Help me Remember

It’s been 449 days since I posted on this blog. Yeah, you bet a lot has happened! But every time I sat down to pen it, I got stuck somehow. Fear is a heartless robber. Who is reading my blog? What do they think of me? Who am I to write a blog? How presumptuous am I to think I have something unique or wise to share? How dare I start up writing again after a 200 day haitus….300 days….400 days…? Am I reliable to my readers?

I became crippled by these fears and doubts. And how silly! When I was writing, the ideas simply came to me, I prayed before writing, and let God do the rest (pick the readers, inspire their responses, give me the next idea.)  These days, it seems as though I’ve almost forgotten how to write in the first place. But if what I write is a weighty matter, it just can’t be my weighty matter. I am what I am, have what I have, and God is who he is. So, with no guarantees, I’m taking up the “pen” again today…

My sweet Gamma turns 100 in less than two months. I’m ecstatic that I can be there on that blessed, happy day! Reading over some of my past posts, I noticed that she has been a frequent subject of my writings. We’ve had a most complex relationship over the years, and I’ve learned so much from it.

Quite honestly, when I was little, I feared her. I felt she picked on me for being clumsy and childish. I was a child, after all, and not a bit graceful. I broke things in her house. Acted younger than my age.  Hung on my mother too much. But still, her barbs hurt. Sitting on the porch swing I heard her in the kitchen window drying dishes next to my mom, lecturing her on what new dose of tough discipline I required. When mom tried to show Gamma deference, I was crushed and further alienated from the freedoms my siblings and cousins were apparently enjoying. I felt weirder. I probably acted weirder. The tension culminated one summer when the entire extended family (I want to say 20 people) were called into the living room to hold hands and pray for me – pray over me – pray for Amy’s behavior, attitude, etc. to improve. This was a defining moment in my life, in the negative sense. For a time, at least.

When I grew out of awkward preadolescence into a real young woman – slender, with makeup, a purse, boyfriends, I still felt her judgmental eyes on me at times, but the look was softening. I wasn’t running into the living room and knocking over a plant table or breaking a priceless figurine anymore. After many more years, I realized she was softening, not just toward me. What was once, to me, her biting and cynical appraisal of people was now playful, harmless wit, even wisdom. Her lust for gossip seemed to simply disappear, and she adopted a more sympathetic, almost live-and-let-live approach. Gone were her characteristic critical comments about every family member. And, sadly, going, was her memory. I feel tremendously remiss and incomplete in my description, here, of the changes I saw in her, and I know that I changed dramatically, too, since childhood. But whatever the differences can be attributed to, they are there, and they are beautiful, except for the tragedy of her slipping memory.

A few years ago, in a Virginia gift shop, I found silver bracelets printed with verses. For Gamma, I chose one printed with Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Contemplating the verse, I thought of how my grandmother had grown so beautiful to me; someone gentle, caring, a great listener who thinks the world of my husband and loves my children; Someone who loves me, and never casts a judgmental glance my way, no matter how clumsy or careless I might be on any given day. I thought of our relationship, how beauty came – in its time.

This summer we made our first drive to Virginia from Ohio, ecstatic that we can now travel home to see family frequently. The next trip will be for Gamma’s birthday. Visiting her in the retirement home, I felt a deeper sense of sadness and helplessness than usual. My husband is a great talker and for years I’ve enjoyed, and come to rely on, his ability to draw out the old stories from Gamma about her growing-up years. She’s had a fascinating life, suffice it to say! It used to be that she could remember the old stories even when she couldn’t remember last week. But on this day, her hearing seemed worse and she didn’t remember any stories, and I began to panic about the visit. What could I do to make it meaningful? The visits have been so few, and how many can be left to have? And then a thin, quiet thought streamed through my head, “Maybe instead of asking her to remember, it’s time you help her remember.” And with that, I began:

‘Oh Gamma, I remember coming to visit you every summer and we just couldn’t wait to get to your house. The whole way we’d ask mom and dad ‘are we there yet?”’

“Oh, yes, I remember you kids were so excited when you finally got there.”

“And we loved swinging on your porch swing. We’d get it going as high as we could, and pretend we were visiting other places with every stop.”

“Ah yes, everyone loved that swing, didn’t they?”

“And you always had the most amazing meals prepared for us, Gamma. Roast beef, potatoes, and three or four vegetables! It was an amazing spread! That ice-cold apple sauce, and lemon bundt cake drizzled with icing…”

And for just a few too-short moments, we relished in the beauty of those summertime memories and didn’t give a thought to any of the pain. Honestly, I’ve forgotten most of it already, at least in my heart. Memory is as subjective as perspective itself, and time sure does a number on both, doesn’t it? 

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