When the smallest voice speaks the loudest, be thankful

By Jackie Nickel (11/20/2006)

Sometimes you have to look pretty hard for something to be thankful
for and then the simplest thing comes along and you realize how lucky
you are. Such was the case last week when I was called for emergency
babysitting duties with my little grandson Thomas.

Tom is a rambunctious three and-a-half year old now and attends
preschool/daycare with other kids his age. Early last week he took a
tumble into the corner of the sandbox and wound up getting three
stitches above his right eye. Tom was very brave during the emergency
room visit, according to Daddy, and Mommy stayed home with him the
next day to be sure he was OK. The following day though, Mommy and
Daddy thought Tom needed an extra day at home and asked me to come to
their house to watch him. So I headed out in the dark at 6 a.m. the
next morning, exhausted from days of research and running around with
lots more work to do on my Essex history book revisions. Work can
wait, however, when it comes to my only grandchild. They’re little for
such a short while you know.

I arrived at the door and there was Thomas in his Spiderman pajamas
with a bruised and swollen eye, accented all the more by a slanted
line of black stitches that looked just like those drawn on cartoon
characters. “Hi, Tom,” I said. No answer; the little patient was
engrossed in an old Spiderman episode on TV. “No bandage?” I asked.
No, replied Mommy, the doctor said to leave it off today. “Hi, Tom,” I
said again. Still no response from the kid rolling around on the sofa.
“You’re supposed to be taking it easy today,” I reminded him.

With his budding shiner, Tom looked like the caricature of a burglar
as seen in old-time cartoons. All he needed was one of those black
“crook” caps and a sack slung over his shoulder, I thought. Still no
hug or greeting for Mom Mom though. Oh well, he was still feeling a
little under the weather.

Tom played with his trucks and dinosaurs as he insisted on playing the
same Spiderman DVD over and over. Nothing I said could convince him to
watch CNN, Home and Garden or the Food Network. But then, at least he
was being quiet and not rough-housing and my job was to make sure he
wouldn’t reinjure his eye.

We had peanut butter sandwiches and split a banana for lunch as
Spiderman played for the 20th time. Tom made sure I knew the
difference between Lizard Man and the Green “Gobbelin” as he
pronounced it. “Is he like a turkey gobbling?” I asked. “No, Mom Mom;
you’re silly,” said Tom. “It’s only pretend.”

I vegged out on the couch wishing for C-Span or the Weather Channel as
rain beat against the sliding glass doors and I visualized how high
the tide must be back home. Tom decided to dump a huge box of Legos on
the floor in front of me as Spiderman shot more goopy webs from his
wrist on the television screen. “This is a car,” Tom said of a
three-foot tower of Legos with four small wheels at the bottom.
“That’s a very tall car,” I observed. “This is the dangerous part,”
Tom replied pointing to a hollow spot at the bottom. “Oh, OK.”

I was almost dozing off when I heard the small voice. “I love you, Mom
Mom.” Huh? Tom was working intently on the top-heavy Lego car and not
even looking at me. “I love you,” he repeated. I wanted to hear it
again, this spontaneous expression of affection. “How come?” I asked.
“Because I just love you,” answered Tom so matter-of-factly.

It took me two hours to get home that evening because of the big rain
storm. Traffic crawled along the beltway and the glare from headlights
on the wet roadway strained my tired eyes. But I had a smile on my
face the entire ride home just replaying in my mind those precious
words of unconditional love.

So despite hard luck and health problems of the past six months, you
see how much I have to be thankful for? May everyone be so lucky – to
have such a small voice speak to your heart when you least expect it.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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