Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A confession

I have a confession. Ash Wednesday is just the sort of day to make confessions. Remember back in January when I was taking down my Christmas decorations and putting them in the boxes? Everything is in a box or tub. Has been for about 6 weeks.

The boxes aren't all put away yet.

I can give you 458 excuses and reasons why...but the ugly fact remains that it is Ash Wednesday and my Christmas decorations are still in boxes and storage tubs stacked in my family room. It is just shameful. I am really embarassed by this.

I might a well get the rest of it off my chest. My house is a mess, too. A no-fooling, get the gossips talking, tongue wagging, dirty mess.

Now, by this time tomorrow, most of that will be taken care of. We are hitting the 'to do' list with a vengance tonight. I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow to clean and get things in order. (My parents are coming you can see that I am quite motivated!)

I even mentioned in that previous post that Easter was just around the corner. I blinked my eyes, woke up this morning and it is Lent! Today! Its Ash Wednesday.

I played the piano for the faithful few who attend our 7:00 am Ash Wednesday service. I spent the day with ashes on my forehead. I have been reminded in more than one way today that from dust I was created and to dust I will return.

I have a verse from the Psalms that I pray daily. To me, it just about covers it all. Ash Wednesday is a day that Psalm 51 is read as part of the Liturgy. The Psalm of confession and repentence, The verse I say as a prayer is Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.

Oh, how I need a clean heart and a right spirit. If my heart is clean and I am in a right relationship with God...nothing else really matters.

My house, on the other hand, I'll have to do myself. But this evening and tomorrow, I will offer the cleaning of my house to God in an act of worship and praise. I will be thankful for its solid structure and for the bounty we enjoy. For the mud on the carpet that was tracked in by boys who were joyful because they had been out in the melting snow. For the laundry to be done for a husband who is home after extended travel. For the arranging of things to make our guest room comfortable for beloved and most welcome guests. All of these things I will offer with joy and thanksgiving.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

The rest, I suppose, is up to me!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grandma Lucille

Last Thursday would have been our Grandma's birthday. She would have been 102. I really meant to write something about her on the day, but I was pre-occupied. I think she would have understood. You see, my husband was very sick and I spent the day caring for him. As I tell you a bit about the extraordiany woman Grandma was, I hope you will understand why I think she'd understand that I failed in my goal to write about her on her birthday.

Grandma was a formidable woman. I always had a very healthy respect for her. Not only because I had a justified true belief that she would have jerked a knot in my tail had that been necessary, but also because she seemed like a no-nonsense sort of woman to me.

Going to Grandma's house always meant that we could have all the Pepsi we wanted. Literally. When we walked in the door, she would proclaim that we knew where we were and to help ourselves. She meant that the kitchen was open for business and she was always stocked up for us. I don't recall being at her house as a child that there wasn't a tin of Rice Krispies candy on the table. There were bottles and bottles of Pepsi Cola in the refrigerator. There were oranges and bananas that we could eat to our hearts content. Pringles potato chips, once they were invented...but always some sort of potato chip and M&Ms. If we were there at Christmas, you could add fudge and divinity to that mix...made by her own hand. And better than any I've ever had since.

Grandma saved the Funny Papers for us. When we got to her house, we would run out to the back porch and dig in. Her paper had different funnies than did ours, and we would catch up on Beetle Baily and Blondie. She would save her powder compacts for me. I think she thought I was a little prissy, in fact, I'm sure she did. She would have been right, too. But once she had used almost every speck of powder in a compact, she would put it away and when I came, she would give it to me to play with. She gave me books for Christmas when I was little. Several of them are tucked away in my Hope Chest, as precious treasures of my childhood.

As I grew older, I began to respect her a great deal. I was named for her mother, and she would tell me about Grandma Mollie. Seems I had a lot to live up to, as Grandma Mollie was a longsuffering, kind and very decent person. What I learned from Grandma as she told me about her mother was a sort of reverence for the ties of family that hold us together. And perhaps why my Daddy wanted to name me for his grandmother.

Grandma worked. She worked hard, not only in her home but also outside of it. I wasn't very old when she and Grandpa moved off of their farm in Eugene into the nearby town of Jefferson City, Missouri. Grandma donned a uniform and went to work at St. Mary's Hospital. I'm not certain the exact title of her position, but I believe that she was a nurse's aid of some sort. She began that job when she was older than I am now. Imagine that! I sit at a desk, occasionally counting the days until I can retire. Not my Grandma! She begin a new career when she was older than I am.

I recall her working the 3pm to 11pm shift. I can see her in my mind's eye, like it just happened, sitting in her chair with that blue jumper uniform on, gathering up her things and putting them into her pocket to take to work. I can't even imagine how many people she cared for, but it was always obvious to me that her work was important to her. She might have complained about it, but I don't remember ever hearing that.

She must have been remarkably good at her work, too. Because when she reached the mandatory retirement age at the hospital, which by then had become a Medical Center, she kept on working. She continued to get a waiver to work, until finally they just told her to let them know when she was ready to retire.

Grandma loved her children, Maxine, Bobbie and Ronnie. She loved their spouses, Dick, Charlotte and Sharon. She loved her sisters and brothers. She loved her grandchidren. She was always ready to brag on any of us, if we had done something worthy of bragging. I think she was happiest when all of her children were home and everyone was fussing and teasing.

She was a wonderful correspondant. When I lived in Germany in the late 70's, we wrote letters back and forth. She enjoyed my letters and was faithful to write back to me. The most precious letter I ever got from her, however, was about the time of my divorce. My Daddy had told her that my marraige had come to an end. She wrote to me and said, in short that I was strong enough to make it through this disappointing experience. She told me to stay busy and find meaningful work. Then, she said something that still makes me smile. You have to understand that Grandma's language could occasionally be colorful. She told me that she hoped 'that SOB has to pay you for the rest of his life.'

She certainly was willing to say what she thought.

Her cast iron will combined with her loving care of others are the things that I remember most about her. I try not to carry many regrets with me, but one of the things I regret most in my life is that I didn't take the time to know her more personally. Not just as Grandma, but to know Lucille in a deeper way. I find myself hoping that I'm the sort of person that she would have respected and wanted to spend time with. I wish I had been able to care for her when she reached the end of her life.

I wish I had told her that I respect her and hope against hope that I am more like her than I think.

Maybe...just maybe...I knew how to care for Ed last week when he was sick because there is a little bit of Lucille in me. And, maybe she would find me to have become more than just Miss Priss, as she called me. I do hope so.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!
Thank you for being the example of a good, caring woman of character.
I love you!