By Jennifer Palmer for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
She sits on his lap, tiny fingers reaching first for his own age-spotted ones, then for his starched plaid collar, then for his mouth, which curves up as her touch flits across his cheek. Her head follows her hand, slowly traveling up until their gazes lock. The look lasts only a moment before she is drawn once again by his shirt, dropping her head and her hand to examine the stiff fabric. I wonder whether some special understanding was reached there, in that instant when their eyes met, some knowledge passed from one to the other that none of the rest of us could comprehend, or if it was just a glance, a chance look not registered or remembered.
My pragmatic side thinks it must surely be the latter; neither of them is likely to remember this encounter for any significant length of time. She is only seven months old, after all, and at ninety-five, his mind just doesn't hold on to things as it once did. Still, I hope that I am wrong. I hope somehow, my daughter has formed some special connection with her great-grandfather. Though she may not keep conscious memories of this gentle man, I hope, at some level, these brief moments might settle into her heart and soul and she would be better for it.
Before long, she tires of sitting on this stranger's lap and she twists her head around to look for me. Though I want to draw this moment out, I also want it to end well, so I swoop down and pick her up before her agitation turns to tears. She clings to my sweater with one small fist, looks over my shoulder to grin at him as I move away, and his face lights up to match hers.
The moment passes and life continues and all too soon, our weekend visit has come to an end. This one brief encounter may be the only time he ever holds her, for the drive is long and his days are short and who knows if we will make this trek again before his time on earth is done?