The beauty within

Published 5:16 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Both from a sense of duty and a love of family, I visited my Mama Ball in the nursing home. It was surely no fun to visit, and years had passed since she had known my name. But I thought she could still be lingering somewhere inside her silent body longing for a gentle word or tender touch.

“Wake up baby girl; we are taking a little trip today,” I spoke softly to my sleeping 2-year-old daughter. “Let’s have breakfast, and you can pick out a pretty little dress to wear to see Mama Ball.”

Melinda chatted away in her car seat as we traveled to Tylertown to the nursing home. It had been a while since I had visited my daddy’s mother. I never really knew her even though she lived with us when I was a little girl. I remember that she was a very elegant lady and played the piano beautifully.

She was old and spoke to dead people as if they were in the room so I steered pretty clear of her. Of course, as an adult, I understand that dementia and/or Alzheimer’s were the culprits, but as a little girl she was kind of scary.

I had taken particular pains with our hair and outfits thinking that the residents might enjoy a brief visit with a couple of young ladies. “Melinda looks darling in her little dress, and she never meets a stranger. We might make someone happy today,” I thought.

Melinda’s little black patent leather shoes shimmered in the sun’s beams as I helped her climb down from the car.

“We’re here, sweetie! Remember Mama Ball may be sleeping, but we can kiss her and tell her we love her anyway. OK?”

“OK, Mama. Love Mama Ball,” Melinda parroted.

Upon finding the room number, we entered Mama Ball’s room. She lay still and pale upon her bed. Melinda and I spoke to her and touched her hand. There was no response when we kissed her. I don’t know if she heard us or not, but I felt good that we had made the effort.

Melinda danced and hopped around as we strolled down the hallway, making the old folks smile. She stopped to shake a hand and give a hug quite often. Our visit was going nicely, all things considered, when I spotted an elderly woman making her way painstakingly down the corridor.

I glanced around, wondering if there was any way to avoid her. She must have suffered a stroke. Her face was so disfigured that she looked almost frightening even to a twenty three year old. I didn’t want Melinda to cry or scream and hurt the lady’s feelings, but I saw no way out.

Melinda looked up from her gleeful dance. Her eyes locked on the eyes in the distorted face; I held my breath waiting for her cry. To my astonishment Melinda scurried down the hall and flung her arms around the woman’s leg.

The dear lady’s eyes filled with tears; her delight was evident. Melinda’s heart was touched by a beauty that I had failed to see.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at