My Grandmother’s Hands

A year ago, I had the enormous privilege of holding my grandmother’s hand as she passed away. It was devastatingly beautiful — and changed me forever.

I had woken up on a Friday morning, planned out my outfit for my husband’s holiday work party and looked forward to only working half a day. That’s when I got the call that my grandmother’s condition was grave.  It probably wasn’t worth coming home, I was told, because I might not make it in time.

I immediately thought that I needed to hold her hand one last time. Those hands that I have held so many times and that I know as well as my own. They were not delicate and feminine — they were sturdy and strong. Her veins were just underneath the skin and I can remember being able to feel the blood pulsing through. Her skin was soft and carried the distinct almond smell of the Jergen’s lotion that she always wore. Arthritis had deformed the joint on her index finger and it had been that way my entire life. I never thought of the pain it must have caused her…I only thought that it was uniquely her. They were *my* grandmother’s hands.

Those hands made homemade bread and peanut butter cookies that were always in the house. And, deviled eggs on special occasions. They held me steady when I was little girl and she took me on hikes in Capital Reef National Park, where my grandfather was a Park Ranger. They made Christmas ornaments that I will treasure forever. They hugged away my tears when I really missed my grandfather. They played countless games of Bridge with her girlfriends and shook the hands of strangers at the Cultural Center where she volunteered her time.

As she aged, the skin became thin and they bruised easily. But she didn’t. She was still tough as nails and wanted to do everything for herself. We once caught her shoveling the sidewalk when she knew she shouldn’t be, but she wanted to clear the walk for our arrival. Every year when I would visit, she would squeeze my hands and look me in the eye and tell me that she’d be there waiting for me when I came back. Until the year she didn’t. And, I knew that our time was short. I thought I was at peace with our goodbye that year. She hugged me tight and told me to be happy. But, when that call came, I knew I had to go.

When I walked in the room that cold December morning, it took my breath away. She looked so small and frail. Her hands were folded across her chest and her eyes were closed. She hadn’t spoken in a couple of days and I feared she would not even know I was there or know who I was. But, when I took her hand and whispered “I’m here Grammie”, she struggled to open her eyes and ever so slightly squeezed my hand and whispered “My Steph…my Steph…”.

I held her hands for the better part of 2 days and sang her Christmas carols and old hymns. And then she was gone.

She was the best person I knew and I loved her fiercely.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and want to hold her hand again.

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Nelda “Ruth” Wallace – 12/17/1919 – 12/21/2014

Love Story, Part 2

December 16, 1991

Monday. Finals week was here and I had to drag myself out of bed and go to work. I had been a year since I packed up and left this place for good. So much had happened since then. I had enrolled in community college and taken a couple of night classes.  I fell in love with my anthropology class and was supposed to go on a summer dig in Israel, but then the Gulf war happened and the school canceled the trip. So, I got in the car and drove from Washington to Colorado. I just wanted to go home. I could have stayed in the mountains forever, far away from all of the shit I had been dealing with. But, my aunt ever so gently told me that I couldn’t live with her anymore if I didn’t go to school. Since online schooling wasn’t a thing yet, I didn’t have much choice. Even though I had no intention of returning to Washington State University, I had deferred my enrollment, so it was still an option for that semester. I didn’t  have the time or the energy to try and do anything else.

So, I went back. I moved in with the one friend who hadn’t seemingly abandoned me. I didn’t really have a plan. My financial aid was a mess and my only real option was a work study job, which I was lucky enough to find at the school newspaper, The Daily Evergreen. I met a guy and we started dating, mostly because I just didn’t want to be alone.  I was too broken to realize that I was more lonely with him than without.

My job was actually the bright spot of my days. I looked forward to going. I loved being around the people — they were smart people who wanted to change the world. Once or twice a week, the opinion page editor would write a column that I looked forward to reading. I loved his way of thinking and the way he put those thoughts into words. There was also a cute boy that would walk back my desk on his way to the newsroom. He hardly even glanced in my direction, but I looked forward to seeing him every day. One day, he came to check out a camera for a story. When he left, I asked my manager what his name was. She eyed me suspiciously and said “That’s Lloyd Brown. He’s the opinon page editor”.

After that, I made it my mission to get this guy to notice me. I would say hello when he walked by or if I saw him on the bus, I’d sit next to him. But, he always seemed lost in his thoughts. Student Publications would periodically auction off the promotional materials that were sent. I decided to outbid him on the Lloyd Cole CD he was bidding on in an attempt to try and find something to talk about (nevermind that I didn’t have any idea who Lloyd Cole was and let’s not even discuss the irony in the album title “Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe“).

Eventually, we started making small talk but I knew he wasn’t one bit interested in me. But, today — today was different. I was leaving for campus and my room mate commented that I looked really cute…for a Monday. I told her that today was the day Lloyd Brown was going to ask me out. She gave the side-eye and said “oooohkay”.

So, when he walked by, I said “HI!” a little too loudly. And, he reluctantly stopped and said hello. I asked him what he was going that night and he said that he had gotten free tickets to the basketball game so he thought he would go to that.

“That sounds fun. I haven’t been to a basketball game yet this year”, I said enthusiastically.  The truth was, I had never been to a WSU basketball game and this particular game was against Alcorn State, which wouldn’t have been my choice of games to go to even if I had thought of it on my own. He looked at me with a puzzled look and said “uhhhh, so, do you want to go?”  I think he was just happy that I had a car and he wouldn’t have to walk in the cold.

So, we went. The Cougars won. But, it wasn’t a date. We were both afraid that somebody might see us together, even though it wasn’t a date. He asked me to drop him off at band practice afterward but on the way, we stopped at the Combine for coffee.  I paid for my own, because it wasn’t a date. He was really late for band practice because we just sat there and talked until the Combine closed. And, I dropped him off a little further away than necessary because it wasn’t a date and he didn’t want his friends thinking anything different.

When I got home, my room mate met me at the door and told me that my boyfriend had called at least a dozen times. I didn’t care, I told her.  “I found the man I’m going to marry”.

 

 

 

Let me tell you about Ian Desmond

If you knew us or were following my blog a few years ago, you may remember a story about my son — a then 7th grader and connsumate Nationals fan and aspiring baseball annoucer, who got teased about wearing a Screech hat to school. He blogged about it, then I blogged about it and sent it out on my twitter feed. Much to my surprise, Ian Desmond, short stop for the Washington Nationals, responded to my tweet, telling Jake to bring it to Nats Fest and he would sign it.

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We went to Nats Fest, Screech hat on head, and I prayed that we could somehow pull this thing off.  You can read the whole story in my follow up blog, but the bottom line is, we managed to not only get the hat signed, but also this amazing picture and a pep talk from Ian.

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It was a great story.  But it didn’t end there.

Last year, we were at Nats Fest, Screech hat on head, and Jake spotted Ian in a photo line. We didn’t have tickets for that particular line, but we stood at the perimeter and Jake yelled out Ian’s name.  He looked over and saw him and stepped out of line to come over and shake his hand and say hello.  He asked him how things were going at school and said it was nice to see him again. It was an awesome moment.

This year, as Jake’s 16th birthday approached, I had no idea what to get him. The only thing he’d asked for is an Ian Desmond jersey. Yeah, I could do that…but it’s his 16th birthday and I wanted to make it special. I decided to go out on a limb and ask if Ian would sign it:

ian jake tweetOnce again, I was floored — although at this point, I don’t know why because as Maya Angelou famously said:

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
~Maya Angelou

 

I so often think of that quote when people have somehow wronged me (or I have perceived that they’ve wronged me).  I need to remember to think of it when people have shown me that they are caring, wonderful people, too.

Again, the tricky part was going to be pulling it off.  I decided our best bet was to upgrade our regular seats on the 300 level to seats behind the dugout.  I ordered the jersey, made him a sign and let Ian know that we’d be there.

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At this point, there was nothing else to do.  We arrived at the park early, had a dessert-first dinner at The Red Porch and headed down to the seats as the pre-game festivities started up.  Jake ran ahead of us, so I didn’t see how things played out, but when we got down to our seats, he was stripping off his jersey and throwing it down into the dugout.

The pictures tell the story:

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ianbirthday                                autograph

 It’s become clear that Ian Desmond will not be wearing a Nationals jersey next season. We have known this was coming for a while, but reading his parting words to fans, made it real.  It’s baseball.  Players come and go…it’s all part of the game.  But, this time…it stings a little more than usual.

Thank YOU, Ian Desmond.  Thanks for showing us who you are. — for the heart you showed on the field….for the leadership you so clearly showed in the clubhouse…for  being a role model. And thank you for making a difference in the lives of your fans. Especially my son’s.

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We don’t know where you will end up…but the team will be so lucky to have you.  And, our family will be amongst your biggest fans.

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P.S.  Who knows….maybe someday the Screech Hat Kid will be calling one of your games. This will be his favorite story to tell.

I’m back!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything and have been thinking about getting back to it.  But, I’ve struggled with what to write about. I’m not the same person I was when I started this blog — nor am I the same person that quit writing a couple of years ago.  But, it’s been an itch I haven’t quite been able to scratch for several months.

Then today, I happened upon this poem that spoke to me.

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I know this girl.  And, recently, she’s been peeking out.  She’s the one who wants to write.  So, we’ll see what she has to say.

ReThinking Advent – Day 5: Flood

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I took this photo on April 8, 2013 – the day after Kevin’s memorial service.  It was early morning and I was driving from Portland, OR to attend church services with his wife, and my dear friend, Stacey.  I had to pull over to take a picture of this rainbow that seemed to end right in McMinnville where they live.  It reminded me of God’s covenant promises to His people.  God unilaterally promised Noah that he would never again use a universal flood to destroy the earth and the rainbow would serve as a reminder of that promise (Gen. 9).  Later, in Isaiah, God promises that this covenant of peace would never be removed (Isaiah 54:9-10).  But, Isaiah also prophesies a new covenant:

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion,

to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 59:20-21, ESV)

As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Messenger and Mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:24).  In this season of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate of the arrival of the Christ child, God dwells among us in this new covenant in a way so full of promise that after centuries of celebration, we are still compelled to call it “new”.

Come Lord, Jesus.

ReThinking Advent, Day 4: Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time this year.  When you lose somebody suddenly, who is so young, you can’t help but have regrets.  You look back on missed opportunities to spend time together.  You wonder if you said all the things you should have to make sure that person knew how much you meant to them.  You just wonder.

We’ve also been converting old home movies to digital files and as I’ve watched some of the footage, I wonder if I savored every moment as much as I should have.  I cringed watching one Christmas morning where my 2 year old son was being adorable and I was not really paying attention.

A couple of years ago, I found this little card in a book that belonged to my grandfather.  What an amazing message to hold on to.

papa

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12