November 20, 2008
“You’re old. You weren’t old the last time I was here”
Rafaela is 7 years old, blond, freckled, all curls, and smiles. She arrived for the first time in my office four months ago with her grandmother. At that time she was company. Today she is the patient.
“How old were you the last time we met?” “12,” I reply with my best smile. She laughs and looks at her mom. “He’s old, mom; he wasn’t old the last time I was here.” Her mom does not know me. We are meeting for the first time. Her smile is half embarrassed, half amused at my being on the bench of the accused.
“Remember how we painted the last time. Draw a dog for me.”
I am always willing to reach out.
“That’s an ugly dog. You’re not good at drawing today; you were good the last time.” She is right. As hard as I try, the dog looks like something between a mythological creature and a hyena. What is wrong with me today?
Memories crowd in my defense: I am nine again. I am third place in a drawing contest and win a box of crayons from the local supermarket. You can see my orchestra of bears exhibited below silver and gold. My drawing is visible from the street. Talent is not supposed to dwindle.
My horse fares a bit better than my dog, but Rafaela is not satisfied and she is on a roll “You were better the last time”. I apologize for my off day and when we part she tilts her beautiful little head with her honest eyes and speaks words that stay with me for the rest of the day: “You weren’t old the last time I came.”
Oh, Rafaela, promise I will be young again the next time you come.