Friday afternoon, DeeDee, Veronica and I were once again immensely blessed during our visit with the tiny young residents of Catherine’s Home.
Shortly after DeeDee’s and my arrival, Manny was experiencing a meltdown. Manuel is autistic and is exceptionally tall for a 4 year old. Because Manny is unable to speak, when he is agitated, it is extremely difficult to ascertain what Manny wants or needs. DeeDee and I both commented on how frustrating this must be for little Manny, not to mention the patient and loving staff, who were all doing everything possible to calm the little boy as he cried uncontrollably. Finally with an abundance of being showered with tender loving care, soft and reassuring words and combined with much gentle stroking, Manny settled down. Once fed, face cleaned up and dressed in nice clean dry clothes, Manny returned to his usual behavior of being mesmerized by anything swinging back and forth just above his eye level. A true sign that all was well with Manny was his willingness to partner with me to do our special back and forth two step dance routine later on during the visit.
As you know, the past few weeks the weather has been lovely so that outdoor and indoor activities can be pursued. Camila and Jose decided to head outside to play in the large playhouse. It is nothing short of amazing to see how strong of limb and how better coordinated my little cherub friends have become over the past several months. Both Jose and Camila needed very little assistance from me as they climbed the ladder to enter the playhouse where they immediately proceeded to gleefully tossed all the toys from the upper level of the playhouse down to the ground.
My job, I soon learned, was to pick up the tossed toys and place them back inside the playhouse where said toys were promptly thrown to the ground once again. There is something magical about hearing a child’s giggles of pure delight. Camila and Jose are about the same age and same height and I notice that they often pair up together to play. From time to time Jose plays too hard for Camila’s liking and when that happens, Camila cries copious, gushing tears, which brings adult staff from all directions to soothingly kiss the hand, the leg and yesterday it was the left shoulder.
I stood back and watched as the caregivers seem to instinctively know what to do for each little soul. They lovingly held and examined Camila’s outstretched hand making sure to kiss every single part. They then tested to make sure no finger bones were broken or seriously strained. Then several of the staff gently raised Camila’s left shoulder to reassure Camilla that no real harm had been done. Having undergone a thorough and loving inspection by the people that Camila has come to love and trust, covered in kisses, Camila was as good as new and went her way to resume play. As suddenly as the tears and sobbing had come, as suddenly as the smiles returned and everyone moved on.
As I have alluded to before, there are so many life lessons for the rest of us in this microcosm known as Catherine’s Home. Adan and Samuel are both about the same age, they both attend school and they both can form entire sentences in English and in Spanish. Samuel has learned to use his upper body to transport himself from place to place as he has observed Adan do since coming to reside at Catherine’s Home. It was only a few weeks ago that I stood behind Samuel — as a safety precaution — as Samuel laboriously took more than 15 minutes to climb the stairs from downstairs to upstairs. Once he finally reaching the upstairs landing, both Samuel and I shared a big smile and much applause at Samuel’s accomplishment.
While not yet quite as adept as Adan in navigating space, Samuel has come a very long way. It is so gratifying to see. Little Alex, Jose’s younger brother, is not so little anymore. He is rapidly approaching 2 years of age and he is gifted with a very calm personality. Whether Alex is bouncing up and down in a walker — all the while entertaining himself with his own devised musical utterances — or placed on a flat, safe surface, Alex is tranquil. The strides that this darling little boy has made over the past half year are nothing short of miraculous. He was so tiny and so sick the first time I saw and held him last year. Alex, as are all of the children, are thriving at Catherine’s Home.
Briana, who had been rather subdued during the past few visits, was wide awake, alert and back to her proper place of ruling the world. This little tiny girl simply knocks me out with her spunkiness. Briana has clearly appointed herself as supreme decider of which video games will be watched and in which order the videos will be shown.
You can hardly keep from laughing as you watch Briana stand with one adorable tiny foot firmly planted in front of the other, pointing one of her doll like slender fingers in your direction as she grunts louder and louder until she succeeds in getting your attention. Ana happened to have had the remote control in her hand, and Briana let Ana know in no uncertain terms which video she wanted to watch. As soon as one video ended, Briana was back up on her teeny feet again grunting and pointing her finger to Ana to hurry up and show another video. It appears that Briana’s doctors have finally found the right mediation dosage to treat Briana’s seizures so that she is not so drowsy during regular day hours.
What a blessing. Noemi is a delicately beautiful 7 year old with cerebral palsy. She, too, like Alex is blessed with a very calm personality. I communicate with Noemi by whispering in her ears that she is beautiful and very much loved by God. I know she hears and understands me because she rolls her beautiful brown eyes to look directly at me. While stroking Noemi’s arms, I noticed that Ana Karen’s hair was being combed. As we all know, it is an entirely different experience and sensation when we wash and comb our own hair than when another person washes, combs and styles our hair. Personally, it is so relaxing to sit comfortably in the hair salon and let someone else wash, rinse and style my hair. On occasion I have actually dozed off in the hair salon chair. Ana Karen had been propped up on a sturdy pillow while her beautiful head of hair was brushed and braided. Her little arms that more recently tend to thrust upwards and outward as she smiles at an invisible presence, were quietly resting over her heart as her hair was tenderly tended to by one of the staff.
The look on Ana Karen’s face as her hair was combed and braided was one of indescribably peace. Darling little Naomi remains fascinated by looking at her own hands for long stretches of time. However, once Naomi hears the sound of clapping hands, her little eyes light up and she takes your hands into her soft little hands and joins in the clapping. I have purposely saved my comments about Genesis for last.
As soon as DeeDee and I arrived at Catherine’s Home, we immediately noticed that Genesis was seated in an entirely new, ultra modern type high chair with a glass table top that could easily double as a writing table. Genesis was glad to see us and reached out her strong arms to firmly grasp out clothes. Then DeeDee and I both noticed that a most ingenious method has been found and employed since our visit of last week that completely and effortlessly prevents Genesis from sucking both of her thumbs. Both arms are snuggly and securely wrapped in sturdy padding, which prevents Genesis from being able to bend her arms towards her mouth. For the entire time of our visit, not once did Genesis even indicate that she wanted to bring her arms to within reach of her mouth. Who ever discovered this genius remedy is to be congratulated. Genesis has a darling face with large dark eyes that see into one’s soul.
All 11 of these special needs children are so beautiful, on so many levels, and have so much to teach us when it comes to how to quickly get over one’s tears and setbacks, how to quickly forgive those who unintentionally hurt us, not to feel sorry for your challenges but to figure out a way to circumvent them. I firmly believe that God is using these exceptional little innocent children to teach all of us able-bodied individual valuable lessons.
By now you know that indefatigable Sue and everyone affiliated and associated with Catherine’s Home are exceptionally rare human beings. In many organizations there are always a few who will go the extra distance to serve the less fortunate. Here at Catherine’s Home, without exception, everyone is of the same mind set. The welfare of the children are all important. During every single visit, I see each person faithfully giving his/her all to serve and protect these little gems. Mounds of clothes are washed and folded daily. Mounds of daily pampers changes as only a few of the mobile children are in the process of being potty trained. Medications monitored, administered at the precise time and, more importantly, at the precise dose. Cleaning and comforting the children ever stops.
Therefore, do not forget to keep Catherine’s Home in your prayers. With longer daylight hours during these summer months, let all of us volunteers actually volunteer some of our time by visiting with these precious jewels.
Keep the faith.