The long-awaited summit meeting between Miles and his great-grandmother Judy finally took place last Saturday. Delayed first by Miles' winter quarantine and then by Judy's bout with the flu, the encounter was eagerly anticipated by all.
Back in March, a flu bug swept through Judy's assisted living facility and sent her to Swedish Hospital for several weeks, the same place where Lisa, Miles and I spent so much time last winter. (It is a mystery to us Norwegians why we must depend on Swedes for our health care; nevertheless, we must grudgingly acknowledge that they've done a pretty good job keeping us together so far).
Judy's hospitalization caused her to miss what would have otherwise been a raucous 95th birthday party. Upon her release from Swedish, she moved to a new care facility in Broadview--not quite so convenient as her old place, which was just a few blocks from our house.
On previous visits, I'd told Judy quite a bit about Miles and his extraordinary preemie adventures. "Two pounds, ten ounces!" she would exclaim, in utter disbelief. "How can he be that small?" I tried to explain about the NICU. In turn, she told me about how preemies were cared for back in her childhood -- something about keeping them in a shoebox on top of a wood stove.
In any event, it was a great pleasure to introduce her to Miles as a strapping thirteen-pounder. Miles is Judy's tenth great-grandchild, to go with her four children and seven grandchildren. Still, she was anything but jaded about the arrival of this new descendant. She was impressed by his vigor and cuteness, of course, but especially by his constant chatter. "He's going to be quite an orator," she declaimed--several times.
Seeing Miles and Judy together, one could not help noticing a certain similarity in their present situations--i.e., limited mobility, dependence on others, non-linear memories, no control over the menu. Of course, it is hardly an original observation that we tend to wind up in a condition not so different from how we began. Still, it's impossible to look at Miles' tiny hand in his great-grandmother's without catching a glimpse of the whole expanse of one's own life, past and future. Somewhere in that grasp, across four generations, lies a lot of what it's all about.