Old People are Playing You for a Fool
Destiny and her mom walked into the nursing home, signed in at the visitors desk, and continued down the thickly carpeted, floral printed hallway to room 108 to visit Grandma. They knocked, and heard a faint response from inside. Both of them tilted their heads to hear better, then Destiny knocked again. They distinctly heard some response in Grandma’s voice from inside, so Destiny turned the knob and Mom followed her in.
Both of them walked in and hugged Grandma, who was sitting in her wheelchair and ogling Drew Carey on The Price is Right. Destiny plopped down on the vinyl-covered, clashing flower-printed couch, and Mom dropped her purse in the corner before primly sitting down next to her. “How are you feeling today Grandma?” Destiny asked half heartedly, wishing The Jersey Shore was on instead of this weird game show.
“Well, I wersher an fink will belter ran felt smoo need.” Grandma answered almost inaudibly. Destiny flinched, squinted her eyes with misunderstanding, then leaned in and looked closely at Grandma’s mouth.
“Grandma, can you repeat that? I didn’t quite hear you.” Destiny wiggled to the very edge of the couch and leaned a bit farther forward as Grandma replied:
“Wersher an fink won dat Dan diss bit tears felt. Smoo. Smoo. Need well and belter toys tin boar knife.” Grandma repeated, a little quieter, but a little slower than the first time. Destiny looked to Mom, and Mom shrugged. Destiny moved over to Grandma and kneeled next to her. She held Grandma’s hand, paused, and then asked:
“I’m so sorry, Grandma, I didn’t hear you. Can you repeat that just one more time?” She traced the age spots on Grandma’s hand, and Grandma smirked and revelled at the feel of Destiny’s young, supple fingers on her dry, fragile skin. Grandma kissed Destiny on the forehead, and Destiny, still only inches from Grandma, tilted her ear to Grandma’s soft-spoken lips.
“I wish I always had visitors, I love when you come. What’s new, dear? Any cute boys in your life?” Destiny blushed, matched Grandma’s smirk like only family can, and pulled out her iPhone to show Grandma a picture of Trajan, her best friend, who she not-so-secretly hoped to date by the Spring Formal.
“DESTINY! We are here to visit Grandma. You know the rules! No phones out when we visit relatives!” Mom yelled while slipping her Roboticus Maximus 7.2 smart phone back into her purse. Destiny and grandma both rolled their eyes and leaned away.
This is a fake story. I didn’t research how teens interact with their grandmas; I just work with teenagers every weekday for about nine hours, and I have parent teacher conferences with grandparents about every three weeks from September until June each year. I do know that every time I can’t hear someone, I lean in closer. I know that if I still can’t hear them, I ask them questions, and I move even closer. I know that if I still can’t hear them, I really focus on the movement of their lips, and their facial expressions, and their hand gestures, trying to create meaning from a mere whisper. I don’t think my experience is singular. As humans, we want to understand each other.
Harness the power of quiet in your classroom.
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So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.