The baby whisperer shared this heartfelt story in our Storyblend Facebook Group. It’s beautiful to see how much one interaction can impact another life. Sometimes we take things in our life for granted, and this story is a reminder that it’s so important to find one good thing in every day.
“Back in 1991, due to the fiasco started by my mother, I spent 3 weeks on the streets as a ‘homeless’ person, and this was one of the amazing stories that happened during that null period of my life.
One Saturday, when all of the day jobs had been filled at the temporary labor facility I was working out of, I decided to walk down by Parkland and Dallas Children’s Hospital. I liked to go there just to watch the amazing electric train display in their lobby, to kind of lose myself for a little while, and enjoy the cool air and peacefulness.
I wasn’t a beggar or panhandling type, but I was rebooting myself from a stressful few months after I was discharged from the military, trying to reform myself as a civilian. I’d tried a few months selling cars, but I didn’t see making it a career, especially after a couple of folks got shafted behind the scenes and then unhappily called me later down the road.
While I was hanging out, I decided to walk up through the waiting area on one of the floors. I missed my own kids, who were with their mother, staying with my now ex-mother-in-law, where a church in Dallas had given them tickets when we asked for help. They’d send the kids and her, but I was on my own. I needed a period of time to perform a rectal-cranial extraction, because I was simply overloaded. Life will do that to you sometimes, and doesn’t provide lube, either.
So, here I am, slightly worn-looking, but reasonably groomed, carrying my olive green nylon seabag I’d carried in boot. It contained the pure necessities I needed out there, three changes of clothes, my Dopp kit, and some snacks. Big fella walking through the waiting area on one of the floors of a Children’s Hospital, maybe looking like a visiting daddy rather than the ruffian I can be mistaken for, sometimes, with my resting bastard face. Most of the time, just a mild look tells some people I’m not someone to trifle with.
As I’m walking through the room, looking around in general, I see this beautiful baby girl that looks positively lifeless, there with her obviously tired, worried, and careworn mother. She is inanimate, her head lolling to the left, but she is just a splendid specimen of a human child. Reddish-blond locks, peaches and cream complexion, and cornflower blue eyes. But, just sagging, like life had already taken a steamroller to her spirit and set it afire following three or four passes.
Perhaps I gawked a moment.
Her mother looked up, but the baby didn’t.
I then warble this gurgling trill to her, from deep back in my throat. Kinda of like a large, overgrown pigeon, but deeper and with more ring to it. It was pure instinct, not pre-planned at all, because the strings of melancholy just needed to be plucked.
Suddenly, her head pops up, her eyes open wide! She coos back! She raises her hands and pumps them up and down excitedly, clearly responding in kind to the stimulus I’d started. Her eyes showed a sparkle that wasn’t there just seconds before.
We hold a kind of coo-fest back and forth, for a couple of moments, and without a hint of warning, her mother burst into a cascade of tears! My heavens, this woman could CRY! I quickly dashed over and brought her a box of Kleenex tissues, as she tried to stem the raging flood of salty streams pouring down her cheeks and falling on her baby girl’s head.
The baby looked up into this flood, with a look of mild alarm on her face, and appeared like she might turn on the water works, herself, until I cooed again. Her eyes swiveled down and locked on mine like blue lasers. She chirruped back, and we went at it for a couple of minutes more as mama did her best at dewatering, and cleaning off the flood that started from her nostrils due to the tearfest, as I politely looked away, still ‘talking’ to this baby girl.
After a few minutes, she asked my name, and told me hers. I reached across and took her hand for an introductory shake. She introduced her daughter as Brianna, and today, she was turning six months old. To this day, Brianna had spent every day of her life in Children’s Hospital.
I listened as I trilled back and forth with Brianna, her mother told me the sad story of the rough life her daughter had experienced so far. I tapped fingers with the child, and kept her occupied as mom explained that she’d been born with a rare congenital defect, in that she had an otherwise complete digestive and urinary system, but had been born without any way to eliminate wastes. She’d had tubes and bypasses and complications, oh, my!
Mom was so sad because her baby girl was so ‘sad’, seemingly lifeless, non-responsive to doctors, nurses, family, or much of anything. She had never shown a single sign of baby joy, responded with anyone with much more than tears or obvious discontent. She was blue because her husband had bailed out three months earlier, things were just piling up on her shoulders, depression, blues, bills, the whole works. She was just worn down from the nightmare life had turned into after such expectations of joy at becoming a new family.
As we sat and talked, I also spent time entertaining Brianna. She seemed to love holing my finger, and was shooting to be a Gold Medalist in Peek-A-Boo. She giggled and gurgle as her mom kept breaking into sobs every couple of minutes.
I gave her words of encouragement as I also shared my tale of woe, and kept Brianna entertained. She was a different child from the one I’d first seen. We chatted amicably, almost like we were longtime friends, or maybe even distant relations. It had to have been a good three hours or longer, as the scene outside became a purple gloaming, the lights coming on on cars outside on the nearby interstate.
But I found out that the tears were ones of joy, because she’d never seen her daughter respond to anyone like she had to my odd noises. It was the first time she’d seen excitement, and for certain, the first time she’d heard her baby laugh! It was a galvanizing moment, giving her hope that there would be a real future ahead, that her girl wouldn’t always be this static creature in her arms, that there would be a life beyond the doctors and the pain.
Sometimes, I start this with small, sad-looking children, or those crying in checkout lines of stores. Perhaps it’s something that makes a child react differently than they do to their parents, but I call it one of my favorite gifts in a remarkable, yet somewhat ordinary life. Kids respond to me, and I used to be known for getting down and wresting with friends’ kids, a one man entertainment system to a fair degree. They grow up too doggone fast, and don’t always get to be a kid long enough.
But, as full dark settled in outside, I knew it was time to move on. Brianna was yawning like a tiny lioness, and mom was starting to droop. I reached over, touched the baby’s cheek with my fingertips, and she kinda leaned into it, and her eyes sagged, then closed, and she sighed, falling sweetly into sleep.
Mom was crying again, softly. The kindness of a stranger had made all the difference in an otherwise bleak world. A nurse came and took Brianna to a crib in her room. Her mom and I stood up, and as I told her, gently, that I needed to head back up to the shelter, she asked me to wait a moment, then gave me this amazing hug with a heartfelt, “Thank you.” As she let go, I put my hand on hers and said, “No, thank you, for I needed this, too, just personal contact, and a reminder I need to get my life together and go rejoin my family.”
We said our farewells, I headed for the elevators, tapping the down button, and waiting ’til the doors opened, I looked and she was heading to her child’s room. She gave a happy wave as the doors closed. We never met again, but sometimes, that’s all you get in life. A stranger that in the space of hours becomes an incredible friend, then fades into the mists of time.
It seems incredible, today, that if all went well, Brianna would be 29 years old, now. I sometimes wonder what kind of person she became, and how is she now. I’m grateful for this memory, especially at a dark point in my life, as well.
The doors opened on the ground floor, I descended the stairs by the train sets and stepped into the warm Texas darkness. As the song of tires on the nearby interstate sang to my soul, I happily took the heel to toe express and headed back downtown, my next adventure was about to begin.”