Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grandparent's Day

A few days ago, I attended Grandparent's Day at the Christian school where my first two grandchildren attend. Having attended for at least the last five or six years since my grandson began Pre-K, I was certain I would feel the special honor this school aims to give to grandmas, papaws, grammies and meemaws, some who travel almost a thousand miles to attend this event each year. Every year as I listen to little ones reciting Bible verses they've memorized and watch as they sing praise songs with such exuberance, I've been reminded of several key things about life. One, life is brief and there is a time of youth and a time of aging. Second, children who know and are the recipients of the love of even one grandparent are truly blessed. And finally, the memories loving grandparents leave behind can last a lifetime in the heart of a grandchild.

When I was sharing my experiences at Grandparent's Day with a friend this weekend, our conversation stimulated some memories of his own time with grandparents. He told me of special memories of taking a cab downtown to shop at the local Belk store with his Grandmother Elliott where they would eat at the lunch counter and he was allowed to pick out a shirt or some item of clothing for himself. Since I also had a Grandma Elliott, we enjoy trading stories and memories of two women bearing the same last name, each having a lifelong impact on our lives. We are both approaching sixty years of age and yet their simple homemade meals, an affectionate name or words they spoke to us are forever imprinted on our minds. The name for this blog was born out of my desire to honor the memory of my Grandma Elliott who allowed me to make my own baby biscuits from her buttermilk biscuit dough. Certainly I can see, as I reflect on our conversation, it was their love, their words of affirmation and the time they spent with us that meant the most to each of us.

After the celebration of Grandparent's Day was over, my two grandchildren came home with me to spend several hours while their mother and father were working. When my daughter arrived to pick them up, she and I spoke of their current living arrangements. For several months,their family has been living with her husband's parents. Known as Grandma and Pop, they opened their home to my daughter's family as they transition from the home they sold to a new home being readied for their move. As I listened to my daughter describe the deepening of the children's relationship with this set of grandparents, I thought of the eternal dividends that would be stored up in my grandchildrens' memory banks forever. Memories of meals together, new nicknames like “Binkers” and learning more about what it means to be a part of the extended family are treasures you cannot buy for a grandchild. My daughter expressed her gratitude for their opening their home and the surety of the sadness they will all feel when this time comes to an end.

I found a box of pictures recently at my father's house. The photos were both black and white and color and spanned six generations of my family. Photos of my great Grandma and Grandpa Ervin evoked memories of family reunions, trips to the “outhouse,” and drinking from a dipper. I could actually hear in my mind the sound of Grandpa's mealtime prayer. “Our good Lord, we thank Thee....,” a rote prayer he always prayed at mealtimes was as clear as if he were sitting beside me at the table where my stack of photos were spread. I never saw them attend church, but somehow I knew they trusted God for their provision and it had an impact on my life. There are no memories of gifts nor even hugs and affectionate kisses from these two who lived “out in the country” where I snapped a lot of green beans and washed a lot of dishes. However, there was a gentleness and a graciousness in their manner and we were never scolded for all the biscuits we stole from the wood stove warmer while they sat with our parents, uncles and aunts under shade trees talking all afternoon.

All of my grandparents have passed away and I am now the grandparent. Times have certainly changed. My own father, known as Papaw Garden, can enjoy a look at his third great grandchild via pictures on my computer or watch a Youtube video of the little one who lives miles away. While communication seems to have leaped light years ahead in many respects, we are faced with a more mobile society and technological advances have changed the way we do relationship. With all the stimuli of the culture in which we live, it has certainly become more difficult for me to remember my day to day activities. Even our grandchildren with the fresh and alert minds they possess are bombarded with millions of messages each day.

Recently, I asked my grandchildren if they remembered some activity we shared together. I confess my disappointment when they seemed to have no recall of that time. This is the natural way of things and why I can not recall everything that took place with my own grandparents.

The mind is a funny thing and we wonder why certain events and happenings seem to be indelibly printed on our hearts forever. As I thought of my friend's memories and my own, I wondered what part of my time with my grandchildren would continue to live on when I am just a picture on a piece of photo paper... or most likely an image on a screen in years to come.

In our family there was a story passed down about my great grandmother, Bertha Ervin. When she was serving you food, she asked how much you wanted. When you said, “that's good or that's enough,” she would give you one more spoonful... as if for good measure or out of her own generosity. If my grandchildren remember one thing about me, I hope it is a generous extra helping of love dished out to them through the time we've spent together and the intangible gifts of acceptance and a sense of belonging. They each hold a very special place in my heart that no one else can fill.

It really doesn't matter which memory of our time together sticks with my grandchildren. It will most likely be different for each one. There is something invisible and eternal that ties us to those who are the roots of our family tree. We are touched by their lives in a place where God most wants to be visible to us. Whether it's through the time they spent, the words they spoke, the touch they gave or the work they did, the blessing of old age and that of youth is joined mysteriously together. Even the eternal impact of daily whispered prayers for grandchildren both close and farther away are unheard and unseen by these little ones. But like seeds scattered on the wind, they find a place to grow inside the heart of a future generation.

(from my granddaughter) "You are the roots of my family."

(From my grandson) "You have touched my life"

Time is fleeting and opportunities pass so quickly. I am reminded of the praise and worship song my grandchildren sung at chapel. “This is the day You have made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Today I am thanking God for one more day to serve up another spoonful of blessing to my grandchildren. Perhaps one day I'll look down from heaven and learn what special memories have found a place in their hearts. For now, the clock is still ticking and I have more memories to make with these beautiful ones. Who knows? The next word, the next prayer, the next memory might just be the one that will be stamped on their mind for eternity.

 The following photos are in honor and memory of some of my grandparents.
Top photo: Claude and Rowena Green, my daddy's parents
                   Jesse and Bertha Ervin, my maternal great grandparents
Bottom photo: Hattie and Loyd Elliott, my maternal grandparents

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