It has been an eventful week. The house is quiet today, for the first time in four days. The four grands are precious, indeed. They are smart, cute, verbal, affectionate and engaging. They are not quiet. I remember how I wanted so badly to play the piano at my Grandma Wert’s house and how My Sweet Mama always (and I do mean always) said “No. It will get on Grandma’s nerves!” It made me almost frantic to put my fingers on it and make a glorious noise. However, I knew better than to disobey.
Here I am, 61 years old, with four grandchildren. Three of them are in a family that has a very loud daddy as well as a very musical daddy and here is this Delaware Grammy who isn’t at all anxious for them to try their hands at the piano. Fortunately for me, it is one (of many) things that their wise parents have made off limits for most of the time. Actually, this weekend, I don’t know of a single time that they were playing on the piano. That did not stop the noise and the busy-ness. Most of the time, the noise was glorious, in that it was not fighting or scolding or screaming or sassing. It was just little boy and little girl play and little boy and little girl talk and little boy and little girl noise. How I loved it!
(How I am enjoying this quiet after the storm.)
But that makes me a bit pensive when I think about the silent piano this weekend. Were their parents sneaking around and shushing them with ,”NO, you may not play the piano! It will get on Grammy’s nerves!” I hope not, but I cannot say with any confidence that I KNOW they didn’t use that excuse.
It has been a good season for our family. We have much to be thankful for, and I rejoice in God’s Gift to the world that long ago night. A Savior. Christ the LORD. Above all else, we followers of Jesus have reason to celebrate. But I would be less than truthful if I were to act like this season was without its share of pain. Our world has so much pain.
Last night, I gathered the grands around me one by one and we picked out gifts from the Compassion, Int. Christmas catalog. Charis was first. She is the oldest at 5. She wanted the children to have some thing to play with. “Some toys for the poor children, Grammy!” She picked out some “safe playground equipment.”
Simon, although younger than Charis by almost six months, is also 5. He crowded in beside me and thoughtfully looked at the pictures. He was extremely saddened by the picture of the little boy, obviously malnourished, eating rice. It was one of the first pictures in the catalog, and he came back to it, looking with deep concern at the little guy. It didn’t take him long at all to decide that his part of the gift would be food for hungry little kids.
“Don’t let nobody else get that,” he said. “Just me.”
“Well, Simon,” I said to him, “Let’s just see what the others want to do. I have a feeling that all of you will want something different.” And he was good with that.
Liam (4) was very serious as he looked and looked at the possibilities. He wrinkled his face and thought long and hard. He finally chose seeds for growing vegetable gardens. “I like seeds,” he said happily. “I help Mommy in the garden and plant seeds.” Which, I found out later, is one of his favorite summer things to do.
And then Frankie. He’s three. A great conversationalist, and always thinking about what he can get into next. I went through the catalog with him and explained everything.
“I want to buy SCHOOL BUS!!!” He insisted. I explained patiently that there was no “school bus,” and that these people didn’t even have cars to take them where they needed to go.
“Look, Frankie,” I told him. “They do have bicycles.” He looked at the picture that had two people on a bike, with a basket that was full of parcels, while the people also had bags on their backs.
“Dey should put backpack in dere,” said Frankie, pointing at the basket. “Backpack in dere!” He studied the picture seriously, considering buying a bicycle over a bus. Finally, with his Grammy’s encouragement, he was convinced that maybe he would settle for a bicycle, and our choosing/planning session was over. (Whew! That was a relief. I was pretty sure that Grammy wasn’t going to be able to afford a school bus!)
And it did this heart good. The season has carried a great deal of memories for me, of other years and happier times. On Sunday morning, in our Christmas program, the carols and Christmas hymns swirled around me, making it difficult to sing as the poignant memories flooded my heart. Probably the setting we were in had something to do with it. Daddy and Mama started attending at Laws Mennonite Church when I was two years old. With the exception of the ten years we spent in Ohio, every single Christmas program has been in that church. And though I know we have much for which to be grateful, and the accommodations are pleasant and adequate, it just isn’t the same. And I was homesick for the old white church on the corner of Canterbury and Carpenter Bridge roads.
Especially sharp this year was the missing of people who have gone on before. As we launched into “Silent Night” there was this pause at the end of the first line — at a place where J.R. Campbell always added an extra bass trill. I waited, half expecting to hear that clear, full voice chime in the extra notes. But there was nothing. And no one filled in for him. It made me think about J.R. and the essence that was so uniquely him and while my thoughts were those of thankfulness to him for his foresight and careful attention to detail that has blessed us so immensely as a church in this fire, I missed him! The music, the laughter, the philosophizing, the attention to detail, the artist, the dreamer.
And I missed my Daddy. It was nine years ago that he went home to Heaven on a night that we had a Christmas program. It was the Sunday night of December 18th, 2005. I had taken him to the hospital in the morning, and they admitted him. He thought they would take some fluid off his lungs and he would go home. When they admitted him, he encouraged Mama and I to go home. There was the Christmas program, and he didn’t want us to miss it. Shortly after we were in the service, a phone started ringing somewhere. I was aggravated that someone wasn’t paying closer attention to their cell phone, but it stopped and we were singing the carols of Christmas when someone came and got me and said that my Daddy wasn’t expected to live through the night. We got to the hospital in record time and soon after 9 pm, he smiled his last smile, breathed his last breath and went on home.
I always think about it, but it has been harder this year. Maybe because of losing Frieda so recently. Maybe because of other losses in my family. Maybe because My Sweet Mama’s health is so precarious. For whatever reason, it has been a little tougher this year than sometimes.
But for all that has been difficult, I’ve still have it so good. I have enough food to fill the tummies. I can grow a garden from a vast variety of seeds or little plants. My trusty mini-van isn’t dependent on me pedaling it to get it anywhere, and the children have safe recreational activities available on all sides.
There is hope for the hollow, empty eyes.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything but I can do something. The something I can do, I ought to do. And by God’s grace, I will.