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Sometimes I wonder why it is so easy for people to lie.  Lying seems easier than telling the truth, even when there is no motivation such as self-preservation, or trying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.  We lie as easily as breathing.  It seems to be normal. Some of us lie a lot more often than others.  Some do it for vindictive purposes.  Some just can’t talk without exaggerating whatever story they are trying to tell.  We call it embellishing.  We call it colorful storytelling.  We call it white lies.  We call it fibbing.  But, whatever we call it, and whatever our reasons for doing it, the truth is that we are liars. We have little or no integrity; we are not trustworthy; our word means nothing most of the time.  Some even promise and swear they are telling the truth and will hold to that truth forever.  And as long as it fits within their current situation, they do keep it.  But, when it seems that it would be to their advantage to change their story, they change it.  The promise and the oath they vowed disappear like ashes scattered by a breeze.

Honesty is something that was rigidly taught to me as a child.  My mother was a stern disciplinarian, especially about honesty.  If she suspected I was lying, she meted out justice on the basis of that suspicion.  I remember once, my sister had a few pennies she had found in the house and when she couldn’t defend herself with a good reason for having them, my mother spanked her with a belt, took the coins away, and lectured her about honesty and threatened her with worse if she ever again took anything that did not belong to her.  I cowered in the other room, fearful of judgment, vowing in my heart to always tell the truth.  If my mother could be so violent about a few “stolen” pennies, what must God think of lying and dishonesty?

As I grew to adulthood, it made sense to me that telling the truth was best.  If I found myself in a situation that I knew my mother, or others in authority, might misread as dishonesty, I learned to go straight to them, tell my story, admit my guilt (whether or not I was guilty of anything) and apologize.  It was the way I learned to cope.  Although, my mother wanted to punish me, she rarely did more than yell at me when I used this apologetic tactic.  The more I used it, the more I trained my conscience to admit guilt.  I feel guilt more than almost any other emotion.  When something goes wrong, I immediately begin thinking of things I may have done to cause it. Even this false sense of guilt is dishonest, isn’t it?

If we are going to be honest about dishonesty, we have to go deeper than we want to.  Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the “father of lies.”  When we lie, Jesus says, we are like our father, the devil.  We have his evil spawn growing within us.  As long as we behave like this father, we can never hope to be children of the Father, God in Heaven, the Father of the Christ.  Being dishonest is a character flaw and it can prevent us from growing spiritually.

 

The truth is incredulous enough.  It is not necessary to make it more incredulous by exaggerating the details.  What drives some people to always lie?  Why does anyone think that a lie is preferable to the truth?  Because, it is my observation that when you exaggerate the truth, it doesn’t sound credible.  So, it becomes necessary to tell more lies in order to make the first lie sound believable.  It is a cycle of deceit that is close to impossible to interrupt.

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At 3:00 a.m. today, I was awakened from a deep and comfortable sleep by my husband screaming in pain.  He lives with pain, so much of his groaning is taken in stride; but, this was different.  I heard him coming down the hallway, yelling as if he’d just amputated his arm.  He turned on the light, hobbled to the bedside and fell onto the bed at my feet, lifting his foot into the air and crying out in pain.  I was so startled and still groggy from sleep, trying to figure out what was going on.

“What happened?  What did you do?”

“My foot, my foot is killing me!  I hit my toes, the ones that don’t have any bones!”

“How did you do that?”

“On the stool.  I hit the stool.  I hit my toes on the stool!  Put some of this cream on them!”  (handing me the cream)

“Where exactly do you want the cream?”

“Oh, be careful, be careful!  Don’t touch it.  Just put the cream all over the top and front of my toes and on the back too!”  (okay)  No! No! Stop touching them so hard!”

“I’m barely touching them.”

“Oh, it’s killing me!  I can’t stand it!”

“Okay, calm down, please.  Just calm down.  I can’t do anything for you unless you calm down.  Can you lower your foot to my lap?”

“Just stand up!  It throbs too much to lower it!”

“If I stand up, I will have to go to the bathroom.”

“Go to the bathroom!  Hurry, Mom!  You’ve gotta help me!  I can’t stand it!”

I walked the six feet to the toilet while the yelling continued — mostly, groans and wails and nothing that meant anything except that he was out of control and wanted to remain that way.  In less that a minute, I was back at his side and standing over the elevated foot, I could see nothing wrong — no bruising apparent.  But, I know that when a person stubs their toe it can hurt for several minutes.  So, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I opened the cream that the doctor had prescribed for his pain.  It’s a topical ointment, but it is chock-full of Ibuprofen-type medications.  I lightly began to apply the cream which was freezing cold because it had been in the refrigerator.  With every touch, he wailed as if I was wrenching his toes off his foot with my bare hands or maybe pliers.  I finally got the cream all over the front and back of all his toes.  He began to calm down.

“Do you want your sock on?”

“NO, NO!  Not my sock!  Not my sock!”  (I might have suggested we run his foot through a vise.)

“What then?  Wrap it in gauze?”

“NO!  Get an Ace bandage!”

“An Ace bandage?  You want it wrapped tightly?”

“NO! NO! Not tight.  Just so the cream won’t get rubbed off!”

“Okay.  First, I’m going to cover it with sterile gauze.  Then, I’ll wrap that with an Ace bandage.”

“Get the bandage, Mom!  Don’t you have one in your bathroom?  Get it!”

“Calm down, Joe.  I know where the bandage is and it’s in your bathroom, not mine.  I’ll get it in just a minute.  First, I’m going to cover this with gauze.”

I applied four pieces of sterile gauze to his toes and foot until all the cream I had applied was covered.

“Now, just hold still so the gauze won’t unravel while I go get the bandage.”

I walked four or five steps down the hall to his bathroom and found the bandage.  All the while, he was still moaning and carrying on.  I returned to the bedside and began wrapping his foot.

“What were you doing when you stubbed your toe?”

“I was trying to fix the radio in your car.”

“You were trying to fix the radio in my car?  At 3:00 in the morning?  What were you thinking?”

“Well, I thought maybe I could figure out what’s wrong with it.  By the way… did you know that your dome lights come on now when you open your car door?”

“Yes.  They’ve been working for a while now.  I guess the fuse was just loose or something and now it’s working again.”

“You didn’t tell me they were working again.”

“I just forgot to tell you.  Joe, why didn’t you just wait until daylight to work on my car?  You wouldn’t have hurt your foot if you’d been in bed where you should have been.”

“I didn’t hurt my foot outside!  I hit it against that stool of yours.”

“Well, it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gone outside.”

“I get up a lot at night!  You know that!  I can’t sleep!  I have to take Frilly out!”

I sighed.   “Okay, Joe.  Let’s see if we can get you back to bed.”

I helped him stand up and he hobbled toward the bedroom door.  I walked closely behind him.

“Do you want your cane?”

“Yeah, the one with the rubber tip.”

“Here you go.”

He took it from me and continued hobbling toward the pool room where his hospital bed is located.

“Okay, Frilly.  I’ll take you out,” he said.

“Give her to me.  I’ll take her out.”

“No, I’ll take her.”

“Joe, you may hurt your foot again.  Let me take her.”

He bent down and clipped the leash to her collar.  Ignoring me, he pulled her along and after they passed me, he said, “Come on, Frilly, let’s go outside.”

I watched him hobbling through the kitchen toward the back door.  I knew it was useless for me to protest any further.  I wondered if the ointment I had put on his foot had really helped the pain that quickly, or if he just decided he’d milked the situation for all he could get out of it and now it was over.

I returned to my bedroom and climbed back into bed.  How am I going to handle his drama when we’re elderly? I wondered.  If he carries on for thirty minutes over a stubbed toe, what will it be like to deal with the much worse things that are coming with old age?  Had the same injury happened to me, I’m sure I would have yelled in pain when it happened, but before I could have gotten all the way down the hall to the bedroom, I would have given up the show.  It wouldn’t have seemed so life-threatening to me that it warranted waking up the whole house.  I can’t imagine carrying on like that unless I was hemorrhaging or something.

It occurred to me that my life is rather bizarre on a daily basis.  I live with a person whose every thought and feeling is in living color, a magnificence of color that I have never experienced.  I only know it’s real because he testifies to it.  I wish it was possible to tone it down — to find a way to help him take the small incidents of his life in stride and to actually see them as small.  It must be very exhausting to see every single moment of your life in technicolor.

Somehow, I made it to work today after such a night.  He called me a few minutes ago just to let me know how difficult it was to put his shoes on and to walk in them.  He said every step was agony.  Agony?  Really?  Agony?

I suggested he wear his sandals instead of shoes.  He said, “Oh, I didn’t think about those.  Do you know where they are?”

“Yes, they’re in your closet.”  (the obvious place, although I refrained from saying that)

“Okay, I’ll go find them.  I just wanted  you to know what’s going on with me.”

“I’m glad you called me,” I said.

There must be a purpose for Joe’s needy, co-dependent spirit.  And, I suppose there’s a good reason why I am the one he depends on.  I hope there’s a place in Heaven where we can put all this life of ours into some perspective that makes sense.


P.S. Tonight, his second toe is black and blue and swollen. The remainder of his toes on that foot are red and somewhat bruised. He must have really whacked it against my stool. Considering that he had surgery on that foot and the long bones were surgically removed, I know he surely suffered more than the ordinary stubbed toe. So, I feel as if my feelings expressed above are selfish and I’m ashamed of feeling that way. This is the trend of my life and I’ve been regretting my reactions for forty years. Sometimes, the drama is overwhelming. But, I’m sure living with his pain is overwhelming as well. God bless us both as we live out our days with eternal life in our hearts.

Sometimes, I do things at the worst possible time.

I submitted an article for publishing without first going to the magazine’s website to see what the theme of the current edition is.  Had I gone there first, I would have discovered that my editor’s wife of 22 years passed away in May and he is still grieving — so much so, that the focus of the current edition of the magazine is “Lament.”  Of course, the article I submitted has nothing in it to lament.  I am lamenting the fact that I submitted it so carelessly.  It’s a great article, but probably has no chance of being published now — all because I didn’t take the steps I should have taken.

My life has been rather odd lately.  I got a call at my office from a young girl who asked if I could deliver some food to her house.  She said her mother is sick and they don’t have any food to eat.  So, I put together a box of groceries from our church pantry and after work, around 5:30 p.m., I delivered the box to her house.  She and her sister were waiting in the yard when I arrived.  Smiling and shy, they came to my car and carried the box into the house to their mom.  I hesitated, but decided not to try to talk to them about Jesus or blessings.  Sometimes, it seems like words are not appropriate when help is all a person asked for.  I was only a delivery agent, not the giver.  I remember when Jesus and His disciples were together and 5,000 people of the community gathered to hear Jesus speak, the people were hungry.  He could have preached to them first.  He could have expected them to listen to His words of hope and salvation before He met their needs.  He could have told them to repent and to stop sinning so they could be free to work hard and earn their way in the world.  But, He turned to His disciples and said, “You give them something to eat.”  Don’t send them into the nearby villages to find food.  Don’t ask them why they didn’t bring a sack lunch.  Don’t take up a collection to buy food for them.  Don’t even ask God to take care of the situation.   No… simply, “You give them something to eat.”  Why don’t we take those words to heart more often?  It’s our responsibility, not someone else’s.  “You give them something to eat.”  Meet their needs… because, only when their needs are met will they listen to any talk about God.

Yesterday, I went to buy groceries after work.  This is the chore I enjoy the least.  The store is always full of people and the lines are long.  But, since I work in the church office all day, the evening is the only time I can go to the grocery store.  I had just parked my car, hadn’t even killed the motor yet, when a woman tapped on my car window.  She looked to be about forty years old, slender build, well-worn clothing.  I lowered my window and she asked, “Can you spare a few dollars for me to put some gas in my car so I can get home?”  I asked her, “Where do you live?”  She said, “Just across town on eighteenth street.”  “And, you drove all the way over here knowing you didn’t have enough gas to get home?” I asked.  Before she could answer, a car stopped behind mine and a man reached out his hand with a roll of bills extended toward the woman.  She ran to his car and took the money, smiling and thanking him as he drove away.  Then, she ran back to my window. 

“It looks like he took care of your gas,” I said.   She pressed both hands on my car door and said, “Oh, no.  He just gave me a little bit.  I still need more.”   I thought, “yes, well, don’t we all.”  But, I didn’t say anything.  Like a robot, because it was expected of me, I opened my wallet and took out a five and six ones and handed them to her.  She thanked me and skipped away happy as could be.  I wondered how much money was in her pockets.  I imagined she had been there all afternoon begging for a few dollars from every person that came to the store and because we are caught off guard, we fork it over.  I gave a woman eleven dollars… not a lot of money by anyone’s standard, at least not in America… yet, I didn’t feel good about it… wasn’t even glad I could help her…  just felt like she was a taker, a person who makes her living by begging instead of working.  These are the judgments we make when we think we know and really don’t.  These are the judgments that keep us from being joyful.  I remember when Peter and John were asked for money, they were ready.  Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  I wish I could be prepared like that, but I wonder sometimes if I had power to heal people, would I do it in my own name instead of the Lord’s?  That’s what’s so amazing about Peter and John — they didn’t seek their own glory.

We go through our lives doing whatever comes into our path and much of it is aimless and spontaneous and unclear.  I often feel like my life is very small, very odd, and very meaningless.   And, it is.   As long as it is based on what I can do with it, it will remain that way.  I think that is why I don’t want it anymore.  Jesus said, “the one who wants to save his life will lose it.  The one who loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:39)  It makes sense to me now. 

A friend handed me a book.  “You need to read this,” she said.  “In fact, it’s yours, you can have it.”

Thanks, I said.  I looked at the author’s name — Mitch Albom.  He’s not my favorite author, I said, but I will read it.  I noticed the title, “Have a Little Faith.”  My friend laughed offhandedly, remarking that she loved the little book and that it was a “quick read.”

Well, it was a quick read.  I started reading it that very evening and had sixty pages read when I felt sleepy enough to turn off the bedside lamp.  The next morning, I placed the book in my bathroom.  I have to steal time to read!  So, every time I go to the bathroom, I read a chapter while I’m there.  Last night, I read the final chapter, actually the epilogue, after I climbed into bed.  When the final word nestled into my brain, I turned off the lamp and leaned back against my headboard.  I closed my eyes and thought about what I had read.

So you will understand my thoughts, here is a quick summary of the book.  Mitch Albom is born a Jew, is raised in a traditionally Jewish family, worships at the same synagogue all his life and has the same rabbi all his life.  He marries a Christian woman and the two of them make a marriage based on tolerance of each other’s faith, neither of them wishing to change.  At one point in Mitch’s life, his rabbi asks him to deliver his eulogy when he passes away.  Thinking the rabbi’s death may be imminent, Mitch feels that he must get to know his rabbi on a more intimate level.  For the next eight years, he establishes a relationship with the rabbi that is familial, very close and loving.  Also for the next eight years, he establishes a relationship with a Christian preacher who has come from a very evil lifestyle into Christianity and has determined to live his life for Jesus and to help others who are living evil lifestyles similar to what his had been.  Mitch visits the Christian preacher’s church building and finds him impoverished, but giving all he has to the homeless and hurting.  The journey through the book shows the power of faith in both men’s lives, the Jewish rabbi and the Christian preacher.  Mitch Albom comes to the concluding revelation that faith is faith wherever it is found and that the same God rewards that faith, whether the individual knows the true God toward whom his faith is directed or not.

Since I am a Christian, I understood the journey of the Christian preacher far more easily than that of the Jewish rabbi.  His reasons for becoming a Christian, for dedicating his life to serving the poor, make sense to me.  The Jewish rabbi, on the other hand, spent his entire life in comfort and in the security of his synagogue.  Yet, he suffered loss, loved people intensely, taught the precepts and law of God every day of his life, and came to the same conclusion that Christians do that loving God and loving people is the best way to live.

I sat in the dark for a long time.  I wanted to call my friend and tell her, “Yes, but…”  the primary “but” being that if a Jewish rabbi does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, then his faith did not take him down the right path.  I wanted to ask why the rabbi never asked himself why the promised Messiah was never sent, if in fact Jesus is not him.  I thought the author should have asked the rabbi that question.  Yet, the book made it so clear that the Jewish rabbi loved God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind.

I began to pray, “Heavenly Father, thank you for opening my mind to new possibilities, even possibilities that I do not want to embrace.  Who am I to judge another person’s faith?  Only You can do that.  Your Son said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  I can see Him now, sitting at your right hand and He is the One through whom the souls who are passing from physical life into spiritual life find their way to You.  What if the faithful rabbi arrives there and Jesus says to You, “Father, forgive Him, for he never knew what he was doing.”  Couldn’t that be Jesus’ role?  He told us that all authority had been given to Him in Heaven and on the earth.  Jesus has the authority to forgive everyone.  He did that on the day He was crucified.  He asked You, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  That forgiveness was not only for the ones who would acknowledge him as Messiah after His resurrection.  It was for all of them, every soul, whether they understood or not.  Forgive me for limiting His authority to what I can understand.  I pray that you will continue to open my mind and heart to the truth of your love and grace.  In the blessed name of Jesus, Amen.”

As I sat there thinking about all I had read and about the thoughts that were now racing ahead of me to some conclusion that I was not prepared to accept, I wondered about how Jesus felt when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  I wondered what His perspective was.  I wondered what His judgment was.  What if He said that simply because it is the truth and not to pass judgment on an individual’s journey of faith?  It is the TRUTH, He is the Way and we must go through Him to reach God, but what if that is NOT a condemnation of the faith of men.  He sits at God’s right hand and He has all authority.  He can forgive whomever He wants to forgive and He wants to forgive all of us.  When the faithful rabbi appears before God, and Jesus sees his loving heart and his faithfulness, doesn’t He have the authority to say, “Father, forgive him, for he does not know what he was doing?”  And, based on Jesus’ authority, won’t God forgive?  And when He forgives, won’t the rabbi be safe in His presence having gone through Jesus in order to come to the Father?

I have not come to my conclusion in the matter.  I have much more study and meditation to do.  But, a new light has been shed on my heart and in that light, I am forced to confront my own faith and my tendency toward judgment of others based on my personal faith.  I don’t know where I will be at the end of this searching, but I am eager to begin.

“Have a Little Faith” is a unique story, told with gentleness and love.  But, “quick read” and “easy read” are misnomers.  It has challenged me and taught me again that faith is not something we can lock inside a box and keep the same all our lives.

Josiah

A certain little six-year-old boy has flung himself straight into my heart.  His name is Josiah.  I’ve known him less than three months and in that time, he has become a trusted friend.  He is unlike any other child I know.  He has no reserve or inhibition.  He is as comfortable with me as he would be a grandmother and he was like that from day one.  Josiah has just begun his first year of school, kindergarten.  He is extremely bright and I’m sure kindergarten holds no challenge for him.  He has a fascination with numbers, mathematics and the expanse of infinity that accompanies numbers.  I don’t know what level he has attained, but I am amazed at the math problems he can solve.  He has a pretty good grasp of geography.  We had a discussion one day about the Ukraine and how one of our elders has gone to the Ukraine to teach the gospel.  This led to him explaining to me that Russia spans both Europe and Asia and is the largest continent so they should just be considered one continent since there is no sea between them.  He said, “I wish I had my globe here.  I would show you where Russia is.”

One afternoon, his father, David, asked me to pick him up from school.  They told Josiah this might take place since they were traveling to Amarillo, TX and were not certain they could be back by 3:30.  I drove to the school and waited for him.  He saw me soon after he got off the school bus and immediately broke out in a smile and ran toward me.  “Hi, Miss Lora!” he yelled as he ran.  We talked about his day for a few minutes and he told me about his music class and how much he loves music.   Then, he took my hand and we walked toward my car.  It was then I remembered I do not have a child seat in my car.  We were only driving a few blocks, so I wasn’t worried about it.  I just wanted him to be okay with it.  Since it was the first time he rode in my car, I wanted to be sure he felt comfortable.  I said, “Josiah, I don’t have a child carseat for you.  Is it okay with you if we just use the seatbelt?”  He said, “Oh, sure. I ride that way lots of times.”  Again, to make him comfortable riding with me, I asked, “Would you like to ride up front with me, or…”   “That would be ILLEGAL!”  Josiah interrupted.  I laughed.  “All right, the back seat it is.”

Today came the crowning event.  When something like this happens, you know there is complete trust between you.  Josiah’s mother, Katie, brought him and his siblings to the church building.  Josiah came in and after we visited a while, he said he had to go to the bathroom which is directly across the hall from my office.  He went into the bathroom and I resumed working at the computer.  Suddenly, I heard him yell, “Miss Lora!   Miss Lora!  I need you, Miss Lora!”  I jumped up from my desk and walked straight into the men’s bathroom.  “What do you need?” I asked, a bit hesitant to just pull back the privacy curtain.  “I need you to check and be sure I got all the poop off my bottom!” he said.  What a wonderful kid!  So, I checked.  “Wow, you did a great job!” I congratulated him.  “Thanks,” he said.

I backed out of the bathroom and let him do the rest on his own.  It struck me that trust is something children have and develop so easily, the way they allow adults to share everything and hold nothing back.  I applaud his parents who have allowed him to enjoy every moment of life and have not stolen his precious trusting spirit by teaching him fear, shame and guilt. 

There will be more times, more moments of joy ahead for me because this little boy has come into my life.  I know it’s coming, but I wish I could hold back forever the day he will feel the need to reserve or stifle something he’d rather share.

Houses

My daughter and her husband are beginning the search for a new house.  It is a very exciting time for them.  They have saved money and been really smart and now they will be able to buy a home without many of the stresses that plague most young people in a shaky economy.  At the same time, my husband and I are looking at the possibility of selling our house–the house we have lived in for twenty-one years and that we built ourselves back when we weren’t much older than my daughter is now. 

I would like to say that it is an exciting time for us too, but “exciting” has not arrived yet.  Right now, we have apprehension and indecision.  We listed the house for sale because we feel that we don’t have other options for reducing debt and we really need to reduce debt.  But, when we actually discuss how to go about living the rest of our lives if we do sell the house, we run into major roadblocks.

Because of his poor health, my husband needs desperately to stop working.  But, can a man who loves working be expected to stop doing it, even if doing it causes pain?  When I talk to him about choosing to stop working, he gets defensive as if I am wanting to take something away from him.  So, I remind him, “You tell me every day of our lives that you are hurting too much to live and that your work is killing your hands (or back, or neck, or knees, or feet, or whatever is hurting the most on any given day.)”  And he agrees this is true.  Somehow, ‘stop working’ is not translating in his brain the same as ‘stop working.’  And, the tools… oh my goodness, the tools.  He wants to stop working, but sell a tool?  No, sir!   I’m not talking about hand tools like hammers and screw drivers.  I’m talking about huge drum sanders and huge shapers and planers and table saws.  I hope they have storage barns in retirement communities the size of warehouses because we will take these tools with us everywhere we go until we die.

Having said that, I think the best thing for us is to remain where we are.  If our place sells, we could build a smaller house with a big garage down by our pond and he could keep his big tools in his dad’s shop until we are able to build a new shop. 

Every time a new “looker” shows some interest in our place, I get a tiny thrill of hope that we might be able to leave here and live somewhere else.  I would so love to try that before I die… just to wake up in a different environment and smell different aromas and hear different sounds.  I would even like to live in a house that I didn’t have to work to build and meet new people and belong to a different church and have a different job. 

But, houses are just houses after all.  All that matters is that we are together and here is as good as anywhere, I suppose.

I’m thrilled for my daughter, though.  How wonderful to have a great new adventure!

Loading Day

Chad and Shannon left this morning about 7:30 a.m.  They still had loose ends, left now for fathers and mothers to take care of; but it was time to go.  We saw them briefly for goodbye hugs and tears.  I’m always struck by the brevity of life at times such as this.  Most experiences are memories so quickly that a person wonders if it happened at all.  They were here only a few hours ago; but, now it seems they have been gone a long time.

Yesterday was loading day.  Joe and I spent most of our day helping pack boxes full of random household goods and then filled a U-Haul trailer as tightly as possible.  I don’t think a mouse could have squeaked through any of the spaces left and still we had chair cushions and a king-size mattress and box springs to balance on top of the trailer and tie down with bungee cords.  What a day!

Joe’s trailer was also parked in front of the apartment because there were some items that, for lack of space, had to be left here.  We will store these items in Joe’s trailer until Chad and Shannon can return to pick them up, probably a month or two.  Case was so excited that Granna and Poppop were at his house all day.  He has little understanding of what is going on, so he found great delight in all of the chaos.  He called my name over and over during the day…  “Granna, come play with me.  Granna, look!  Granna, what you doing?  No, Granna, you stay here.”  Ever since he was born, I have repeated the same phrase when I hold  him, “Case, I love you so much.”  I just can’t help myself.  As soon as I pick him up, those words come out of my mouth.  This day was no different.

I took my moments throughout the day to walk with him and to spend time just sitting with him and listening to his observations.   In one of these moments, we were inside Joe’s trailer.  Case asked, “Granna, is this Poppop’s trailer?”   I said, “Yes, this is Poppop’s trailer.”  He pointed outside in the direction of the U-Haul and asked, “Is that Daddy’s trailer?”  I said, “No, that’s the U-Haul trailer.”  He turned his head to the side and asked, “My haul trailer?”  I chuckled, “No, it’s called a U-haul trailer.”  He frowned and said, “My haul trailer or you haul trailer?”   How can I explain that one?  I just said, “It’s just called U-haul trailer.”  He said, “Okay, my haul trailer.”  After that, he called it “my haul trailer” the rest of the day.

In the evening, I went inside and retrieved Jake from his baby swing.  I sat in a black folding chair and just held him.  His tiny fingers grasped my pinky even though he was sleeping.  He is a beautiful baby.  Every minute that passed, I could feel my heart breaking, knowing that Jake will have no memories of a Granna who loves him so much and Case will not have enough to keep us alive in his mind.  I am deeply sad that so much distance will separate us.  Case played in the living room in front of me, constantly doing cute things to make me laugh.  He is imaginative and entertaining and so endearing.  There was a pile of pink styrofoam packing peanuts in a pile on one side of the room where someone had emptied a box.  Case asked me what they were.  I said “peanuts” before I thought about it and he immediately bit down on one.  I said, “No, no, they’re not for eating.  They are packing peanuts.”  He repeated perfectly, “Packing peanuts!”  He started breaking them in two pieces and throwing them, making an even bigger mess in the room; so I suggested that he throw them out the window where Chad had removed a window air conditioner.  He grabbed a handful of the pink peanuts and threw them with both hands and yelled something that sounded like “What-cha!”  This was a good game for at least ten minutes.  Then, I decided to shut the window and door because it was getting cold in the room.  After I sat back down with Jake, Case said, “Look, Granna!”  He broke a couple of the packing peanuts and threw the pieces on me.  I said, “Oh, no!” and he laughed and laughed.  Then, he stopped and looked at me. Of course, I was grinning at his antics.  He ran over to me and reached his little hands up and said, “I want to give you a hug.”   I sort of moved Jake to the left side and picked Case up with my right hand.  He threw his little arms around my neck and hugged me hard.  Then, he said, slowly and deliberately, “Granna, I love you… so… much.”   Then, he wriggled out of my arms again and returned to playing. 

I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Tears filled my eyes as I watched him play and his sweet, trusting words replayed themselves over and over again in my mind.  It was a precious moment that I will never forget.  I prayed a silent prayer of thankfulness.  In my anguish about Chad’s family moving so far away, I believe that God reached down and gave me a gift.  It is a gift that I can take out whenever I’m down and it will lift me up.  I’ve never known a sweeter child, not even my own.  Case has a unique place in my heart, not a favored place because I dearly love all my grandchildren, but a place that belongs only to him.

This morning when they stopped by to say their final goodbyes, he hugged Poppop first and before Poppop was ready for it to end, he reached toward me and said, “Give Granna a hug.”  I took him in my arms and he hugged me and then unexpectedly kissed me on the cheek.   When, they were gone, Joe and I both cried.  I don’t think young people realize the profound effect that grandchildren have on a grandparent.  I know I didn’t when our children were young.  It is a relationship unlike any other, one of unconditional love so simple and basic that it outshines all other loves.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  I pray that they will find a good life in Fort Collins; but I will miss them more than I can express.