Writing from the heart

Usually when I answer the phone the person on the other end hesitates, then says, “Debbie?”… which is my mom’s name.  Or they say, “Oh, hi, Brooke!”

Nope, it’s Ashley.

Sometimes they just pretend that they know which one of us it is until they figure it out by the content of the conversation, and often they give themselves away.

There is one woman, however, who never has to ask which one of us it is.  She always replies with a “Well, hello Ashley” as though her day is better just for talking to me.  As though there should be no question to who I am, that my voice is distinct enough for someone who knows me well to discern.

Grandmas are special people; there is no question about that.

The memories I have of Grandma and Granddaddy’s house in Longview, Texas – before they moved to Oklahoma – are some of the most poignant and vivid ones that I have from those ages: Grandma letting us feed all the heels of the bread to the ducks at the pond by their house, Granddaddy helping me use the baby blue Mickey Mouse fishing pole to reel in an empty hook most times, the times when each of them acted as an ATM for us grandkids.

I remember sitting near Grandma’s kitchen while she washed dishes and hearing her sing, “You are my strength when I am weak.  You are the treasure that I seek.  You are my all in all.”  I never hear that song without thinking of her.  Not only a song she sang, but a tune to which she lives her life.

I wish I could remember the instances photographed and filed away in our photo albums where Granddaddy has me in his lap and is reading to me.  I wish I could bottle those memories and pull them out so I wouldn’t miss him so much.  I remember once, at our family cabin in Colorado, when I was probably in first or second grade, and it was Granddaddy’s birthday.  My cousin, Alayna, and I – knowing how much Granddaddy liked peanuts – decided that a good gift for him would be to take the peanuts that we used to feed the chipmunks (that Granddaddy had probably bought) from the big community bucket and wrap them up in napkins.  We gathered up all our supplies and hid in a closet to complete the task.  We thought it was a great idea, that we were giving him a gift based on the things he liked.

Sometimes God prepares us for things that we still aren’t ready for when they come.  I was visiting Grandma and Granddaddy in April of 2009 for Easter, also seeing our cousins and other relatives who live nearby.  I’m not sure what spurred the action, but I spent a solid two hours asking Granddaddy about his life in college and working out on the oil rigs and at Marathon where he worked as a petroleum engineer.  I sat on the big corduroy chair in his office, a room stuffed full of books – probably his favorite companions aside from Grandma – hearing him tell the stories behind the pictures, not knowing that I wouldn’t get another chance to ask him again.

It’s a beautiful memory for me.  I think that the action of hearing his life story, of being able to carry it with me, makes me aware that I also carry his life’s legacy.   That words are precious and that sincerity is priceless.  That wisdom is gained over time and experience, through trials and pursuit of truth.

I could have no better role models than the ones God has given me in my family.  After Granddaddy died, Grandma started keeping a journal of all the ways God has been good to her, the ways he provided for her and showed her that He was with her – holding her steady in a time where little seemed certain.  She didn’t want to forget God’s faithfulness to her, and I’ve held on to that as well.  That God is faithful.  Remembering those many instances where God said, “this is why you trust me.  because I follow through, even when you don’t ask.”

One of the hallmarks of being at Grandma’s house is the plethora of desserts that she pulls out of the freezer after every meal.  “Oh, well I just have a few things I baked if anyone’s interested.”  Six tupperware containers are placed on the counter, and oh, we are interested!  The feeding frenzy ensues while Grandma starts cleaning – and my mom and aunt try to make her sit down and let them help.

Last summer we had a family reunion at the cabin.  There was an empty spot in the group without Granddaddy, but all of our reminiscing kept him with us.  After our time there, I rode back to Oklahoma with Grandma to spend a few days at her house.  Not an hour after we got to her house, we went grocery shopping where she encouraged me to pick out whatever I wanted to eat.  The pollen had been all over the place in the mountains, so my allergies had started acting up, making my throat sore and nose run.

Feeling sick anywhere else will never even begin to compare to feeling sick at Grandma’s.  “You just have a seat, and I’ll bring you some tea.”  So I sit in the blue recliner that was Granddaddy’s favorite napping chair and watch Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novel being shown on PBS while she makes me a tray with a mug of tea and honey to sweeten it… and one of the desserts from a tupperware in the freezer eventually comes over too.  If anyone was every given a spiritual gift of hospitality, it is my Grandma.

Family is a treasure.  If my heart is a box, with room in it for all the people I love, Grandma and Granddaddy take up a significant portion.

Sweet are the memories to which I cling.

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