Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My mother's mother is Ruth Ophelia Brandle. She has such a big name for such a diminutive lady. The top of her salt and pepper head barely reaches my shoulders.

Grandma turned 90 on Saturday. She was born on March 27, 1920. The year she was born ushered in Prohibition. Ironic, in that she eventually married an alcoholic. In 1920, the Ford Model T was the best selling (and almost only selling vehicle) in America. Now, it's a foreign car maker at the top of the list, not that it matters as Gram never learned to drive (though she does love a long ride on a smooth motorcycle-Harley if you please). American women were finally given the right to vote in the 1920 election for President upon the ratification of the 20th Amendment. I don't believe she has ever voted in her life and frankly wouldn't now if you asked her. Politicians are like a**holes, she would say, everybody's got one and we all know they are full of sh*t. Did I mention she can cuss like a longshoreman when given the chance?

In her 90 years she has seen the invention and encroachment of television into every aspect of our lives. There isn't much good on t.v. now, she says. Though that Discovery Channel has some very nice shows. She has witnessed humanity at it's best conquering the vast expanse of the moon. She has witnessed it at it's worst, with too many wars to name.

She has been the sole caretaker for and eventually buried a husband, a mother and a daughter. She buried two of her four sons. She endured real poverty, and not just the kind that won't allow you to go to McDonalds. Poverty where you fill your children's bellies with bread soaked in coffee as there is nothing else in the house.

Grandma Ruth broke all her fingers in a ringer washer. Too poor for medical treatment, they fused together into a half claw. Convenient for kneading the thousands of loaves of bread she has baked. Painful on cold days. It was that twisted hand that made me cry tonight. No, she didn't hit me, though I am sure she has smacked more than one errant child.

I wept in the simplicity of her hand being held in the two year old, smallness of my son's hand. "Come on, Gram," he said, as if it were everyday they shared a meal at a restaurant. She has only met him once, at 3 months. Tonight, they chatted like old friends. She kept saying, "I can't believe he took to me so quick. Ain't that somethin'?"

That is something. But what?

Since my mother's passing I have been trying to sort out what it means to still be here. To be in a family I don't know, and am still unsure if I want to know. To be the granddaughter of this woman who has cursed me and said terrible things about me and mine.

Tonight I am asking what does it mean to this 90 year old woman to still be here? Is it to reclaim time with great-grandchildren lost with her own children and grandchildren? Is it to forgive sins real and imagined? What is it?

In the bible, Ruth was a dutiful daughter who stayed with her bitter mother in law through poverty and death and hardships. Ruth said, "Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God." In Ruth's service and faithfulness, she is rewarded by regaining her lost inheritance and more. From the ashes of death and poverty, Ruth gained a life again for her mother in law and herself.

Will my Ruth gain an inheritance for so much she has lost? Am I the dutiful daughter in law who will walk through death and emotional poverty to gain a new life for the both of us? Is this the chance for restoration?

I think so.

Unlike with my own mother, I know time is short with Grandma Ruth. In the wake of my own mother's leaving there remains a curious bringing together. Gram is coming for Easter dinner on Saturday. I asked her to make candied sweet potatoes. She does them better than anyone. It's not a grand emotional gesture. It's just a meal. But it is one meal we probably would be spending separately, had my mother been alive.

Gram doesn't have a computer, and never will read this blog. She probably thinks a blog is something to be cleaned up.

What she will know is that she is loved and wanted and appreciated. In every way I will, like Ruth in the Bible, go out and gather the grains of goodness and share them with her. I can because I have been given so much by God. How can I not share this extravagant love, healing and forgiveness I have been given? How can I not?

My dearest Grandmother Ruth, entreat me now not to leave you. For your people are now my people and where you go I will go. And know your prayers are answered as your God is very much my God.

Happy birthday Gram.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Political Awakening and Funeral of Idealism

A long time conservative and Republican, my husband dipped a toe into the political pond last night. It was, to quote some author more eloquent than me, the best of times and it was the worst of times.

It was the best of times because I got to see the love of my life step into a political life I, and those around him, knew he was born to embrace. I watched my love walk into a room filled with tension and outright hostility, hold his head high and give the first of many successful political speeches.

He said the words eloquently and with conviction. During the question and answer period he spoke with passion and connected to the audience. When asked a question laden with land mines, he navigated it with the savvy only one born to this work could demonstrate. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. I wanted to clap, but I didn't. I did the 'political wifey' thing and sat, with smiles and nods. I was thankful to God for this weird opportunity and so proud to be his wife. It was the best of times.

Later, as the political process played out, it became the worst of times. This weird opportunity was a nominating and voting process for a seat held for 37 years by the opposing party. It is a historical time as the eyes of the nation are on our little District.

Theoretically, conferees were to come to hear the candidates speak and then make up their minds as to who should be the candidate in the special election. I thought it odd that some of those decision makers already wore stickers from one of the candidates before he had a chance to speak. I thought it even more odd when one of the candidates used lines nearly identical to my husband's speech. It was even odder when another candidate's son was asked to leave the room because he was considered part of the 'staff'. It took me a minute, but I realized I was watching a very orchestrated bit of political theatre masquerading as a 'fair and open process'.

All the speeches were good with none being great. The two who came up for votes couldn't have had more different speeches. One reiterated the tea party talking points. No spending. Common sense. Yay America. The other connected his character, his experience and his record of getting things done to deep and abiding conservative principles from which he would cut spending, etc. One was a pep rally, the other was substance. For me, it was clear cut who would represent our District from a position of strength and experience.

The pep rally, USA cheerleader won.

It was pre-determined. It was orchestrated. It wasn't about the candidates, but rather deeper and more entrenched politics of personality and power.

My husband awoke this morning, bleary eyed with a political hangover, he said two things. #1: He felt like he finally fit into his own political skin and couldn't imagine not doing this again and again. #2: In the face of this orchestrated evisceration of a good man, his idealism was dead.

I have a hangover too. I am reexamining my own political convictions and alignments. Perhaps too I had a political reawakening and funeral of idealism.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wook At Me!

"Mom. Come on. Come wiff me," says my little, sturdy, earnest 2 and a half year old. "Hermie the crap is 'tuck!" (Hermie the crab is stuck.)

The last thing I wanted to do then and most of the time, is walk upstairs to stare at a shell in the corner of a plastic terrarium. Yet I did. Because he asked.

"Mom, look at me! I'm (top of the lungs voice) IRONMAN! Bleeew! Boooom!" says my six year old as he runs through the living room-wearing a slightly too small Ironman costume and neon orange swim goggles.

On my lap, "Mom. Wook. Wook at my boo boo. Ian hit you. Naughty Ian." (Translation: Mother, please examine my surface laceration. Ian injured me whilst I stood on his head with my snow boots. He is such a card and should be punished.)

My kids don't ask strangers to Wook at them. They ask me, my husband, my Dad, NaNa and Pap. They ask us to look because it matters that we see them. It matters that we are looking. In those frantic, and more often than not, inconvenient times, they need our eyes to meet theirs.

I was 'wooking' at the baby the other night and I really saw him. My baby is slowly disappearing. Angles are replacing my angel's once puffy cheeks. His eyes take in so much more than he can express. His little grin can go from calculated ("If I make her giggle, she might not notice I am slurping the last of her coke.") to sweet ("M-O-M-M-Y-'S H-O-M-E!!!!").

As I am working through a sometimes daily struggle to keep ahead of the emotional tsunami, I realize I am screaming, "Look at me!" too. I need my eyes to meet those that are important. Those that care. Those that have seen much and forgiven more.

I need to look into the eyes of God. It only makes sense that if He is our Heavenly Father that we can. The Bible says so. Religion isn't too averse to the idea. Taking it from idea to reality ain't so easy. I've had moments of excruciating intimacy where I felt enveloped in a truly supernatural love and warmth. Those incidences are rare, precious and few.

Nope, I am looking for a daily, eye to eye experience. I have come to realize that is the one thing I haven't had/tried/done. I also realize it's a key to my future. I realize the power of just one glance to radically and irrevocably change my life.

I am reminded in the giggles of my children, in the smile of my husband when I walk into a room, in the quiet, hushed moment in worship that God is looking for me too.

Today, if I was sitting across from you, I would look you in the eye and say, "You matter. You are important." I would smile, pat your arm, serve you some pie and close with this. It's not just me saying it, but Father God, "Here's looking at you kid!"

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