I wrote this many years ago after my Great Grandma passed away. I wrote it as a way to remember the love and respect between my Great Grandma and Grandma and to remember the faith they helped instill in me. Today is March 12th, my Grandma Betty’s birthday. She is celebrating in heaven.
“Momma, why don’t you come over here and rest your legs for a while?” Grandma asks as she scoots past the rounded counter’s edge.
“I just need to get these rolls in the hot oven, dear. I’m fine.” As my Great Grandma leans her head towards mine she add, “She’s always fussing over me,” and then she smiles a slow smile.
“Oh, momma, I’m not fussing. I just think you must be tired and ready to rest by now.”
My thoughts stay focused on these two amazing women I have been blessed to spend time with, but instead of listening to them I begin to marvel over them. As I look at Great Grandma, I see her eyes behind her thick glasses looking closely at the dough she is forming into perfect shapes. “She’s not tired,” I think to myself. After all she had rested her eyes for a few minutes in the comforts of her recliner, which almost envelops her small frame. The time she had spent in the warm sun in the garden, combined with the efforts of her body had caused her to feel fatigued. But, she would not admit that to anyone, especially her daughter. Great Grandma looked forward to the time she had each day, albeit short, to spend in the yard.
“It’s a battle,” she’d say, “trying to keep up with those pesky weeds. Do you know that last month when I spent a week in the hospital, my hydrangea plant was eaten by slugs!” She’d try to say it in a gruff voice, but the kindness inside of her would get the best of her and she would chuckle at the end of the sentence.
“Ma, they’re just plants! We just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with what the good Lord has blessed us with. That yard is a jungle!” Grandma knew the importance the yard held in her mother’s heart, but she also loved her momma so much. Much of their bickering was due to Grandma trying to protect Great Grandma from overdoing it, and Great Grandma stubbornly continuing in her ways. The doctor had suggested Great Grandma begin to take it easy in the yard. She chose to ignore that advice from the doctor, but Grandma had listened closely and taken notes as to what would help her mother continue out her long, full life.
I let my thoughts drift back to the sunny kitchen where an enjoyable feast was being prepared for me, the so-called guest of honor. With feet planted firmly on the ground, arms outstretched, Great Grandma twists the knob to the perfect baking temperature. The sunlight from the nearby window shines awkwardly on the timer so that when she goes to twist the knob she has to gently turn her head to the side to avoid the glare. She sniffs the mild scent of unbaked bread dough and continues her chore.
Finally, Great Grandma is finished in the kitchen. Deliberately placing a hand smoothed by warm dishwater, on the edge of the counter, she steadies herself, and then continues to use the counter as a guide as she makes her way to the living room. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t admit that it is time to rest, but she settles into the large recliner. Grandma is quiet and offers a relieved smile, as Great Grandma slumps into the chair. Grandma has lived with her mother’s stubbornness for a lifetime and learned the importance of allowing her the freedom of taking care of herself whenever possible.
At least once when I am with my Grandma and Great Grandma, I gaze at them with amazement and wonder. In my mind I formulate a list of all that I love about these women. The very best part of being with them is listening to their stories. Now that they are both comfortable in their cozy living room, I know the stories will begin to be told. Years had gone by when I didn’t appreciate their stories and the wisdom I could glean from them. But God knew the day would come when my heart would open up and I would see that listening to the wise women would change my life. Along with so many life lessons, I am learning about true contentment from my Grandma and Great Grandma. Though many of their stories told contain hardship, they are always told in the context of hope. One of their stories may begin by sounding like a story of loss, but midway through I will begin to see that it is really about strength to persevere and faith that God is in control.
Second to listening to their stories, is listening to them talk to each other. Speaking with genuine kindness just seems the natural way to speak for this mother and daughter. They truly respect each other and it shows in every aspect of their relationship.
Through these women, God taught me about love. Love so full that just being in the room with them I am able to catch what overflows. When I am with them I feel like a parched sponge, hanging on to each spoken and unspoken feeling, hoping to be saturated with love.
As individuals, each woman is amazing. Great Grandma has fully lived 93 years of life on this earth. She has lived through wars, marriage, childbirth, many moves, a serious car accident, grandchildren and great children’s births and countless surgeries. Great Grandma has learned how to hope, love, have faith, patience and true humility. She seems to always have a story brewing of one of her experiences. It wasn’t until I had entered into my 20’s, that I was able to appreciate all that her stories did for my soul. I finally began to notice that if I went to see Great Grandma with something negative consuming my mind, I would leave wondering what had ever troubled me. Her stories always gave me a different perspective and helped me to feel thankful for my life. Now, rather than escaping the conversation and heading to the dirty dishes that waited in the kitchen, I could follow her back to her chair just to listen. Until recently, Great Grandma had been able to tell long tales, with all of the parts connecting to form a lesson I need to learn. She has grown quieter recently. There are more frequent pauses. When I am searching for the next light topic to talk about, Great Grandma will amaze us all by thinking deeper and saying, “We are so lucky!” She keeps our conversation headed in the right direction, focused on the wonder of life. Great Grandma is a woman full of peace.
My Grandma, being equally as wonderful, is someone I have always admired. “Your grandmother is beautiful,” my friends would always say, commenting even further after spending time with her. She is outwardly lovely, and inwardly splendid. On the outside my Grandma has the most soft, delicate hands I’ve ever felt. Feeling her hands is like touching a velvety, summer rose petal. Often when we come together after not seeing each other for a while, she will grasp my hands and I will be taken back to when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with those hands. Those hands could gently french braid my hair. They could pull strong weeds from the yard. They could lightly brush away a tear on my cheek. Her hands could push the lawnmower around a steep, hilly yard. My grandma has hands filled with a balance of love and strength. On the inside she is all that she is on the outside combined with a joyful heart and a keen mind. She has endured both good and bad in her life, and chooses, like her mother, to focus on the good. Grandma must have learned a lesson from her mother about life, because she exuberates peace.
My grandma and great grandma have lived together, just the two of them, for about 9 years now. With each year, a new strength is added to their bond. Their partnership in this world seems to grow more established through each circumstance they face. The faith they have come to trust enables them for each coming day. All of what makes up these women is shown with each minute I spend with them. My grandma and Great Grandma are extraordinary women who have changed my life and fill me with a most precious gift, a peacefulness that I will always cherish.