Just before leaving on this trip, I mentioned to Ruby, who is now 10 years old, that my father was in the hospital. She stopped and looked at me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked. I told her that she knew he had been in before and he had to go back. “You should have told me,” she said again and then began rushing around looking for paper, for pens, for anything that could put colour on paper. Now this was happening in our new apartment and all there were were boxes upon boxes upon boxes. Soon both Joe and I became distracted with the move and didn’t notice Ruby in the kitchen working away.
A half an hour or so later she comes out with a piece of crumpled yellow paper, all she could find, and on it she had drawn a picture of our new home with Joe and I, her mom, her sister and herself out front. She wrote a note to Jerry. This 10 year old was writing a 93 year old and addressing the note as if he’s her best friend. She said in the note that Joe and I had just moved and she wanted him to see our new house so that he, Jerry, would know we are all okay. She thought he might be worried.
We carefully packed the paper away to bring to dad in the hospital here in town where we are now. Dad had heard about Ruby and Sadie of course because they are a big part of our lives and we talk about them. Dad has never questioned the fact that the girls are like family to us and has treated them in our lives with the interest that they deserve. So when I told him about Ruby scolding me about not telling her about him being in the hospital and about not having the stuff she needed to make a drawing, then I handed over her drawing.
Ruby’s writing at 10, she prefers cursive to printing, is better than mine. He lay in his bed while reading the note, his face brightening at the boldness of her determination that she could call him Jerry as if they were friends. It was a nice moment, he loved the picture and he asked for it to be put up where he could see it. It’s there now, a note from a child who never met the man who is my father, a note telling him that he didn’t have to worry that we were all okay. A note that said, “though we haven’t met, I love you because you are Dave’s dad.”
Before he asked for it to be put up he said, “She’s quite the little girl isn’t she?”
And she is.
It only take a moment of thoughtfulness to make someone feel cared for and loved.
Ruby took that moment.
I need to do that more often, I’ve got papers, I’ve got pencil crayons, I’ve got time, though I pretend I don’t. I just need a little more of what Ruby’s got … the will to do something for someone else even if it seems there’s nothing I can do.