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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1 comment:

  1. Your words brought tears to my eyes. From tragedy comes humanity and what you wrote is filled with humanity. Mistakes are made, choices are made, but no matter, our lives are short and our time together is limited. Let our need for love and comfort of others always overcome and be the guiding principle from which we walk this shortened time on earth.


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