Monday, July 6, 2015

Getting Ready for Round Four

That wonderful little app on my iPhone popped up the other day with a Time Hop that really took me back.

In it I was anticipating meeting my first granddaughter after having been to a weekend yard sale and purchased some things for the baby whose birth was still about six weeks away.



Has it been that long since I was forty-something grandmother-to-be? Since my daughter and I agreed I would be christened "Mimi" by this first little bundle of joy (although even then I insisted I would respond to whatever she named me, just as my own sweet Ma Mary had when I was the firstborn grandchild)?

Honestly, it feels like a lifetime (and in it has been, E1's anyway) since I became, in E1's naming, Ma.

Just when I thought things would be gearing down a bit this fall with that first little girl heading off to school, my daughter and son-in-law delivered an April Fool's day surprise. "We're pregnant," my son-in-law announced, almost as an afterthought after loading up the girls on April 1 and backing down the drive.

In fact, he did pull back up and didn't get out of the car. There was some fear of violence on my part. He said my daughter made him tell me because she fully expected to be slapped. Perhaps her fear was not without merit. Before number three I had at least been consulted about my plans for the next five years, so it did come as more than a bit of a shock.

It was much like E1, who was a bit of a surprise and perhaps not quite planned. Two came along quicker than anticipated and Three was debated and planned. Four, however, well, I was reduced to tears.

I've had time to come around, but that day another baby wasn't something I wanted in my future.

The mantle of grandmother sits uncomfortably on my shoulders at times.

There are times when I wish my granddaughters could have the grandmother (Ma Mary) that I had. She was plump and well padded and gave the best hugs in the world. There were always vegetables for dinner and something sweet for dessert. If you showed up at an odd time, there were cheese sandwiches to be grilled or a stash of cookies or candy to be delved into. She worked 40 hours a week sewing baby clothes in a local mill, but still had time to make me the world's greatest doll clothes. Her garden with its towering rows of corn and tiers of beans was an adventure. Her house was always spotless and welcoming, the perfect place to watch "Batman" when I was a grade schooler and TV was still black and white and in the den, or lick my adolescent emotional wounds after some school or home drama, or nap while she was more than glad to take on looking after a baby or two when I was a mother myself.

It staggers me sometimes to think that while I was dragged into the status of grandmother still kicking and screaming at 47, Ma became a grandmother when she was a decade younger and was already a great-grandmother at my age. Yet I was still a small child when I complained about her not coloring her hair any more and she hid her beautiful white curls for decades longer. By the time she was the age I am now, I was a teenager on the brink of driving. She was still young in years, but in my eyes already an old lady defined by girdles and big bras, cataracts and home hair coloring.

She's been gone more than a decade, slipping away in her early 80s, her life in those days defined by glaucoma and diabetes, thick glasses and a walker, the fear of falling and the equal dread of being a burden or going to a nursing home.

In many ways her course has defined life for my mother, myself, and to a level already my daughter, as we seem determined to avoid her fate if possible. My mother, now a decade younger than my grandmother when she died, is still small and thanks to a rescue dog adopted last fall, walks every day. She tries to eat good and complains about not having the stamina of her younger days. I'm actively fighting weight gain and muscle loss as well, remembering the things that crippled my beloved grandma.

So while I'm sorry at one level that my granddaughters don't have my grandma, I also wonder about the differences in the role model they are seeing and what that may mean to them. Instead of anticipating middle age as a slow down and slide toward elderly feebleness, they will remember watching me lift weights, do yoga, dance a Zumba routine to a popular song, and swim in a string bikini. What kind of difference will that make in their attitude toward aging? Will it challenge them to stay strong? Will that be a gift that exceeds, or at least equals, the doll clothes and baked goods?

Will my efforts to stay strong mean I'm still able to look after my great grandchildren, even though I'll be at least a decade older when they are born? Will it mean I can still go on the trips with family that my grandmother couldn't take because she couldn't get around? Will it mean the chance to build new and different memories longer in their lives?

The announcement of a fourth grandchild -- another girl if ultrasound is to be believed -- meant trading cars again so that I have room for four car seats (although I stopped short of a mini van with a crossover with third row seating). It also meant rethinking what I'll be doing for in the immediate future and settling myself back into the idea of being Ma, almost as reluctantly as I did the first time. It means that I'll be tied down with a baby again, for a while, and life the next few years won't quite have the rhythm I'd been expecting. I've adjusted to the idea though. The sacrifice of my time and plans is an immeasurable gift as well, both to me and to them as we share time most families don't get the chance to enjoy.

It's helping out with gymnastics, swim and dance classes, doctor and dentist appointments where I almost fill the role of a third parent. It's outings where people sometimes still think I'm their mother (go me!) when we go grocery shopping or take a fun trip to the park or splash pad. It's picking beans and talking about sustainable gardening, discussing the advantages of free range hens, serving venison instead of beef and still cooking vegetables from my own garden. It's the magic of discovery in watching a caterpillar become a butterfly.

And all the lessons and magic repeated again and again for a new little voice and a new set of eyes and ears.

Looking ahead it may be learning to run a chainsaw, shoot a gun, hunt and butcher, and a thousand things that I wish someone had taken the time to teach me, instead of assuming I'd never need to know or somehow absorb by osmosis. It may mean sharing the things I was taught -- gardening and harvesting food, preserving fruits and vegetables, crocheting, sewing, making really good sweet tea and coleslaw.

So this somewhat reluctant grandma is as ready as she can get for round four. She's excited about school for E1, E2 being the big sister most days, and even one more baby to hold. It isn't quite how I expected to spend my 50s when I had a career dashing around the county for the local small daily newspaper, knowing everyone and everything, but all in all, I think it's a better investment of my time.

And I know what I'm doing day to day, even if it isn't bringing home a big paycheck or earning me accolades, ultimately will mean more than anything I ever put on paper.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Unchurched Again This Sunday

I'm not in church this morning.


I've prayed over it because I want to find the fellowship and love and support and spirit that I had at my old church before the split between the deacons and pastor destroyed it.

I've cried over it because it breaks my heart to be sitting home again, trying to recharge my desire to search while at the same time unwilling to settle for a service that's almost it.

For a while I thought I'd found it, despite the one outspoken guy in Sunday School whose tirade against sin always began and ended with homosexuality. Then that same vein slipped into the pulpit, and the Supreme Court made its ruling, and I knew I just couldn't listen to that again, and again.

I'm not gay. I love and care for people who are homosexual. I can't be part of a worship that says because of their sexual orientation, they are damned or that says that if they were saved they'd go "straight."

I'm the grandmother of three, soon to be four, wonderful little girls whose sexuality isn't known to us yet. I can't take them to worship in a church where they could grow up hearing those words, and then discover that they were part of that group. I want to take them to a church where they'll still be loved and accepted, no matter who their heart tells them to love.

The simple fact is although I still remember the day I heard salvation's call and followed in the footsteps of Jesus into cold flowing waters, I'm closer to the woman at the well than I am to one of Jesus' disciples.

I'm not Jewish. I cannot live under the law and expect that I'm good enough to get to heaven. I have no illusions on that score. Yet for some reason, my fellow Christians seem to think that's what we are somehow supposed to do; not necessarily earn our salvation, but once we've asked for grace we're supposed to show we're good enough for it. The "if they're saved they'll stop sinning" summation.

People I love and care about are on that side of the coin as well. They don't preach against the "homosexual lifestyle" (I detest that term), but they do expect that anyone who comes from it will give it up if they are saved.

I'm sorry, but if they are saved but somehow not good enough, then neither am I. In fact, I'm not sure I know anyone who is. Why is that we pick a few Bible verses and say those things one doesn't do if they are consecrated to the Lord, while at the same time we've decided it's OK if we ignore others?

I've never murdered anyone, but at the same time I've committed sins that I've regretted but not always confessed or been as sorry about as I should. And although I profess to be Christian, according to Leviticus I sin regularly and don't expect that to change. I have tattoos and piercings. I've been married more than once and one of my ex's is still living (and no I won't return to him.) I wear pants and frequently they are blended fabric. I occasionally enjoy shellfish and pork.

So this morning I'm having not a crisis of faith, for I don't doubt God's existence or the love that sent Jesus to die for us all, but a crisis of religion.

I feel guilty for not voicing my views when my fellow church goer began blasting a particular lifestyle, but at the same time I feel it wouldn't have made a difference and would have only served to sow disharmony. I feel hurt that so many of my fellow Christians are so willing to walk on one another by not showing the same compassion to people they don't really know, but should love all the same.

I want to worship. I want a church where we learn how to be more Christlike. I want a church where we show the Lord's love for everyone by being loving ourselves.

I want to not have to put on an armor against my fellow churchgoers to avoid being hurt. That doesn't mean we all have to agree, but to be loving to one another and the world, we do have to sometimes keep our personal discomforts to ourselves. I understand how easy it is to fear and label and distance yourself from things you don't understand, but my personal experience puts me in another place and I also understand how painful those reactions are to people that Jesus loves.

So I'm not in church again this Sunday, but I'm not giving up, although I understand why so many people do. I'm visiting websites and researching and in another week or so I'll be ready to try again.

I'll put on my Sunday best, take a deep breath, and go to yet another strange church looking for the acceptance, the youth programs, the message, and most of all the feeling of God's love that my soul needs.