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Touched by the Innocent This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     As ateenager, it is hard to remember when your parents played "This LittlePiggy" with your tiny toes. It is also hard to look ahead to the future andsee yourself in your 70s, 80s or even 90s. For me, painting a picture of myselfas a half-pint wearing a bonnet with a pacifier sticking out of my mouth is a loteasier than picturing myself as a senior citizen. I wonder if that half-pint willreappear in a different, but similar form?

Recently I had a busy weekend.My plans were to baby-sit on Saturday, and on Sunday, visit a local nursing homewith my church. I was looking forward to my weekend; I absolutely lovebaby-sitting, and helping the elderly sounded like fun. Something else, however,was accidentally squeezed into my itinerary: an awareness that infants and theelderly can have a great deal in common.

It was Saturday afternoon and Ihad just put Eli down for his nap, and now it was Anna's turn. Anna is the mostadorable baby I have ever seen. Her head of blond hair and her enormous blue eyesare so beautiful they seem to cause an explosion of cuteness to flow about hertiny body. As I picked her up, her alertness told me that she was not tired. Igently rocked her and decided to sing a soothing song to help the cause along.After a few minutes, I looked down and saw two big blue eyes peering up saying,You want me to fall asleep, don't you? You're telling me I'm safe and it's okayto fall asleep in your arms, aren't you? A few more minutes of "Hush, LittleBaby" and gentle breathing could be heard from the child in my arms. When Iwent to put her in her crib, I noticed four little fingers holding on tightly tomy thumb. I thought how happy this baby must be: I had fed her, changed her andplayed with her until she grew tired and needed to rest. Now, she was sleepingwithout a care in the world.

Skipping ahead 24 hours, I was in a buildingdecorated with cards and flowers and filled with some happy and some sad faces,but all are wrinkly and aged. My visit to the nursing home was an experience Iwill never forget. We went there to help out in any way possible. I figured thisexcursion would remind me of my grandparents before they died, but instead, itreminded me of baby-sitting.

Twenty members of my youth group stepped intothe warm halls. There, a lady only five feet tall with curly red hair greeted me.Her name was Alice, and she was wearing a long-sleeved pink dress which matchedher thick pink-rimmed glasses. Alice took one look at me and an enormous grinstretched across her face. I wondered if I reminded her of someone she once knewand loved.

After introductions, I knew I had made a new friend. Aliceand I took a walk around the hallways, arms linked. Our conversation was awkwardbecause whatever I said was never heard correctly, but it didn't matter. She washappy and content just being with me.

Later, I asked Alice if shewanted me to sing to her, and she said, "Your singing is so lovely."Again, I knew she did not comprehend my question, but I just smiled and gave hera nod. Arms joined again, we made our way to her room. She settled herself in abig, comfortable chair while I got her a glass of water. When I returned, lyingin Alice's arms was a baby doll. At that moment, she looked up at me with her bigblue eyes and that same vacant stare I had seen on Anna's face the day before,and said absolutely nothing. I asked if she wanted me to sing a song to put herbaby to sleep. She nodded quietly and I began to sing "Hush LittleBaby," for the second time in two days. During the song I was mesmerized byher eyes. They seemed to be saying, Thank you for singing to my baby and takingthe time to sit with me, and, if you leave, please take me with you.

Shortly after my song, I had to go home.

I got no "good-bye"from Alice, but a faint, peaceful snore from my new friend and herbaby.

On the way home I could not help but think of Alice and the daywe had spent together. I had taken care of her by helping her eat lunch, gettingher water, playing checkers and, most important, talking with her. It was thenthat it hit me. The similarities between Alice and baby Anna are real. They aretwo people at two totally different stages in their lives, but are both lookingfor the same things. They both want someone to talk to them and play with them.They both need someone to help them eat, and afterward, to sing them a soothingsong.

I was amazed, and a little frightened, by my realization, and as wepulled up to my house a question came to mind that is still bothering me. Why isit we automatically take care of infants, even adopt them, but put the elderly innursing homes? In 60 years I will be Alice's age, and I cannot help wonderingwhere I will be.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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