(The photos are my Grandma Miner, aka Ruth, with two of her five daughters, Helen and Bonnie, and Ruth and Bram with 24 of their grandchildren circa 1965. This post references last summer’s post The Beauty of the Opal, but this take on that experience is a further revelation to me, to be followed by yet one more! I pray this blesses all the Grandmas in the blogosphere!)
“Hi, Ruth . . . er- I mean Rose.”
“I want to introduce you to Ru . . . er– Rose.”
“Nice to meet you, Ruth . . . oops, Rose.”
I hear it from friends and from strangers: people consistently call me Ruth instead of Rose. I understand the mistake from women at our church – our director of ministry to women is named Ruth – but from total strangers? It used to frustrate me. Didn’t I speak clearly enough? Were others just not paying attention when they met me? I couldn’t fault casual acquaintances too much. I have enough trouble of my own remembering the names of people I’ve just met unless I say their name over and over in our first conversation, but this was happening so often that I started wondering what the problem was!
My internal dialogue went something like this: “Granted, my grandmother’s name was Ruth.”
“No one on this end of the continent knows that, though.”
“Grandma died 25 years ago, and now that I’m a grandmother myself, surely no one who knew her knows me.”
“No one outside of my family, anyway. So what’s the deal? Why is this happening so frequently that it’s almost laughable?”
Then last year life plunged me into the darkest days I’ve ever known. Knowing this, my friend Charity gently touched my hand one morning and said, “I want to take you on a journey through ‘The Father’s House’. It’s a spiritual journey into God’s heart, looking for Jesus there. A friend of mine took me through this when my marriage was in trouble, and I found such a breakthrough for my own heart. Let me know when you’re ready.” Tears glistening in Charity’s eyes told me she was speaking from the reality of a powerful encounter with God in her own life. Searching for light, hope, and meaning from the tragedy threatened to overwhelm all my identity, I eagerly took up her offer.
Two weeks later I sat beside Charity and her mother Sharon, one of my best friends. “Please, God, I don’t want to conjure this out of my own imagination,” I silently cried, trying to remain aloof from the influence of my own presuppositions. Sharon and I voiced what we were envisioning; she described a beautiful mansion in vivid detail. I was having some trouble, my analytical brain questioning whether what I was sensing was me or God. Sharon’s words were awash in love and amazement as she narrated her journey across marble floors through gilded rooms.
All I sensed was a deep desire to go “out back,” and in a flicker of faint remembrance (in my imagination surrendered to the Holy Spirit) I caught the musty but somehow secure odor of an ancient porch. My hand felt worn wood as I pushed open a shabby screen door and was enveloped in the pungent sweetness of my Grandmother’s apple tree. I hadn’t smelled that in over forty-three years! As Sharon envisioned glorious flowers ablaze in color and a river filled with sparkling gems, I sat on the smooth board swing beneath green apples and leaves that cast dappled spots of shadow and light, and felt someone pushing me. Could I dare to believe this was Jesus? Was that his laugh I “heard” as I sensed someone pushing me high, running under the swing? So natural, so common, so ordinary . . . so wonderful!
Then I sensed Jesus beside me as I sat in the grass edging Grandma Ruth’s garden. The whole town agreed she could plant a stick and get a gladiola! Fragrant lilac, fresh dill and mustard scents and rich, warm earth mingled with the redolence of green growing things. A thought flashed into my mind, “Jesus – am I getting this right? You liked cucumbers?” I couldn’t suppress a chuckle. Grandma Ruth made the best bread and butter pickles in town, if not in all of Indiana. I heard the breathy, soft “squeaky toy” giggle of my Grandma. What simple joy and pure, rich faith she had, and how much love for all of her 35 grandkids! I can still hear her gentle, low voice calling me “Rosie.”
“Oh Lord!” A sudden flash of realization swept over me. “When I’m called Ruth, it’s Grandma’s blessing coming down to me!”
I marveled at my heart so drawn to hers across six decades, even though I saw Grandma only five more times after we moved across the country when I was six! Such is the enduring power of a grandmother’s love: a legacy of blessing, belonging, and delight, all of who she was, so treasured even by God that he used my Grandma’s laugh and garden sixty years later to touch my heart when it was breaking.
Can I be that for my grandchildren? Oh, I hope so! The two I have, now three and six years old, live literally on the other side of the world. I visited them for one month three years ago and one month this year, and had the exquisite joy of them home for ten months two years ago, but it will be another three years before they can come home again. Till then I treasure Friday night voice-over-Internet games of Battleship with my grandson Evan and chuckle as my granddaughter Elsa wonders how I can read the picture book in her lap over the computer (we both two copies of several books).
I treasure and I worry: will they feel how very much I love them? Will they recall our carousel rides here and elephant rides over there? Will they remember making grape and cheese-triangle sailboats on the trays of their highchairs here, and making homemade tortillas (with the five-pound bag of corn flour I carried in my suitcase) together over there? Is that moment I so clearly remember with Evan – holding him cheek-to-cheek on his first birthday as he growled his new word “Wow” and I growled right back – safely secured in his memory for the day he’ll need to know he’s amazing and “wow”? Will they know who I am? Will that matter? Will I make a difference for them?
And then I remember Grandma Ruth, an ordinary, uncelebrated woman, her life and self still so much a part of the fiber of mine even after I moved away. The sweet, green and growing aroma of Grandma Ruth wafts into my heart whenever anyone “mistakenly” calls me by her name. Now I know it’s no mistake; it’s her blessing!
Will Elsa ever be mistakenly called Rose? I doubt it; Evan certainly won’t! But I pray who I am and how I love will be a lingering aroma in their lives that takes them by surprise some day to a remembered place of delight, security, and joy – a place like my grandmother’s garden, accessed through that old screen door of the ordinary times we’ve spent together. I hope their days will be graced with joy, not sorrow, but if they find themselves in a “dark night of the soul,” I hope my prayers today will draw their hearts to a place where Jesus meets them with his healing love.
For all of us Grandmas, Grannys, Grams, Nanas, Mimis, or whoever we are called, Ruth’s blessing is the truth that, no matter how small our grandchildren are, where they live, or how infrequently we may see them, the fragrance of who we are will leave a legacy of blessing that transcends distance, circumstance, and decades.