Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lessons from Grandma

After my grandma's stroke, she lost her speech. She was confined to two words, "Hey" and "No". It made family gatherings interesting. As my mom and aunt talked in front of her, she would recall some news they my might be interested in hearing. The scene would look something like this:

"Have you talked with Mary lately?"

"Hey," Grandma says, pointing their way.

"You've talked to her?" Mom asks.

"No," Grandma points in my direction.

"Tami's talked to her?!"

"No" Grandma points to me and then my mother.

"Her daughter? Something about her daughter?" my aunt deduces.

Grandma nods.

"What about her daughter?"

Grandma motions for a piece of paper and tries writing something down, but since her right hand is paralyzed, she uses her left and has never quite mastered it. What appears on paper is hard to produce and even more difficult to read.

My mom and aunt pore over the paper. "Chu...church? Does it say church?"

Grandma smiles and nods.

"Is she getting married?"


"Working there?"

Grandma bobs her head, indicating they're close.

"Teaching Sunday school, mowing the lawn, scrubbing toilets?"

"No, no, no."

One of the guys walks through the kitchen and she points at him, then to the paper she's scribbled "church" on.

"Dave knows Mary's daughter from church?"

"No," Grandma continues pointing from my uncle to her paper.

"Dave goes to church...yes."

"No, no." She points to my uncle, then to the next room where the men sit.

"Man? Do you mean man?"

Grandma nods.

"Mary's daughter met a man at church?"


"Mary's daughter was with a man at church?"


"Mary's daughter IS a man at church?"

At this they all giggle so hard, tears stream down their cheeks.

And this guessing game, this form of charades with no possibility of cheating would happen frequently at family gatherings. Often it would end with Grandma shaking her head, waving a hand in front of herself as if to say "forget it." She'd take a deep breath and resign herself to the fact her daughters didn't get the message, tears still glistening in her eyes. Someone would change the subject to cover her embarrassment and conversation would go on, without her input.

How many of us can relate? Have you ever felt like my grandma--awkward, misunderstood, ignored? Do you try to communicate, feeling like you're speaking a different language? I'm guilty. Often I find it easier to be like Grandma, to sit in silence, nod my head and smile, assuming they won't get my drift anyway.

Why does it seem harder to share ourselves with some than others? Are we afraid they'll expose us, knowing who we have been and where we've come from? Do we think they'll always view us a certain way, leaving no room for growth? Do we do the same to them? Do we unfairly assume they won't understand?

Sometimes what I want to say is, "I'm sorry I haven't called you. I think about you often and pray for you every day," but what comes out is, "Hey, how are you doing?" There are some people in my life I want to shake and say, "I don't understand why you do the stuff you do, but I still love you," yet I never tell them so. Why do I let it go on status quo, never rocking the boat or saying what I really think? Why do I sit in silence and accept the awkwardness as normal?

And yet I realize my grandma can be a picture of how God tries to communicate with us too. Not that He can't get the words out, but that His language is beyond us. He can give us clues and try to tell us. He can point to things and try spelling it out, but we just can't get it.

Do you think He sheds tears out of silliness and frustration too? Do you think it's hard for Him to sit there, knowing we misinterpret Him? How does He handle our lack of understanding?

He tries again.

He doesn't give up.

He loves whether we get it or not.

So I must too. I need to take a deep breath and give it another shot in those relationships that are difficult for me. Love requires me to, even if the other party doesn't understand.

Lord, give me the courage.


Betsy Markman said...

Boy, did that bring back memories. Before my first child was born, I worked as a Speech Pathologist, and most of my work was with stroke patients in nursing homes and hospitals. I've seen the frustration so many times.

I'm sure it's a blessing to your gramdma that you try so hard, and that even her current difficulties can be used by God to bless you and teach you.

Give her a hug for me. I miss my Grandmother! :)

Brenda said...

Wow. That is a great picture of how we communicate so much of the time. I am going to keep that pictured in my mind and try to use it to share more openly.

Rachelle said...

Ahhh, that was a sweet story, with such a great lesson!

e-Mom said...

Tami, this is an amazing story, and beautifully written. :~D

(My Grandma/Nana had a stroke too, and her communication was garbled, but pretty good.)

BTW, there's an award waiting for you at my blog. Hugs.

Dianne said...

This is really sweet! Great post and great reminder that God never gives up trying to get through to us.