Today I received news that my Grandma, a beautiful lady in her mid-80’s, is in the hospital. This makes several times she has been hospitalized over the past 12 months. And while it looks like she will stabilize and go home again, this one is a wake-up for me, reminding me that she will not always be with us.
The world should know my Grandma because everyone needs a Grandma like her. I remember a thousand things, but tops among them is the few summers I went to stay on the farm for a few days. I would have been 8, 9 or 10+ and Uncle Daryle, and maybe Dale, was still home. Daryle was my "lets-play-army" friend, at Grandma’s insistence, and I always had a great time, though he wasn’t always thrilled to play with his kid nephew! Those were also the times I drowned worms while seeking bullheads in the farm pond beyond the barn. And there was the tent that used to be up, and the old spring and the ravine and big hill, followed by another.
There was another pond way off (the farm was only 80 acres but it was HUGE to me.) On the far side was an old stone fence - the real deal: a long, neat, narrow pile of stones harvested from surrounding hills and fashioned years prior. Uncle David and I hunted doves several times near there in 1979-80, and a nearby ravine was the site of my encounter with a beehive a few years before (the bees won — Uncle Dale rescued me).
And so I think about the farm and a few of a thousand happy memories because it was at that Manhattan farm that I first knew Grandma. And you know what was most special about it? Not some great story of extraordinary events. No, instead it was the extraordinary way of everyday living: raising eight children, milking cows, cooking meals, tending a garden, making life happen. Grandma didn’t write about life, though she certainly could have. She lived life, and she made it happen for her family and many others. Here is what it meant to me.
Sleeping on the floor in the living room with what seemed like a dozen other relatives. Sitting at the kitchen table, lined up against the back wall, climbing under and out to freedom as soon as we were done. Sleeping on the ship (my imaginative name for it) - a two-sleeper loft arrangement with drawers that my mom had designed for the boys room. I’ll never forget being delirious with fever while sleeping there one night - wound up at the hospital for the joy of a Penicillin shot.
There was always hearing the radio at 7:00, no 6:00 in the morning while Grandma fixed breakfast. Grandpa was doing chores and soon he was off to feed the family with his carpentry skill and love. We ate breakfast much later.
Being at Grandma’s house meant going through old ball gloves in the closet, hitting the ball over the ditch, climbing into the old tree house, exploring Grandpa’s "salvage yard", playing hide and seek in the barn. It meant, most of all, family stability, family togetherness, family happiness. The world should know my Grandma.
And did I mention that Grandma knew how to cook? What’s more, especially as I got older, she just kept setting it in front of you! I couldn’t tell her no, so I just kept eating! And watching her other work — did she ever stop? There was the garden and sewing and mowing and cleaning and teaching piano and church work and who knows what else. I often remember her working in the garden while I was playing or bugging Daryle or something. Grandma is old school. Grandma is right school. The world should know my Grandma.
Then there was the time in young adulthood when life had gone south for me. Grandma no doubt wondered what to say, but she said the best thing: "These are hard times, Randy, more than we wish you had to go through. Seems like things are going against you. But you’ll make it." The words were something like that, but it is her face and the warmth I remember. She touched me on the arm, smiled, loved me in the tone of her voice. The world needs my Grandma. She knows how to love.
Such was the case a few years later when Grandma met my bride-to-be for the first time. Such initial meetings can be awkward, but not with Grandma. She was all grace and love, welcoming Jane as one of the family. How proud I was for Grandma to meet Jane. How proud I was for Jane to meet my Grandma.
Then there were later years of joining Grandma and Grandpa in their Miltonvale house. Jane and I cherished these times. They were too few. We would join them in their breakfast nook for breakfast after a grand sleepover in one of the three upstairs bedrooms. Grandma would fix the right stuff, the right amount, and we would finish by hearing from Oswald Chambers’ devotional for the day. Precious memories.
Then came an awful day, the day after Thanksgiving, 1993. I had just received word that my Dad had passed away. Impossible, nothing to say, going through the motions. I think Grandma was the first family member I talked to. We were visiting friends in Illinois and I still remember standing in the hallway, listening in the phone as Grandma picked up. She was too wise to say much, but she said what needed to be said: "I suppose there is no way to know what you are feeling right now."
That night we all showed up at Grandma’s house. She and Grandpa made the perfect family haven. We all gathered in and knew the warmth of family in the midst of loss.
The world needs my Grandma. The world should know my Grandma. And I think I know what she’ll say if she reads this. She’ll probably laugh; that cheery, well-earned laugh that has sweetened with the years. Then she might gently remind me that God has blessed me and wants Jane and me to be a blessing. Which is to say, we are supposed to carry on what she has given.
I still say the world should know my Grandma. But since it can’t, Jane and I want to live as she prays we would. And what is that? It is nothing more or less than the prayer we pray for our own children: "Lord, may they want nothing more in this life than to love and obey Jesus."
That is what Grandma wants most of all in her life and in her family. And when we live like that, the world can know my Grandma.