Heavy clouds darken the evening sky as Barbara pulls up to the curb outside Nana’s apartment at Mary’s Woods. Nana is on the lookout for us and slides the glass door open to let Missy out. Missy comes charging, her fat dachshund body wiggling in ecstasy. When she reaches us, she lies down, rolls over on her back and wants to be petted, her tail wagging enthusiastically. Then she gets up and charges back to the door.
“Hi, Nana,” Finn yells. “Do you have any monies for the money-truck?”
Nana finds a jar of coins, and Finn gets the piggybank, shaped like an old-time truck, from her book shelf. He starts loading quarters into the slot while we take off our jackets.
As we head for the community dining room, Finn races to the end of the long hallway, turns, and runs back as fast as he can. “Hi,” he says politely when he meets an old lady, but moments later when an elderly gentleman greets Finn, he doesn’t notice. He is busy driving an imaginary garbage truck along the handrail that runs along the wall.
“Beep, beep, beep,” the truck slowly backs up, before continuing down the rail. A maze of winding hallways leads us to the dining room. Finn stops to survey the array of walkers and three-wheelers parked at the entry.
Well-groomed ladies and distinguished looking gentlemen fill the dining room. We wait our turn and are seated. The staff knows Finn: he’s their only regular two-year-old customer. We used to ask for a secluded corner table where a faux pas was easily concealed, but no longer need to take those precautions.
The waiter takes the orders for the adults, then turns to Barbara, and motions toward Finn. “I want grilled cheese and fruit,” Finn says and after a pause adds, “Please.”
Barbara carries emergency entertainment in her large tote bag. When Finn wants to stand up in his chair, or tries to throw silverware on the floor, she digs into her bag for distractions. Today she brings out a couple of trucks and discretely parks them by his plate.
“You don’t put trucks on the table,” Finn tells her pointedly. “They go on the floor.”
“Oh, of course,” Barbara says.
The dining room is filled with distractions tonight. A meticulously coiffed lady passes our table in her maroon and chrome wheelchair, equipped with prominent hand breaks and a rear view mirror. It even beeps when she puts it in reverse.
A friendly gentleman stops on his way out and says, “See you later alligator.”
“In a while crocodile,” Finn confidently answers.
“See you soon, little raccoon,” the man continues, winking at Finn. At this, Finn hides his face in the chair. The man peaks around and says, “Don’t be shy, butterfly.” He walks away looking over his shoulder grinning at Finn, who has emerged from his hiding spot.
As the dining room starts to empty, Finn wanders off and crawls under a vacant table by the picture windows. We hear muted conversation from under the table cloth as his two imaginary friends, Sicsic and Gecka, join him to watch the rain that is now falling in sheets outside.
“Let’s play the piano,” Finn says to Carl as we leave the dining room, and they make a detour to the baby grand in the lounge area. Finn climbs up on the stool and plinks on the keyboard, then slides down, bounces on the long coaches along the wall, is off to climb the wide stairs to the second floor, scoots back down on his bottom, before joining Nana on her slow walk down the hall.
Wednesday is bridge night and a game is underway in one of the rooms we pass on the way back to Nana’s apartment. Under Bruce’s coaching Finn has started to look in on the game.
“How are you, ladies?” he announces to the room in a clear voice.
“We’re fine,” a lady at a nearby table answers. “How are you?”
“Just fine,” Finn responds. “How’s the game going?”
The ladies laugh. Finn, suddenly shy, hides behind Barbara’s legs, then turns and races down the hall.
When we open Nana’s door, a wiggling Missy comes bounding out to meet us, turns and runs back. By now it’s getting late, we gather our belongings, and Finn walks over to Nana.
“Goodbye, Nana. I love you, Nana.” he says and gives her a hug.
“Love you too,” Nana says, “Come back soon.”
We say goodbye and dash out to the car through the rain.