The Smallest Caregiver

The Smallest Caregiver

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

The Smallest Caregiver

An attitude of gratitude creates blessings.

Sir John Templeton

Our granddaughter Hannah had appointed herself Grandpa John’s helper. She was too young to understand the meaning of “caregiver,” but we all watched with astonishment as her heart led her to say and do things that brought comfort and hope.

We’d just returned home from an appointment with John’s orthopedic surgeon. Our daughter Cathy’s blue van pulled up to the curb, and moments later our vivacious, four-year-old granddaughter, Hannah, ran toward us.

“Hi!” she called out. “Grandpa, is your knee all better?”

“Not yet, Hannah. My doctor has to put me in the hospital. Then he’ll make my knee like new.”

Suddenly, John winced and moaned with pain. A look of compassion crossed Hannah’s face.

“Grandpa, take my hand, and your knee will feel better.”

John grinned for the first time all morning. “You know, I think you’re right, Hannah.”

Her sparkling blue eyes looked up at her granddad reassuringly as she placed her hand in his. The two of them headed for the house, her strawberry blond ponytail bouncing back and forth. Cathy and I both chuckled at the sight.

Once we were all in the house, Hannah followed me out to the kitchen and watched as I took an icepack out of the freezer. She’d seen me do this several times before.

“Grandma, can I put ice on Grandpa’s knee?”

“Of course, Hannah,” I replied. Her face glowed with anticipation as I handed her the icepack and paper towel.

Moments later I felt elated about the conversation I’d overheard.

“Grandpa, this will make your knee feel better. There, now can I sit on your good knee?”

I walked into the living room to find them snuggling closely together, happily reading a story.

Hannah pointed to a bike in the picture book and said, “Grandpa, if you do what the doctor tells you, you’ll be able to ride your bike again.”

“You know, I think you’re right, Hannah.”

Over the next three weeks, John had to endure the drudgery of preoperative tests.

During that time his anxiety level climbed. His hazel eyes, dulled by pain, lost their luster. Even his normally healthy bronze complexion turned a grayish color.

Finally, the day before surgery, John announced, “I just want this all behind me. Whatever it takes to feel normal again—bring on the surgery!” Even as he made this announcement, I heard an underscore of worry in his voice.

Later that afternoon, Hannah brought her coloring books over and sat down at the dining room table. “I’m going to color a picture,” she announced. “Grandpa, what’s your favorite color?”

“Red,” John replied. Once again I watched as the two of them energetically worked on Hannah’s art project.

“Grandpa,” she said, placing her prize picture in her grandpa’s lap, “I want you to have this picture so you won’t be afraid when you get your knee fixed.”

No one had ever mentioned Grandpa’s being afraid. Yet Hannah’s sensitive heart seemed to understand.

The night before John’s surgery, Hannah came to visit. “Grandpa, Mommy said I could come see you in the hospital.”

“Hannah, that makes me happy,” John replied as he hugged her.

Early the next morning on our drive to the hospital, I notice a remarkable change in John’s physical and emotional state of being. He looked peaceful and sounded confident. “Karen,” he said, laughing, “with my new knee you won’t be able to keep up with me.”

“I’m glad you’re so happy!”

“Thanks to my littlest angel, Hannah,” John exclaimed. “Her compassion and her childlike faith and trust have been a light shining on my doubt.”

I, too, felt confident. John entered the hospital smiling and making others smile. I was allowed to sit by his bedside until they took him into surgery.

A few hours later I sighed with relief as Dr. Jamison entered the waiting room and said, “John’s surgery went well. He’ll be in recovery for a while.”

The next day Hannah and Cathy came to visit. John, heavily medicated, slept unaware of their presence. My granddaughter’s eyes widened with curiosity as she looked at the IV and all the tubes hooked to her grandpa. With one hand on her hip and a little stuffed bunny under her other arm, she asked in bewilderment, “How am I supposed to get to Grandpa with all that stuff around him?”

“Grandma,” she finally said, “please put this bunny in bed with Grandpa. It’s my gift. I want him to know I was here.” Then she blew him a kiss. Placing a brownie covered with splashes of colored candies in my hand, she whispered, “This is for Grandpa, too.”

The bunny snuggled almost protectively against John’s arm. Later he woke and immediately acknowledged the presence of his furry companion.

“Hannah’s been here.”

“Yes, your little angel has been here.”

“Karen, Hannah has been good medicine for this old grandpa.”

The day John came home, Hannah continued her role as nurse. “Grandpa, did you like your brownie?”

“What brownie?”

Hannah looked at me sternly.

“Your brownie is in the refrigerator,” I replied. A few minutes later I gave him his treat, smashed and stale. John ate it anyway.

“Best brownie I ever ate,” he announced. Hannah giggled.

Three years later, the bunny still has a place of honor in a basket next to John’s recliner. Daily the little brown bunny acts as a reminder of our granddaughter’s love. Hannah also maintains a place of honor . . . on her grandpa’s new knee.

Hannah may be the smallest caregiver, but it’s the heart that counts—and Hannah’s compassionate heart is huge.

Karen Kosman

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