My dad was close to his mother, my grandmother. I was close to her, too. I like to think that when I was young and spent time with Grandmother that I realized how special it was, and that I knew how blessed I was, too. Between the sweet, warm scent of lilacs filling up my head, seeing magpies hop across the Colorado pasture and watching deer melt into the shadows of the orchard late in summer evenings, I had heaven right inside of me. Love enveloped me whenever I was with Grandmother and especially when I was with her at her place, and everything bad was forgotten and replaced with Joy. Then, when it came time for us to leave and drive back home, sadness washed over me. I’d look back at the ranch and make promises to it. “I’ll come back, again,” I’d tell it. But I was really talking to Grandmother. I missed the carrot cookies and the smell of bacon on the stove. I missed drinking coffee out of the little tin cup (even though it was mostly cream, I didn’t know it, not back then). I longed to hear the roosters and the cluck of the hens, and how the string beans sounded when they snapped. Her garden was big and leafy and full of everything I loved, except for the beets, but what’s more, everything tied back to Grandmother. And her place was where my cousins and I would gather, it was where Grandmother told Nannette and I about the goblins and Little Orphan Annie. It’s where I picked raspberries fresh off the bushes and where Nan and I locked Aunt Georgia out of the bunkhouse late one summer night. Some of these things happened much later, but to a nine year-old, the memory of a grandmother named Katie soaked my heart up with enough love and joy to last until the next trip up…and a lifetime.
Grandmother meant quilt-making. She had quilts everywhere, and her couch pillows were little quilt prints. The couch was a deep, forest green and there were doilies on the arm rests that she had made. Back then, she had gold carpet and it was always so clean. I don’t know how she kept gold carpet clean, but she did. Anyway, the point I’m making is: I loved Grandmother so much…she is a tie that binds.
I remember my dad getting melancholy when it was time for us to leave. I always wanted to cry, because I never knew when I’d be back up, but we always made it one more time. He had the little VW Bug packed tight. It was just him and my mom and me. Then my dad would say, “Mama, I’ll call you as soon as we get home,” and Grandmother would nod and look anxious. I knew she’d be counting the hours. And if my dad was an hour late in calling, I’m sure she thought something bad had happened. Well, we’d all stand there and Grandmother would hand us lunches she packed. I’d make a mental note of everything. The snowball bush. The dinner bell on the porch. The swing in the tree. I didn’t want to leave. But we had to leave and I’d look back at the ranch and make promises that I’d come back and my throat would get tight and my eyes would fill up and I wanted to be with Grandmother. I hated leaving.
The twist is things change. Kids grow up and move away. People die. Our puppies become old dogs. We get wrinkles and our legs and backs start to ache. We look back on life and think that the good days are all gone.
But if that’s all that life is, then something’s wrong.
Yes, things change. Kids do grow up and people die and our dogs get old and our backs ache.
But while the good days are gone, there’s still good days now and there’s good days ahead.
Life is Now.
Bittersweet is a good word, I guess, to describe it all. Life. How things change. But it’s not all bittersweet. It’s also blissful. It’s a journey. The best days are not gone.
Yes, I miss the excitement of having my first baby and everything that went with it. There’s something special about the first baby (or only baby). It’s the raw truth, and it’s something mothers know. How blessed I was to have been surrounded by so many friends when Emily was coming into the world. Wayne and I had no idea the baby was going to be a girl, except the midwife thought it could be because of the high heart-beat, and I took a string and a ring and was pretty sure it would be a girl by the direction it swung in front of my belly. Working with my friend Lisa whose son was born weeks after Emily, sharing pregnancy stories, seeing my hospital door being flooded with pink teddy bears (and one blue one, just in case…thank you Julia!) still makes me smile. Besides her daddy, my mom was the next one to hold Emily and my mom said she was a rose-bud. I don’t think Emily was hardly cleaned up before she was held but it didn’t matter: it was raw and new and the script was ad-libbed. The joy was beyond description because Wayne and I never thought she would ever be. And then came our son. So you see, things change and God surprises us. Over and over and over.
It’s true: babies don’t stay babies very long. When young moms and dads get frustrated about tying a three year-old’s shoe it’s only a blip and the struggle is gone. Then something else comes and takes its place and you wish you only had to deal with tying a shoe!
It’s only a blip.
That’s why we need to hold onto all of our days, not just the “good ole days.” If we look back on life and only see what was, we’re going to miss what’s going on right now. We’re going to miss the journey of discovery…of what will be.
I deeply miss the old days. Some days, like today, I miss it more than others.
Then I need to remember the blip.
Lots of good things happened to me. Bad things happened, too, but there were lots of good things.
There’s going to be more good things, too.
Hug your grandmother or your mother or your aunt or your friend and hold her close to your heart.
Excavate your “happy” memory bank. Maybe you don’t even have to try, because the good memories are always near the surface, bubbling up, happy and joyous. Maybe they’re not close to the surface, so do some digging.
There’s always something to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for remembering the sound of my grandmother’s footsteps when she walked through her little house, and I was in the bedroom, awake when I should have been asleep.
I’m thankful for remembering the sound of the stove opening and slamming shut when my grandmother fed it coal on cold, winter nights.
I’m thankful for remembering how Emily squeezed my fingers when she was a baby.
I’m thankful for remembering the first fist-full of flowers my son picked me. He wasn’t quite three.
I’m thankful for God sparing me things I thought I should have had, and for giving me things I didn’t deserve.
I’m thankful for my dad telling me today, “Thank you, Kathy,” and for my mom’s hug.
Just today, I watched a hummingbird at my window and I smiled.
I’m thankful for new-found strength. I’m thankful for the Colorado mountains that are calling me.
I look forward to another night around a campfire. I look forward to wading in the ice-cold, Dolores river.
And as I write, I am reminded of all that I have.
I am thankful.
Life is Now.
I’m hanging onto my reigns. I’m on an adventure.
I’m remembering yesterday, but there’s still a good, long trail ahead and I can’t wait to see it all.