I hear her, quietly chatting on the phone, and I grin.
Her friend? Henrietta, a woman from the nursing home who she hasn't been able to visit due to volleyball season and her busy schedule. Angela is giggling and asking questions, promising that the season is now over and she will be able to visit soon. She misses her weekly visits to those at our local nursing home, and she is determined to get back as soon as possible.
Such a gift I see in her, this lovely daughter of mine. For her, working with the elderly as a possible future career isn't "settling", it is a calling. She started volunteering upon my suggestion, and took to it with great surprise! I suggested it after recalling an incident that occurred years earlier, when she and Olesya had been home a mere few months and had limited English skills. We were volunteering at our church's book sale, and an older woman was perusing the selections and mentioned that her much older mom was out in the truck and she couldn't take too long. Angela doesn't remember this at all, but it sure stuck out for me, as I saw her go to the truck with a glass of water all of her own accord, and then proceeded to visit with this woman for at least 10 minutes in her own broken English. Time and time again I saw Angie being drawn to the elderly, making it a point at church to visit at coffee hour with the widows who gather together for company. Like a moth to a flame, she finds her way there.
Of course, she and I have talked briefly about how her grandmother was the only constant in her young life, and when she first gained some language skills she shared how her grandma would make sure she and Olesya were safe, and sometimes and would do without food herself so they wouldn't go hungry. Tragically, her sweet protector's life was taken by the girls' own mother, in front of them. It created a lifelong hole in the heart of Angela, and a yearning for replacing that relationship that is gradually being filled by other adopted "grandmas" here and there.
Her gift is in her ability to see those who go unseen, to treat them as equals and not see them as merely the crippled, older bodies that sit before her. She is undisturbed by their frailties, by their temporary confusion, and she is endlessly fascinated by the stories they share of their former lives and their accomplishments, and yet she gives an indication to them that who they are now matters as well.
I have visited with her a few times, reading to Henrietta from love letters her deceased husband wrote where handwriting was too difficult for Angela to discern, and I have "made the rounds" with her as she introduced to me to the people she had been assigned to visit. For a nineteen year old, she continues to astonish me with how comfortable she is in a setting that makes most people feel great awkwardness and a desire to leave as quickly as possible, having done their duty and wishing to put this visit out of their minds.
Yes, Angie has a calling, and it is as obvious as can be. She now visits at the nursing home, and is visiting someone new today at a different assisted care center whose adult daughter reached out asking for a non-family "friend" to occasionally visit her mom. This woman taught Angela and Olesya a Home Ec class a few years back, and so she is familiar with us and the connection is nice to make! Angie also has a paid care job once a week or so with a family friend whose kindness in training Angela around adult diapering and more has been so appreciated. This friend also "gets" Angie's transportation needs, her careful taking of notes because she might forget something, but also sees how capable and competent Angela is as well. It is these people that God brings alongside our family that has helped our children over and over again to grow and become so much more than Dominick or I could ever help them become. We need "more" for our kids, whose needs are less obvious but often include, largely, understanding that their lives have been different, that they have invisible disabilities that they are learning to work with as young adults, and they will be able to do a lot in this world with this kind of caring circling them, nurturing them, believing in them!
I am beginning to plan training for Ang, and we are looking at possible careers beyond being a CNA, which will never pay enough to support her but is a good starting place. She will spend part of next year and after graduation taking online courses in geriatric psychology, practical care skills, studying for a CNA, learning about regulations for nursing home operators, and all kinds of other topics related to elder care. We are going to visit combination day care and senior day cares, learn about issues for families and caretakers and a whole lot more. Perhaps she will be an activities director, or she has even talked about owning her own small home-like nursing home! It will take a few years for her to find her niche, but this is definitely where she belongs and is a growing area. Now to find how she can make a living at it doing more than CNA work, but the exploration and learning process will be so much fun for both of us as I help guide her and learn a little along the way, too! Right now she is reading Atul Guwande's bestseller, Being Mortal, and within the first five pages turned to me and said, "Oh man, I am going to learn so much! This is a very interesting book, and he is a good writer!"
Witnessing the blossoming of Angela is a gift beyond measure. She is strong, confident, compassionate, courageous...oh, I could just go on and on about this young woman I am blessed to parent! We missed so much with her and Olesya, and when I think about that it brings tears to my eyes. That Angie allowed herself and her sister to be mothered deeply is a miracle in itself, that she was able to open up and trust just one more time after their biological mom was so unsafe is in itself the single most courageous act I have ever witnessed. It didn't come easily, she was scared to death, but somehow we made it.
I am reminded that sometimes, it is those who have been the most harmed by life who have the strength and ability to bring both softness and firmness to their interactions. Those souls who have walked through the worst people can throw at them can be the most resilient.
And I have a daughter whose unique blend of tenacity and tenderness is going to be a force to be reckoned with. She will change the world for someone, maybe several someones, and it will be through small, repeated kind acts which may never add up in her head to much, but will actually matter far more than she will realize.
I love you, Angela, and I can't WAIT to see where life takes you! And you know what? Thanks for letting me come along on the journey alongside you :-) You didn't have to allow the intimacy we have, and I will forever be grateful you opened up your arms and your heart to me.