My Grandmother

It looked like last night was going to be it for my grandmother. 

I drove down to the nursing home at 11 PM.  Stayed there until 1:30.  It appeared that nothing major was happening, and so I came home.  First day of school today.  (A teacher day)  I hate having to do this sort of ethical calculus in my brain… No, it’s not quite ethical calculus.  It’s more like logistical calculus, nitty-gritty-detail calculus. 

I realized that if I didn’t go home I’d be useless today.  And if I was useless today I wouldn’t get much prep work done at school.  And if I didn’t get much ready at school then when she actually does pass everything would be a mess.  This wouldn’t be fair to my aides.  And on a completely selfish level, if I miss one of the first couple days at school and my aides are running around trying to figure out what to do, then everything in the classroom will be chaos when I return to the class, because we won’t have gotten off on the right foot and those first couple days are so important.

And so I went home.  As stated earlier, it ended up being a good call.  She’s actually doing better today.  Maybe another week.  Maybe even more.  Who knows?

I’m mostly focused on what it was like to be there.

It’s so symbolic of so much of my relationship with my older brother, how the whole thing started.  I got there before him.  I was kind-of happy about this.  I wanted to have some time to pray alone with her, to be really honest.

I walked up to the door I normally enter through.  Locked, of course.  I wandered around for a minute.  He cruised up and new right where to go.  The symbolic thing is that I feel like this impulsive, high-strung, inconsistent creature while he always knows what to do, where to go.  It’s almost a tortioise-and-hair thing, with me as the hair, always appearing one step ahead, and him as the logical, methodocial tortoise, breaking the finish line at the last minute.

Anyway, eventually my dad, and my older brother and I were in this room.

She looked so frail.  Everytime I see her I think, she couldn’t possibly look more old, more diminished, more weathered.   And everytime I discover that I was wrong, last time.  Because inevitably, the next time I come, and there are new ways that she has aged, new ways that she is weaker, new ways that she is closer to death.

I held her fevered hand, and I listened to her drawn-out moans.  I watched her fight for breath, each one seems like such a task.  I really mostly just want her to let go. 

I’m so aware of her skull beneath her tissue-thin flesh.  She is so very small.  Her mouth was opened in a circle, and it was so black in her toothless mouth…

We had a chair on either side.  We took turns in the chairs while the third of us either stood at the foot of her bed or sat near her little feet.  Her toes point down like a ballerinas, now.  All the time.  They don’t look like things that were made for walking.

I felt close to my brother and dad, connected to them and my grandmother.  And at the same time, I so desperately longed that we were all approaching this from the same place.   My dad sat there with a Buddhist (?) necklace on.  I think he very briefly did some Buddhist chanting.  I was approaching the thing as a Christ follower, praying so desperately that Jesus would intervene, that His will would be clear and His presence be known.  My brother… I don’t know.  In some ways he plays his cards so close to his chest.  I guess he’s more Catholic than anything else, sort of an agnostic Catholic.

I know that this is an opportunity to discuss these things.  And I’ll do my best to use it without taking advantage of my Grandmother’s death…  but at the time I didn’t want to discuss it, I wanted the solidarity between myself and my dad and my brother to be complete, I wanted us to more fully sharing it by experiencing it from a common perspective.

I take solace in the fact that an angel was present.  I’m not an Angel kind-of guy.  Theologically I find there existence wierd.  Personally I’ve never given them much consideration.  But there was an angel there.  In the room.  At the head of her bed.

She was sent for me and for my grandmother and I know that the angel was there.  He wasn’t doing anything, that I could really see.  I’m not at all embarassed by how wacky all this sounds.  I know he was there.  And I drew strength from his compassionate completeness, his waiting, watchful eye.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “My Grandmother”

  1. Angels. Believe! But believe in the truth of them: big strong golden warriors ready to battle all evils in the name of God. Yes, your angel was there, protecting Grandma from buddhist chanting and agnostic thoughts…protecting you too. I’m sorry friend…


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