Tag Archives: grandparents

I Called Him Poppy

8 Jul


Ninety-three years ago today one of the greatest men I’ve ever known was born.  He was the oldest of six children, and instead of going to college, went to work immediately after graduating from high school to help support his family during difficult times.  Eventually, he married an unfaithful woman and then got divorced.  He then married a war widow and had a son and a daughter with her.

He labored for many years on sewing machines–fixing, inventing, using, and improving them.  In fact, he could probably sew better than most women.  The relics of old sewing machines in his basement were fascinating to my young eyes.  His children grew and married.  His daughter had a daughter and his son adopted two children from Korea.

After retirement, he still fixed and mended whatever needed fixing or mending.  He’d show up at a family member’s house, toolbox in hand, whenever anything broke.  He loved his granddaughter who he called “Lightning”.  She never asked why, but she wishes she could.  He also loved his daughter to whom he granted power-of-attorney.

But the love of his life was his wife, Dorothy, who died six months before him.  He died that day with her, but his body just kept on going a bit longer.  If he hadn’t died in 2006, my grandfather Edwin W. Landis, who was born July 9, 1915 would be turning 93 today.

I just wanted his life to be remembered today because I loved him so much.  He was called lots of things by lots of people, but I just called him “Poppy”.


Bridal Barbie Made It Special

24 Dec


This Christmas will be the third without my grandmother and the second without my grandfather. I learned in my counseling classes that time doesn’t ease all wounds; in fact, sometimes the ache and longing only increases, yet the pain becomes “normal”. Whatever that means.

Lately, I’ve really been missing my grandparents. Since my grandfather’s passing, my mom’s family has become fragmented. Rarely do I talk to my great aunts and uncles or their children, or even my mother’s brother and his family. It’s never been the closest family, but it was a family nonetheless. Now we just send each other Christmas and birthday cards like old friends who once shared something, but now we’re just obligated to do something.

I remember my grandparents.  Despite their faults, I knew they loved me. I was their sole biological granddaughter and I was special to them. As the only grandparents ever involved in my life, they were also special to me. One Christmas after all the gifts had been open, my grandmother smiled shyly and pulled out a present she had hidden behind her chair. She handed it to me and told me to open it. Inside was the beautiful bridal Barbie I had been wanting since my friend got one for her birthday in August. My mom told my grandmother that she shouldn’t have as I ripped open the box with glee. My grandparents exchanged knowing smiles and to this day, I still have that special Barbie. True, her dress is a little tattered, her bridal veil has been knocked askew, and her hair’s a bit tangled, but she’s still as special as the day I got her. She’s in a bin marked “Stuff for Amy’s spawn”, a collection of special toys from my childhood I’ve saved for the children I will one day adopt.

I was in my mom’s storage area last week and I found the big marked “Stuff for Amy’s Spawn.”  I pried off the lid pulled out that special Barbie, just to remember that Christmas and remember the love of my grandparents.   Her hair was all tangled, so I used the crappy plastic doll brush and combed it out until it was flowing beautifully again.  And for a moment, I felt the elation of when I first unwrapped her and pull her brand new from her box.  Without a doubt, bridal Barbie made that Christmas very special.  Amazing how a plastic doll manufactured in China can have so much sentimental value.

The End is the Beginning

1 Aug

My grandmother died this morning at 11 a.m. For most of the day, I was happy, almost joyous, and at peace. I took care of my grandfather, my mom, and my stepfather. I made sure everyone else was okay and plastered a smile on my face. I do believe that God has given me the strength to make it through today. But now He’s given me the opportunity to mourn. I’m glad I can cry because it felt very alien to hold her icy hands less than half an hour after her spirit soared to God, and feeling nothing.

Her breathing had changed apparently and the nurses called my mom to summon the family to the hospital. Sarah and I quickly gathered our belongings, hopped in the car, and began racing to the hospital as fast as we could. I insisted on listening to Chris Rice. The song came to the last verse, “Fly to Jesus/Fly to Jesus/Fly to Jesus and live”. I saw a red-tailed hawk taking flight on the other side of the highway. Its wings were turned toward me and I marvelled at the brilliant flash of auburn as this bird seemed to be soaring to Jesus. A moment later, my cell phone rang as my mom tearfully told me that my grandmother was dead. I felt as prepared as one can be for such a tragedy.

There were touches of God’s mercy and grace throughout the past week. Even after I exploded into hot tears and shook my fist at Heaven, He was patient. I was awake the past week praying for Him to take her home, and He held me in His arms.

Even last night, my last time with her, was tender and sweet. I held her hands and sang to her, mostly songs about Heaven and God’s love. She squeezed my hand as if to tell me that she was listening. My last words to her were, “I love you, and if I don’t see you again on this earth, I’ll see you on the other side.” There is hope.

Saying Goodbye

29 Jul

My grandmother is dying, even though both of my grandparents have been on their death beds before, this is the real deal. She’s just slipping away and spends a lot of time sleeping. Please pray for quick passage. It’s literally killing my grandfather to see her suffer and he weeps frequently. Please pray for him as well…one of the hardest parts is seeing him cry because he never really showed emotion…

How am I doing? I’ve been really focused on making crafts for my craft show tomorrow and trying not to think about it. Sometimes it overwhelms me and I cry a lot or I cry when I talk to my mom or Sarah. I think I’m handling it pretty okay.

Yesterday, I went to see my grandmother by myself, I guess to say goodbye. I just sat there and cried and cried for the first 15 minutes. She would open and close her eyes and tell me not to cry. But I think she could tell how much I loved her (especially because I kept saying it every 30 seconds!) I told her that I would miss her so much. She told me that I was the joy of her life. We shared memories and it was a good time, but a weird conversation. She would talk for a minute or two, close her eyes for 4 minutes and then say something. She told my mom last night that we had a good time. We even laughed once or twice…. 🙂

One thing I would like to do for her is let her see Cassie (the dog) one last time. Unfortunately, the hospital only allows animals in the lobby. So, I think I might want to take her over on Sunday, so I might beg the nurses to let me take Cassie in for 5 minutes. If they don’t let me, I’m gonna see how the ground is outside her room and have Cassie “wave” at her through the window. I think she’d much rather pet the dog…but at least it’s something. It’s such a little thing and I feel stupid for asking, but pray that we can do this little thing for my grandma…if she’s still alive on Sunday. It sounds horrible to say it that way…but it’s reality.

Everyt time the phone rings, I don’t want to answer it because I’m afraid it’s going to be someone telling me that she’s passed. As much as I know she’s suffering, I don’t want to lose my grandma. But we have been assured of her hope in Christ and I told her that when she leaves this life she’ll be ushered into Jesus’ arms, and she smiled serenely. She seems to be at peace with death and knows we’ll be together again. It’s goodbye for a little while, but it’s still hard.

Here are lyrics to a Chris Rice song called “Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)” that’s offering me a lot of hope right now, especially the last stanza.

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall…so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

Splattered Paint on a Dusty Canvas

4 Apr

I didn’t want to get out of bed today. I wanted to stay within the warmth and safety of the folds of fabric having abstract dreams of this and that, but mostly about being back in Friday Harbor. It is fascinating how much Friday Harbor, and especially the Baileys have invaded my dreams. Staying in bed is much better than facing the reality of the day-to-day grind. The insanity has gone on for way too long, and I am about to crack.

It’s not just the most recent episode with my grandparents—my grandmother’s stroke, remarkable improvement, and then relapse into what can only be described as insanity; it’s everything. It’s is about my dad’s affair and subsequent break-up of my parents’ marriage, the horrible hospitalizations when I was 21, my struggle in youth ministry for three years (and the desperate desire to go back), my mom’s remarriage last year, the gradual decline of my grandparents, my emotional breakdown, plus the heartache from adolescence. It is a terrible and heavy load to carry around; and I am faltering.

I tried to “give it all to God” and a plethora of other Christian clichés. I’m trying to count it all joy, but the tears seem to knock that idea. I’m not denying the truth of Scripture; I’m merely questioning our use of it. These clichés are knives in my heart, because I’ve been clinging to them since last April, when it got really bad, and things have only gotten worse.

Maybe it’s the perspective on things. Right now, I care little about other people’s stories about how God brought them through difficult times and find their problems trite. I don’t really care and that’s not like me. I don’t’ want to hear stories; I want to know that God still likes me.

I know God loves me, but does He like me?

Does He care? And does He only care because He’s supposed to or because He thinks I’m interesting?

The main question I keep turning over and over in my mind is an age old one—what kind of madness is this where we are called to die and suffer to get closer to God? I’ve read THE PROBLEM OF PAIN by C.S. Lewis and WHERE IS GOD WHEN IT HURTS? by Philip Yancey and a countless amount of other books in seminary counseling classes. If Christ suffered on the cross, why do we still have so much pain? I can understand broken relationships, car accidents, financial problems, and other pain as sin runs rampant in this world.

But I don’t understand the gradual disintegration of my grandmother’s brain and body when God can call her home. I know I don’t understand His plan, and that His ways are so much harder. I’m just trying to make sense of the mess.

It reminds me of a modern art show I saw once at a local art museum in Allentown. I am all for modern art, but some of the paintings where nothing more than a bunch of paint splatters. I stared at the mess of paint and tried to make sense of the lines, the places where colors ran together, and the obscure artsy painting titles. It made absolutely no sense to me. Maybe God is like that sometimes. There’s obvious intent in His work, but I just don’t get it right now, and it’s just some paint splatters. Eventually the splatters turn into a Van Gogh. I’d like to think they turn into a Van Gogh because he’s my favorite painter, probably because he was a raving lunatic, yet brilliant and broken.

But right now I just see a bunch of splatters and it’s hard to see the big picture. I wish some white knight could just come rescue me from my life and whisk me away to a faraway land (or even Friday Harbor) where I wouldn’t have to think about this craziness.

Or maybe I should just go back to bed.

Then again, I could also go splatter some paint.

Four Dollars Short and an Ugly Bracelet

20 Feb

Cold wind whipped against my face as I fought back tears of rage and frustration. Besides the rustling of branches devoid of leaves in the February cold, the only other sound was the gentle tinkling of my dog’s licenses in charms clinking together as she padded along ahead of me leading the way. I could tell she was happy for the adventure by her gait, her fluffy tail raised like a flag. I stumbled along behind her wrapped in my faux fur coat and wrapped in a pink fluffy “magic” scarf. Nothing felt magical about this moment, just cold and dead like my heart.
My cheeks hurt from exposure to the cold and I could feel my lips drying out even though they were covered with chapstick. The tears brimming on my lashes offered relief to my dry eyes. Deep in thought, I walked but barely noticed my surroundings.
I was emotionally exhausted, even though nothing extreme happened. It was a succession of little events that I couldn’t seem to handle. First, I had to take my glasses to LensCrafters a third time because they had not been adjusted to fit my fact correctly. Undaunted, I then stopped at HOT TOPIC, one of my favorite stores to peruse their merchandise. I bought an orange pin that read, “Vote for my monkey” and put it on my purse, not noticing the cashier failed to give me my change until an hour later. An hour too late to reclaim my four dollars.
An elderly driver had somehow crashed into one of those vegetation islands found in the parking lot of the shopping center I stopped at to pick up a few items for my grandparents. The supermarket didn’t have what I needed, so I walked to Walmart and purchased what I needed, a headache due to lack of caffeine pound in my skull, making me crazy.

Finally I made it to my grandparents’ assisted living facility, only to be met with the sickening insanity of getting older. Leery wrinkled old people sitting around waiting to die greeted me with eerie smiles or lackadaisical stares.

My grandmother, suffering from the beginning effects of Alzheimer’s was in a jolly mood. She shyly, yet proudly showed me a beaded bracelet another resident had given her. It was nothing more than black elastic with alternating sparkly purple and clear beads. It was ugly. It reminded me of a little child proud of a trinket she had just earned, and my heart burned. My grandmother would never have worn such a pathetic excuse for jewelry, much less been proud of it ever before.

I showed her my new cell phone with digital picture and video capabilities. She thought it was a camera, and marveled at the picture of my dog I had taken the day she was groomed. The minute long video of my dog jumping onto my lap made her chuckle, but she had no clue it was a phone. I wished she could understand the marvels of technology…or that her new bracelet was ugly.

My grandfather, who seems slightly more “with it”, despite his failing memory donned me with two oranges and a banana. He was thrilled by my presence and my offerings of soda and tissues. Soda and tissues that somehow connected them to the outside world, which were now dulled by the surreality of this place. This land where adults sopping with wisdom function less and less like sages, and more and more like toddlers. It disgusted me and I wanted to run as far away as I could

I kept thinking of that beaded bracelet as I drove home. I wanted to rip it off my grandmother’s wrist and scream, “No! It’s ugly! This isn’t you! Wake up, wake up!” I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, but all I can remember is my grandmother sitting there snapping that bracelet on her wrist, much less a woman, but a little girl guarding her treasure. What caused my heart to ache more than anything was that she had lost more than four dollars, and what she lost could never be recovered.

I was jolted by to reality and out of my thoughts by my dog’s insistence on returning to the apartment. As much as I hated the cold, I liked it, too. I needed it because the harsh wind and the gray skies were my only friends in my misery.

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