Sunday, February 6, 2011

Old Folks

When I was six, my father took a preaching position in a tiny little town called Hope Hull, Alabama. My words can't give you a full description of the place back then, but I assure you the name's unusualness suited the place quite well. The country Church of Christ facilities sat on property adjacent to a cow farm, and I witnessed my one and only cow birth at the barbed wire fence late one Sunday afternoon. What life is complete in the state of Alabama without having witnessed a cow being born?

There were many Sundays we stayed the whole day in Hope Hull. Fellowship Sundays complete with pot luck dinner, cleaning the building in between morning and evening services, my father practicing his sermon in the afternoon. Back then, my family didn't have a lot of spare change, and I think it made better sense to stay the afternoon than drive home and then back. It was a good 20 mile trip.

One Sunday a month, we visited a nursing home to sing for them. I remember the smiles on their faces as we sang the old hymns which have sadly been swept under the rug in our more modern services these days. Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, It Is Well With My Soul, Up From the Grave He Arose, Love Lifted Me. Often the crackling voices of the aged home residents would join in with great delight, their fading memory turned on by the harmonies their hearts remembered so well. Little wrinkled fragile hands would clasp mine and touch my smooth young skin. Oh the smiles.

I am so thankful to have done this so early in my life. I don't have that eerie fear of the elderly. I still don't enjoy a nursing home - who does? The very thought of so many shells of what once were such vibrant lives sitting in wheel chairs or napping in their beds all day makes me so terribly sad. But it doesn't scare me, and I think it goes back to the days I stood before them and sang for them in my youth. I think I was conditioned to it at such an early age.

I went to visit my grandmother yesterday in a nursing home. It was a first for me. My very own grandmother in a nursing home. A little tough to swallow, but the past few times I have seen her in her own home have been tough as well. She's lost the sparkle in her eye, the the ability to carry on a conversation, the complete understanding of where she is. She's alive, but not. She's there but so far from who she once was. This mourning I am plunged in the middle of is something I wasn't prepared for ~ mourning someone before their last breath is taken. That's what I experience every time I see her.

She was so glad to see me and my kids. She knows us, and she tries her best to talk to us. She did pretty well having a conversation with us yesterday about her rehab and my grandfather coming to see her. Her doctor sent her because she's having so much trouble walking. I doubt she'll ever leave this time, though. She's been before for rehab after falls or mini-strokes, but this time is different. Her body just can't support her anymore. She wants to sit up and be herself, but she's just unable.

She's so funny, even at 91, how she wants things to be just so. She tries to straighten the bed covers, and her frail little hands pull and tug at the heavy blanket. My mom and I know, but someone who wasn't familiar with her wouldn't understand. Those hands have spent the bulk of their life straightening and pulling and working with fabric. And it's just part of her fabric. So she still struggles with it, pulling, straightening, working it out to be just the way she wants it. Kinda like those old hymns... how someone who can't remember what day of the week it is or the name of their own child can sing along with an old hymn and not skip a word. The body and the mind work together to complete a task they've repeated in their youth millions of times and meet success.

At one point in the visit, David kicked back in the bed behind my grandmother. She noticed him and laid down on his arm, my mom holding her sweet little hand, and she just smiled the biggest smile. David grinned. My mom stroked her back. Madalyn was oblivious. I was teary. These days are fading... the life is fading right before me... but I was so glad we made her smile. So glad.

Last night, the moon was in its purest crescent state, the tiniest sliver visible to the world. I was surprised to see it positioned in a way I had never seen before ~ in the shape of a smile, lips of the moon tilted up in the perfect display of happiness. I pointed it out to the kids on our drive north toward home and told them that God was smiling at us. Of course, we ensued in a talk about why God would be happy with us, and I had to concur that it was because we made so many people smile that day...


Rebecca said...

How did I miss that your dad preached their? My two great aunts went there most of their lives.
I am sure your grandmother enjoyed your time together yesterday.

Erika said...

That's nice that the kids seemed to be comfortable going to see your grandmother. My boys get a little freaked out, so we haven't taken them the last couple of times we were in town.