I love to gaze at her hands. Age worn hands ripened to a cragged and furrowed beauty. Blue veins marching across paper-thin skin, boldly telling a story in the creases of fragile flesh. Fingers permanently warped from years of laundry and cooking and chores. Hands that rolled out […]
Month: September 2014
That day. When you came into this world, full of fun and spunk and vigor. Full of life. That was one of the best days. And those moments when you were still inside me bursting to see and taste and feel the world, I felt […]
It’s the slippers that undo me. And it’s how he’ll change three times a day, sprucing himself up for the thirty steps to the dining room. Then he’ll shuffle back and slip on his white t-shirt and striped overalls, until it’s time to do it all over again for the next meal. But lately? Even when he’s slicked the hair back and put on the button up shirt, he takes those slow steps in slipper-clad feet.
My eyes take in the slippers but my mind is seeing feet pushed into work boots and the methodical criss-cross lacing of the boots. Strong hands that pulled the laces up and tight. Hands that shake now.
But I think I can still smell that same smell that is him, the subtle scent of spearmint as I lean in to kiss his lightly whiskered cheek. But maybe it’s simply the scent of nostalgia and a wistfulness for days gone too fast.
This day he kicks off his slippers and laboriously pulls on white tennis shoes. But even these aren’t the same. And I wonder if it’s possible to have an ache in the heart for discarded work boots, sitting in a corner, laces dangling. Instead, I rejoice that today he can slip on tennis shoes and walk with me to my van…a van fairly shaking with four kids excited to shop with grandpa.
But first we walk through the rooms of their home, the one sitting smack dab on the side of the highway, right in town. The one he is referring to almost daily when he says, “you’ll have to take me out to the farm.” And as he walks through the rooms, I find myself perplexed by his search. He’s started a tub, and as I sneakily sift through, I notice he has two winter dress coats for Grandma (it’s August) and an old green Pioneer seed company coat, unraveling at the edges. He catches me, and says, “I think Grandma will want that.” Now I know that the only thing Grandma will want is to chew us both out good if we come back with that threadbare thing, but I just smile and nod. I glance at his pile on the bed.
“Are you taking those shirts, Grandpa?”
“Oh, I think so.”
“Are they the right size?”
“Oh, I don’t really think probably so.”
I swallow the sigh before it reaches the lips.
“Hmmm, how bout we look at the tag in the shirt you’re wearing; is that okay?”
“Yea, I couldn’t reach.”
I swallow the grin too, and the giggles that want to follow.
“Weeelll, I don’t think those shirts probably fit, so do you think we should leave those here?”
And so the search continues. The kids are excited by this new game and bring us treasures they’ve found. As they distract Grandpa, and I fight the urge to lock them out of the bedroom, I suddenly feel a little outnumbered. But eventually the whole kit and caboodle of us is in the van, buckling seatbelts, and I’m rejoicing because that wasn’t such a long 45 minutes. And as he bends to buckle his seatbelt, and I almost sit on my hands to keep them from reaching over and snapping the buckle for him, he says words I am sure I must’ve heard wrong.
“Well, that wasn’t too bad. We’ll come on up tomorrow and get a half-dozen more shirts.”
That oldest of mine, her eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror, and they’re dancing with mirth. So we chuckle softly, but I’m thinking how does one decide how to fit a life time into a room at the care center? Of course, he doesn’t know where to start or what he needs.
The old gray minivan churns its way up to the local Shopko…where we buy tea and pop and goodies to have in their room when the grandkids come. And I hold my breath in the jean aisle when he realizes that they simply don’t have black Wranglers in his size.
“I think this brand will be good, Grandpa.”
“Well, I know, but I wanted the Wranglers for Carrie’s wedding.”
“We can go look out of town…”
At that point, the six year old, hair escaping every which way from her ponytail, jumps out of a rack of clothes, yelling “Boo!” as the two year old screams and giggles. The tween, she’s looking at clothes, and I’ve managed to lose our only boy.
“These will do.”
And so we load them up, and he remembers that he only has 40 cough drops left, and this could get serious. So we head back the opposite direction to the pharmacy section. There he remembers that he is out of a certain cream, and he heads up and down the aisles. Finally, I ask him if I can help.
“Yes, I need my ulcer cream in the yellow tube,” he mumbles.
Ulcer cream? I ask him to repeat.
“Asssscream,” he says as he shuffles down the row.
My face burns because now I’m not at all sure what he’s said. Hemorrhoids? I wonder. And I wonder then too, did God laugh out loud this morning when I told Him to use me where He needed me today?
Red-faced I head to the pharmacy counter.
“Excuse me,” I mumble, barely more intelligible than Grandpa, “my grandpa is looking for a cream of some sort. And, ah, well, I’m just not sure what he’s looking for.”
The sweet pharmacist quickly figures out that Grandpa is looking for Aspercreme for his sore joints.
I offer a thanks to the pharmacist and then add a thanks to God above that it’s simply joint cream we need to carry to the checkout.
As we walk to the van, I quietly wipe the sweat dripping down the side of my face. The tween’s lagging behind because she’s found something to purchase with her money. The middles are managing to play tug of war with their own limbs as they race each other to the car. Grandpa too, wears the sheen of perspiration, as he shuffles toward the van.
I am suddenly sure that I won’t make it the remaining ten steps to the vehicle. I’m just done, and there’s so much left to do today.
It’s then that she steps forward, brushing her hair out of her eyes, in her Minnie Mouse pjs she’s refused to take off. And I just pray that people think it’s a cute outfit. She steps up next to Grandpa, and I watch her hand meet his. He grasps her little fingers, and it loosens something inside me. She’s done it before, and I realize what she’s doing.
She’s matching her steps to his. She isn’t thinking about what we need to do next or if the checkout lady is calling DHS about the crazy lady with four unruly children and a disorientated grandpa. She isn’t hurrying along. She isn’t sighing. She is simply swinging her hand clutching his, and keeping pace with his tired feet.
And I realize I don’t do that so well. I don’t match my pace to that of others with grace and love. I live on the yellow lined notebook paper that tells me what needs done in a day. And I match my pace to its dictates.
Instead of being led by:
the little fingers grasping mine.
the shuffling footsteps of one who once carried me when my gait was slow and clumsy.
the one who needs a helping hand, when my schedule says I don’t have time.
for those hard to love.
for those who think and live and feel differently than I do.
In that sweet moment, when she stops running, running, running and slows her steps to match his, I see how I can best serve my Father.
Because isn’t it true? If we want to be a generation striving to be His hands and feet, then we have to match our steps to His. And I think it just might be that His steps would be matching those who could barely put one foot in front of the other. And maybe there’d be times that He’d just carry them.
Couldn’t we carry someone today too? Couldn’t I? Because there’ve been so many times that others have carried me – and carry me still.
So I roll out of bed again, and I grin as I look toward the ceiling.
“Okay, God. Use me where You need me today.”
And later, I feel His grin in return, like sunshine on my face, when Grandpa says,
“We really need to head up to the farm tomorrow; I know I have a couple ties there somewhere for Carrie’s wedding.”
And I know how ridiculously blessed I am, and how very thankful I am that He matches His steps to my own slow, awkward, selfish, stubborn shuffling.