Janny and I have a new routine going – I drop my kiddos off at my parents’ house and then take Janny out for about three hours.
And our visit together today was glorious!
In the past, driving anywhere with Janny has been challenging. She’s grabbed the steering wheel and/or gear shifter in a mad rage, voluntarily gagged, refused to get out/or in the car, yelled because she didn’t like the music (or whatever), and so on. But today? None of that happened! In fact, Janny was completely pleasant and didn’t have a single complaint the entire trip! She was a perfect angel.
We started off at a sandwich shop, and made quick friends with the two girls working there as we waited for our sandwiches. “I like your tattoo!” She said to one of the workers. To the other worker, she said “Oops, your shirt…” pointing out that her midriff was showing. The girl quickly pulled her shirt down. I was glad the girl laughed about it.
Next we walked next door to Starbucks and got Janny her beloved hot chocolate and me a latte. While waiting for our drinks, Janny eyed a UPS man and quickly ran up to him. She greeted him as if he were her good friend and gave him a hug, which he accepted. Janny gets right to the point with strangers, and asks all the questions she can possibly think of – this man’s name was Todd, he was 53 and his wife Charlene would be getting off work at 4pm. Todd has allergies, but takes medicine so it’s not too terrible.
When Todd’s drink was finished and it was time for him to leave, Janny said goodbye and gave him another hug. He looked at me and said “She’s really made my day.”
We moved to a table outside to eat our sandwiches and enjoy our beverages. Janny’s dexterity is poor, but she managed to keep her sandwich mostly together. Somehow she guzzled her entire water bottle. Another person passed us, and then came back by again. “Good morning!” Janny said brightly. “Good morning!” the man replied. “What’s your name? She asked. The man’s name was Kit. He worked for the city and also got off at 4pm. He didn’t know what he would be having for dinner yet. After a little more conversation, Janny said “Have a nice day!”
We loaded up into the car again and decided to go for a walk. We drove to a great walking place and Janny let me put a hat and some SPF chapstick on her, no problem (usually that’s a fight). We went for a walk, where she commented on various animals she saw and engaged in friendly conversation with me. There were lots of hills, but she powered through it like a champ. And then we met Kenya, a lady walking a little behind us. In just a short while, I learned that Kenya was 36, she had an 18 year old son named Isaiah who was a Senior, oh, and by the way, he doesn’t like loud plane sounds (but who does? Kenya rightly said.). She wasn’t married, and she walks daily. She lives with her aunt. We ended up walking together, three in a row, chatting as if we had known each other for years. Then it was time for Kenya to turn off the trail. Janny told her that she loved her pretty hair, and then Kenya was gone.
Then we did some shopping after that at Sam’s club, and here Janny actually knew the workers on a first name basis. But she didn’t know the shoppers yet! She ran up to one man in the produce section and excitedly said “Hi! Good to see you!” As if she had known the man all her life. In fact, she was so warm in her delivery that I even wondered if she knew the man. The man looked at her, perplexed. Then he looked at me. “Do we know each other?” I laughed, and Janny laughed too. “I guess not!” I replied while gently steering Janny away.
After meeting several other people, we paid for the groceries and unloaded them into the car. On the way home, Janny asked if we could listen to her favorite singer, Carrie Underwood. Her rendition of “How Great Thou Art” came on and Janny and I sang together, at the top of our lungs. She raised her hands in worship and sang with no inhibitions. And it was heavenly.
It’s never been particularly easy for our family that Janny has always loved people the way she does. She doesn’t know how to read social cues, so she’s been known to offend a person or two (or fifty). Additionally, not all people like to be hugged or touched, and Janny is very touchy. Not all people like to be approached by strangers, and not all people can understand what she’s saying either.
And yet… today it dawned on me that people are Janny’s most favorite thing in the whole world. I think I have spent nearly my entire life dreading what would happen when Janny asked yet another middle-aged lady who clearly wasn’t pregnant when the baby was due. Or the man with weird hair why his hair looks girly. But today I realized that people were good for Janny, and Janny was good for them, even if there were awkward/uncomfortable moments from time to time. In a day and age when everyone is glued to their phones, it’s a breath of fresh air to see Janny make conversation with stangers (soon to be best friends). Making friends with a perfect stranger has become a lost art. Janny has mastered few things in her lifetime – but this is one thing that she’s mastered. And I’m taking notes.