Grandma Carlene

Oh my goodness, you guys!  I almost missed out on the single most important moment of my week, because I am so busy and so overwhelmed...and I was just about to not do this crazy Halloween we have been doing for the last 16 years.  Because, here's the deal...the appeal of just doing a simple neighborhood thing, which is what, it seems like, EVERYONE ELSE and their brother is doing, was soooooo intense for me this year.  I just so wanted to take it EASY.  Even though this was a lighter week, I have still been working lots and then putting out fires (no...not literal.  Figurative) all around me throughout the late afternoon and evenings.

You guys.  I almost didn't go see Grandma Carlene.  😢

From what I have been hearing, my grandma hasn't been very pleasant lately.  Not a huge surprise, since she is EXTREMELY strong-willed, and very much all of 95 years old.  You guys!!  NINETY-FIVE.

Anyway, I have heard she's been a little cranky lately, and I thought maybe it was best that we didn't go visit on Halloween.  We could always find a better time.  But then I overheard Evan and Dillon talking about being so excited the night before Halloween.  Dillon was saying how he couldn't wait to go trick-or-treating, and to see their grandparents.  And then I heard Evan shout, joyfully, "And Grandma Carlene!!" can't deny that!  The kid has, literally, had 3 Halloweens, and somehow remembered we ALWAYS go see Grandma Carlene on Halloween.

So, I rearranged the scheduled.  I made plans to get out of internship early.  I planned to get the boys ready and leave right after school, so we would have plenty of time for all our stops.  And we made our first stop, the 15-minute drive to see Grandma Carlene. 

Apparently, the nursing home is a popular place on Halloween.  They had it set up so all the residents could sit outside their doors and pass out candy to kids in the community.  So sweet!  But we certainly did not have time for the huge line and the slow progression, so we skipped the line and sneaked straight to Grandma's room.  She was sitting in total darkness...not outside in the hallway...very obviously avoiding passing out candy.

That is NOT my typical Grandma!  Holidays were her thing!  We always visited her on Halloween, and she would joyfully pass out candy to the community kids.  She had a special pack for "her" kids, which included just about everyone in any way connected to the family (adults included!).  And homemade popcorn balls!!!  Those were THE Halloween favorite.  Oh, for just one more of Grandma's homemade popcorn balls. 💕   On the best Halloweens, I got to be there to help her make them.  Grandma's was so wonderful, always, but especially during holidays.

We would spend the night with Grandma on Christmas Eve, Eve, so our parents could shop for presents the next day (of course, we didn't know that then).  Grandma would have this white spray that was supposed to look like snow, and we would spray it on her window for a little festive flare.  We would help her prepare (or get in her way of preparing!) for this gigantic family dinner she would throw on Christmas Eve, and by God, you'd better come hungry...because Grandma Carlene was on repeat until you just finally went in and got something to eat.  She could not settle herself until you did.  (Besides, she made the BEST food!)  She would buy us special presents, and we would play and watch Christmas shows and track Santa's progress on the news...and drive her crazy until we could finally open presents.  And it was so crowded and so chaotic, but oh, so cozy...just the memory makes me cry.  (The thought of never again...I can't take it.  How my heart aches for just once more...)

Grandma seemed shocked and a little confused when we walked in her door on Halloween night.  I didn't give her time to wallow in confusion.  I barged right in, turned on the light and told her it was me. I think, in part, she was being defiant about participating in this trick-or-treat fest in the confines of a nursing home.  (Her grown-up tantrum.) Because, I KNOW she does NOT LIKE being in a nursing home, and YOU GUYS!  My Grandma Carlene is so VERY, STRONG-WILLED.

Grandma Carlene is strong, in general. 

The woman had twins the first time she gave birth.  In those days, you gave birth at home.  In those days, you didn't necessarily have the equipment to know that you were going to have twins before the horror of labor began, increased, intensified and ended...just to suddenly start all over again.  Oh...and hey...did I mention her husband was at war the whole time.  (He was privileged to meet his sons at 3 months of age??!!)  The woman is so, ridiculously tough.

In her later years, after Grandpa died, Grandma took on the responsibility of taking care of his aging sister.  Unfortunately, they had one very frightful experience.  They were waiting in the car at the grocery store, while my uncle went in to pick up medications, when a young man got into the car and tried to take it with both elderly women inside. Well..of Grandma beat the (bad word) out of that guy...from the BACK seat!  She grabbed her purse and starting whacking the guy, relentlessly, until he finally gave up.

Grandma Carlene was NOT done.  Before he could get out of the car, she grabbed a dollar from her purse and shoved it in his face.   When he tried to refuse, do you know what she said? (BAD WORD ALERT!)  She said, "You take this damn dollar and get out!" (From what I heard he was actually, laughing at this point.).  Tough, stubborn and loving.  That is Grandma Carlene. 

I reminded Grandma, on Halloween, of this story, and I asked if she remembered.  She only vaguely recalled.  But as her memory ticked back, and she started to express a little guilt at not participating in the festivities.  She gave me multiple excuses as to why she wasn't sitting in the hall and passing out candy.  "You know I always did all that."

Oh Grandma, do I EVER know!  All the things she did!  Every last one.  I do not know what fueled her service heart.  Christmas presents.  Christmas Dinners.  Thanksgiving.  Halloween.  She never let ANYONE feel left out. For a long time, she hosted Sunday lunches for everyone in the family.  Every single week. 

She has been the most stable force in my life, and most of my best times were spent with her.  She was crazy fun to stay with.  She would take us to the park, take us for walks (sometimes on the railroad tracks!  CRAZY fun. 💕), or just pitch wiffle balls to us in her backyard..  She would walk us up the street to the double-decker play ground at the elementary school (wish THAT still many of my childhood haunts have been destroyed...fortunately, this includes the butt-burning metal slide at Sunnyside Park).  She would take us for walks to the underpass and creek.  It was always fun at Grandmas.  She was the one person in my life, at that time, who could make me feel loved.

Grandma started in, on Halloween, about how miserable she is.  I knew it would happen.  So many of her conversations turn negative these days.  She is frustrated by her own inability and the lack of freedom aging has produced.  I tried to remind her of the positives she still had.  She confided in me how much she just wants to lie down and be done. (That's a nice way of putting it, because she has honestly been making these "death threats" since about 1996! 😂 )  But something in our conversation, or in my face, sparked a memory, and her focus changed a little, "I still love the Lord, but sometimes I am just so angry with Him."  And I said, "I get it." 

I don't KNOW, but I can definitely understand.  This strong and active woman has slowly lost so much of her ability and freedoms.  I can't imagine how hard it must be to feel stuck in the confinements of your own decline.  It is something I, too, will face, and I doubt I go down without a struggle.  (I mean...have you seen me?! I inherited my strong will from her!)  It is a hard fact of life that sometimes the things He "allows" seem so cruel and uncaring.  I have been fortunate to learn there is always a positive that eventually comes up.  I don't always fully understand, but I trust in knowing He is good!  And He will work it ALL out to my good, because I love Him!

Fortunately, on Halloween, through her confusion, Grandma remembered who I really am.  She looked me in the eyes and said, "Well, does anyone want to pray?"  💕

Oh, my goodness, you guys!  My  heart just melted out onto the floor.  "Of course.  I will!"

I prayed.  And I couldn't help but cry, because I prayed how much I love my God.  I prayed how much I know that God knows our hearts and loves us.  I prayed about how much I trust in Him.  I prayed how much I LOVE her (MINE!), my Grandma Carlene.  I prayed that He would help her submit to His perfect will, even when it is really hard.  I prayed that He would comfort her and help her focus on things that are positive and happy, while she waits for Him. 

That moment was OH...SO...BEAUTIFUL, and it was the most important, defining moment of my week.  I couldn't help but walk away feeling more complete.

Is that prayer the end all - be all?  Is it the solution to all of her problems?  Proabably not.  Grandma Carlene will have to continue to wait.  It will continue to be hard.  But we had this moment.  This precious, grateful moment, with God present in the room.  This is really the promise and the hope that we hold.  He never promised to make it easy.  He never promised it wouldn't be hard.  What He did promise is that He will enter into these hardships with us.  He will comfort us in our affliction, and, in the end, He will make our afflictions worth our while.  What more could I ask in this heartbreaking, forsaking existence.  It will end, and if I cling to Him, He will make it all eternally good.  That is my only reason for HOPE.