The memories are fond and cheerful. But hearing it now through the walls, the swing music sends tears streaming down my face. My mother is listening to the songs I helped her download onto her iPhone, as she lies in her bed, in the darkness, alone. My father, a few miles away in his bed in the nursing home, is sleeping in the fog and confusion of Alzheimer’s, weeks after his broken hip has healed. The smooth sounds of String of Pearls play at his bedside as often as we can manage. He was a trumpet player in his college band and a bugler on a navy ship. Does he remember? Does he reminisce about the glory days of his youth when he courted my mother? Do the songs playing in his ear evoke the same memories as hers?  What a cruel fate, to still have your husband of 62 years, and yet not have him. What does it do to a woman to be waiting for her mate to heal and come home, all the while knowing that she is really waiting for him to die? And what can I do to make the days, weeks, months not just more bearable, but a blessing? Will words be enough? Time spent?  I feel completely inadequate. The void she must be feeling seems remote and abstract to me, but I am struck by the truth that I can comfort her. I know that words will be enough and time spent with her will indeed be a blessing. And to the buttery trumpet sound of Harry James’ Blues In The Night and The Nearness of You, I will listen to her stories of college and dance halls and movies and anything else she wants to remember.