As usual, I was missing the trees for the forest. And yeah, that's what I meant too. The night I got saved wasn't the first time Nana weirded me out.
A couple months before, she had forgotten to take out the chicken for supper that night. It didn't bother me that much food wise. After all, I got pizza out of the deal. But cooking's always been Nana’s thing. And she forgot. And we didn't even have a fight that day. I should have known something was up.
Two weeks after I got saved, I was in the middle of my English homework. And as I repeated some lines from Julius Caesar, Mom opened the door.
"Jessica, close that book a second," she said. "We need to talk."
Whoa. She called me Jessica. And interrupted my homework. Mom freaked out if I got a C on one assignment. This must be serious. I haven't thought with Nana in three days. I practically slammed the book on the table. And whirled my wheelchair around. Mom wasn't crying. But she looked serious.
"Mom, what's going on?" I asked my eyes focused on hers like laser pens.
Mom looked me up and down. And then straight in my eyes.
"C’mon, Mom, if I can handle hearing about your love life." I declared. "I can handle this."
She shook her head as if to say, "I wish it were something like that." Then she took my hand. And said those words, "Jessie, your nana has Alzheimer's."
"OK, that means she's going to forget a lot."
Being 15. That's pretty much all I knew.
"She'll probably forget our names eventually," Mom said
"But she's not there yet? Is she?"
I had the opposite of my usual problem when it came to this situation. Things were going to be different all right.
Two weeks later, Em was over at the house. We were sitting at the kitchen table talking about the gospel. Then Em took out the 411 on Youth for Christ.
Nana’s dirty snow hair flashed across the corner of my eye. Then I saw one of her rings on her ring finger, a size 9. She snatched the pamphlet off the table.
"Is this a Catholic group?" Nana asked.
"All denominations are accepted, ma'am," Em said. "We study the Bible."
"They study the Bible. I know about people like that. I don't want them influencing my Jessie. Take your trash and get out of here."
She had to that fire-starting look again. I countered with my own.
"Sorry, Jessie," Em said.
She went out the front door.
"Nana, you had no right to do that," I said my eyes still blazing.
"Jessie, you can't join a group like that," Nana said. "Those people are only out to convert Catholics."
"My best friend is one of those people, you old bag."
I was so loud. I didn't even hear the door open.
"Jessie, don't you dare talk to her like that," Mom said. Where's Em? I'll drive her home."
"Nana already took care of that," I said with a start.
"Why?" She said, peering at Nana.
"I don't know what she's talking about," Nana said.
I couldn't see how Nana looked. But I didn't care. To me, she was flat out lying.
I bit my lip and said, "We were looking at a Youth for Christ pamphlet. And Nana freaked out and ordered her to leave."
"Mom you shouldn't have done that," my mom said to Nana. "Jessie, go to your room. "We'll talk later."
"She gets away with everything," I mumbled as I turned away.
"Jessica, that's not true. You've got understand."
"I know. I know." I said. "She's older."
She gave me one of those "Girl, you don't have a clue" looks. So I drove to my bedroom little faster. OK, I'll admit. Even though I felt my anger was totally justified, The Holy Spirit had already started to convict me that what I said was wrong.
"Lord, forgive me for what I said to Nana. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, so I don't do it again."
That's the best I could do as a baby Christian.
Mom came in a few minutes later.
"Mom, I'm sorry," I said. "But she was totally rude to Em. And she totally embarrassed me."
"I know..." Mom said
"But I was still wrong. And I've asked Jesus to forgive me."
"I was going to say she was out of line. But she's going to be like that. That's part of what it does. There's something else I'd like to say about this whole thing."
"What?" I said.
"I know you've always loved Em," Mom said. "But as I recall, you use to gripe about her not listening to country music with you anymore."
I put my head down a little. Busted. Em wouldn't even listen to Martina. And she's pretty tame. Worse yet, Em wouldn't even watch Hannah Montana. The show's on the Disney Channel. You couldn't get more harmless than that. She was no fun.
"But it's different now," I said in the tone of a kid trying in vain to get Mom to buy a new toy."
"Why?" Mom asked.
"There's something about Jesus."
"There must be."
I mouthed, "Thank you, God" and bit my mail
Was the door open with Mom? Was it? I took my finger out of my mouth.
"What makes you say that?" I said.
"Jessie, a few weeks ago, you would have gone on and on about how wrong your nana was, Mom said. " And it would've taken you at least 20 minutes to stop your hissy fit."
"I'm still a little bent about it. I have to forgive her."
"Yes, you do. 'cause she had no clue what she was doing."
"No, ' cause the Lord said so."
At first, Mom just peered at me and looked first some glimmer of understanding about Nana. Suddenly, her eyes began to gleam.
"I think I need Jesus too," she blurted out. "Tell me what Em told you."
I told her how Jesus died and rose again so her sins could be forgiven.
Then it was my turn to peer at her. Would a woman who woke up singing at five o'clock in the morning, who let me stay in her house despite my rantings and all the demands that come with me being in the chair? Would she consider herself a sinner? Sure she smoked. But there was nothing really bad about her from what I could see. I forgot to pray, but God was still at work.
"I would like to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior, "Mom said.
She confessed her sins and asked Jesus into her heart.
Our idea of mother daughter fun changed after that. We wanted to study the Bible. And pray. And go to church. Even the Catholic Church. This for me was a significant change of heart. I'd see my friends in middle school prayer group dancing around and praising God loudly. We never did anything fun like that at my church.
When at 13, I asked my mom if I could go to the local Pentecostal Church, she said no. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if I would've told her about the lively music and dancing. She loved music especially if she could really get down. But some of the girls in the group shared some stuff about Catholic beliefs that seemed true. Not that I really cared about that at the time. I don't know what made me mention the stuff about Mary. I proceeded to get a lengthy lecture, which included the dictionary definition of the word Catholic. And a reading of the Apostles Creed where Mom sounded like a pulpit pounding preacher in her insistence that the Catholic Church did not worship Mary. I was usually the one who lost it. Not Mom. So I filed that under something not to be mentioned for a long time maybe ever.
Two years later, I'd file just about the whole conversation under petty, stupid and clueless. Meaning I was petty stupid, and clueless. Since I got saved, I've realized that any church would be enjoyable. And before any church would have bored me to the point of napping. I've seen my friends roll their eyes Em invited them to church. And she goes to one where they tap their feet in the aisles.
Me. I just enjoyed listening to God stuff. Especially the Bible. Mom and I never really cared about that before. Jesus had made a difference in the both of us. I should've learned then. He always redeemed life's bull. In that case, Nana's totally dissing Em. And Bible reading in general. He turned around and led Mom to Christ through it. Things were even better.
They were never that bad to begin with. She wasn't much for clothes shopping. Our thing was movies and sports. Our faves were How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Shallow Hal, and Facing the Giants. I know that was a Christian movie. We watched it for the football. We would've watched anything with a sport in it—with the exception of ones that feature boxing, wrestling, racing, and golf. Two words. Bloodbaths. Snores.
We also had some quirks in our relationship. She seemed to have a thing for nice guys who didn't get the commitment deal. My parents were only married six years. And my dad just kind of announced he wanted a divorce. The only guy she ever loved since then came and went when he wanted to for 6 1/2 years.
One day, she just started talking about Alexander. I enjoyed playing Trivial Pursuit with him. But Mom wanted to get married. And even at 14 I knew it wasn't going to happen. One day, she just started talking about Alexander.
"Listen, you don't want a boyfriend. I said. "You want a husband. And I don't think that's Alexander."
"I thought you liked him," she said. "Don't you want him to be your dad?"
"Yeah, that would be cool. But it ain't gonna happen. He doesn't want a full-time girl."
"Then why does he hang out with us?"
"I'm not saying he doesn't care. I'm just saying he doesn't want to be permanently tied down. How long has it been since he mentioned marriage?"
"Six months," she mumbled, tilting her head down.
I was silent and looked around pretending I couldn't hear her. I wanted her to say it. Out loud.
"Six months," she declared.
"Mom, wake up," I said. "Six months. Not a word. Not a ring. I know you'd take it out of a Crackle Jack box if he'd just ask."
"Maybe you're right. We just need to move on."
"You need to move on. I just don't wanna see you get hurt."
Alexander came over a week later. I was sent to my room. But I heard the whole thing anyway. For some reason, God gifted me with seemingly superhuman hearing. But this time I was guilty of eavesdropping. Ouch. He said he still wanted to be friends. We never saw him again.
Not even when.... It took me a year to stop trying to figure that one out. Oh well, major lesson learned. At least I still helped Mom.
We were cool most of the time.
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