The one reading I remember most in my entire life was at my grandma’s knee, but she was not reading to me, I was reading to her.
As a young boy in the 1960s and early seventies my family would make it down from northern Ohio to West Virginia to see Grandma about once or twice a year. I remember the food, and how every day was a Thanksgiving feast without turkey. I remember pitching a baseball for hours in the hot sun against the steps on the hillside. I remember Grandma out in her flower garden. After all these years I’ve never seen another garden so full of color and beauty. I remember being nine years old and grandma teaching me to shoot a rifle. I remember my mother dressing me in a suit and sending me to church with Grandma.
As a teenager, in the mid 1970s I received Jesus Christ as my Saviour, the same year, I accepted my first job. When vacation time rolled around that year I did not take my normal trek down to Grandma. I had a job, I had responsibilities, I had to work.
Living all of a sudden got in the way of life, and the urgent became more important than the important. Jobs, responsibilities, a wife, children, a hitch in the military, the everyday grind, it all got in the way. From the summer of 1975 until the summer of 1993 I had seen Grandma only once.
When the summer of 1993 rolled around, for the first time in my life, I could afford to take my family on vacation. A trip from Indiana to the east coast was going to include a trip through West Virginia and a stay at Grandma’s house. She had never seen two of my four children and the oldest two were still babies the only time she had laid eyes on them.
Grandma was now ninety-two years old. Her eighty-eight-year-old sister had moved in to “help around the house.” Grandma could not see well, she could walk around the house but she couldn’t read.
It was Saturday night, a little after dark and I heard these words, “Tim, could you read me my Bible?”
I took my Bible and sat on the floor beside Grandma’s chair “What would you like me to read?”
“Start off with the gospel of John.”
As I began to read, “In the begriming was the Word . . . ” Grandma laid her head on the back of her rocker and closed her eyes. The only part of her body that moved was her ankles as the rocker slowly and deliberately rocked back and forth.
An occasional, soft, tender “Amen” was the only sound she made.
After reading the entire Gospel of John, I asked, “What’s next?” Galatians, Philippians, Proverbs, Psalm 119, I just keep reading into the night.
The rocking stopped, Grandma put her chin upon her breast and said, “I hate to end this now, but we should both think about going to bed.” I waited until Grandma was safe in bed and I saw from under the door that the light was out. When I turned out the living room light, the room was black, literally, you could not see the hand in front of your face, just like it was when I was a kid.
Oh, the blessings I had missed by not seeing this woman in nearly 20 years, by not sharing the scripture with her and allowing her to share it with me.
I would see Grandma one more time, about four months later and she went home to the Lord only three days after the second visit.
I have always loved to read, but on the floor down in the hollers of West Virginia, my Grandma, taught me the love of reading.
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