She Will Not Fail

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Four generations.  My grandma, my mother, my son and me.

Today, my 82 year-old grandmother stood up in front of a congregation full of friends and family and told the story of the day she almost died.

My entire life, I’ve known my grandma was in a horrible accident when she was only 16 years old and that the accident stole the life of her beloved older brother.  Her only brother, she counted him as her confidant and one of her best friends.  She idolized him.  We knew from a young age that grandma broke her back in the accident and we shouldn’t bring it up.  It could upset her.  And so we did not speak of it, although we knew the grief of it was always with her.

My mother told me recently that grandma wanted to give a spiritual testimony at my childhood church, reading from an essay she’d written about the accident.  I cried when I read what my grandma wrote, unable to imagine her getting through it without becoming overwrought by the memories.

Today, she did it.  The scripture for the day, Psalm 46-4-5, was perfect.  “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day.”  My petite, 82 year-old grandmother, whose back was once broken, showed that her spirit is anything but.

It was 1950 and my grandma was on the passenger side of her 21 year-old brother’s car when they were broadsided by a gravel truck.  The car flipped, turned, ejected the two siblings a half a second after they’d been singing along to the radio and telling jokes with, as she put it, “not a care in the world.”  My grandma, her body crumpled and twisted up like a rag doll on the side of the road, dwelled somewhere between heaven and earth. She describes it as a place with no pain.  She felt perfectly calm and at peace and wrote “If I’m dead and this is heaven, I’m okay with it.”

On the side of that road, as she was fluttering between life and death, my entire history, the history of my family, hung in the balance.  I’ve never once considered how close she came to death.  It’s a miracle that she lived.  It’s a miracle that just a little over a year later she was healthy enough to give birth to my mother.  If she’d slipped peacefully away on the side of a dusty road in Kansas in 1950, my mother, aunt and uncle would never have been born.  My brothers and I, all of my cousins.  None of us would exist.  All of our children… mine, my nieces and nephews.

Gone.

After she survived, my wonderful grandmother was tortured by guilt.  Her late brother was her parents’ only son.  She wrote that she felt for years like God made a mistake in taking her brother and sparing her.

When we humans are hurting, one of the hardest things to hear is that “everything happens for a reason.”  It would be like standing in a torrential downpour with no umbrella and passersby reassuringly tell you, “Don’t worry, one day it will stop raining.”  Knowing that the storm will pass doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting drenched, or that you’re being consumed by the rainstorm.  That you can hardly breath, so intense is the deluge.

My grandmother stood in front of the congregation today and said she’s learned to let go of the “survivor’s guilt.”  She’s come to understand that God couldn’t have made a mistake by sparing her life, because her 17 great-grandchildren are no mistakes.

We imagine things … that we wouldn’t be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive.  We have no choice, so we do it.

– Joan Didion

We Shan’t Speak of This

IMG_3570My son doesn’t enjoy eyedrops.  Apparently, he is violently opposed to them.  I found this out today when I took him to have his eyes examined by our friendly eye doctor who, before this morning, had probably never heard screams the likes of which echoed through the hallways while we – two of us – administered the drops into a thrashing, 60 pound ‘little’ dude’s eyes.  These eyes were squeezed so tightly shut that I found myself fantasizing about ways he could use his eye muscle strength for personal gain.  After a good half minute of wrestling, my boy immediately played it cool.  As soon as he climbed off of my lap, he took a deep breath and followed the nurse out to a toy chest to pick a “prize.”  I felt a breeze.  It took too long to realize, but there it was.  The top three buttons (3!) of my blouse had popped open in The Eye Drop Conflict of 2016.  You never know, as a boymom, what might happen during unexpected wrestling matches.  It was very hot today, but I figured a blouse open down to my belly button would be frowned upon at the medical complex.

I Took a Bath in My Bra

A unique level of weariness colors the life of a tired working mama with a couple of kids, one that is still not sleeping through the night.  Several years ago, I came home after a long day at my office and, after putting my kids to bed, told my husband I wanted – NEEDED – a relaxing bath.  Mid-way through the bath, I was frustrated because I didn’t feel any tension seeping out of my body.  I felt UNrelaxed and UNcomfortable.  It wasn’t until I gave up and climbed out that I realized I’d forgotten to take my bra off and wore it for the entire bath.

Motherhood is like that.  You have kids and somewhere down the road… yeah.  You take a bath in your bra.