“Silly old bits of junk!” I kicked at one of the many boxes that Grandma kept stored in the spare bedroom. “There’s more to ‘bits of junk’, than meets the eye,” Grandma said with wisdom in her tone. I had expected a reaction from her, some type of rebuke, but Grandma’s face remained calm. I guess she understood that there was a tornado of emotions brewing on the inside of me. It was more than resentment I felt - being ‘shipped off’ to Grandma’s - an only child of an estranged mother and an alcoholic father.
“Follow me,” she collected one of the large boxes in her arms and walked to the kitchen. She placed the box on the kitchen table and waited as I dragged my feet in exaggerated resistance. “Now lets see,” Grandma began to dig. I could tell, by the dust that rose gently, that she hadn’t needed anything from that box in quite some time.
Soon Grandma had selected a pile of oddments - plastic containers, cardboard boxes and a myriad of other items which had ‘passed inspection.’ “What are you doing, Grandma?” I covered my curiosity by adding a drone of boredom to my voice. “We,” replied Grandma, “are going to build something beautiful out of something quite ugly.” “I don’t do craft.” I said flatly.
I watched Grandma as the ‘skyscraper’ took shape, scissors snipping and perfecting, glue sealing the design. I began to envisage the finished project. “There,” said Grandma at last, “I think we’re done.” “No,” I said firmly, “we need paint.” Grandma smiled knowingly. It was to be the first of many such buildings, each one bigger and better than the last!
* * * * * * *
“Fetch me my coat dear,” twenty-five years later Grandma’s voice hadn’t changed. “They’ll be here to collect me for church soon.” Grandma’s gaze moved to the empty wall opposite. I rose to leave the small room of the old-aged home - my chair scraped against the tiled floor. Grandma turned to face me. “Oh hello!” she exclaimed with surprise, as if noticing me for the first time. “So nice to have company, haven’t seen a soul in weeks! Do me a favour, won’t you? Fetch my coat, I’m off to church.”
After every visit with Grandma, I left with an overwhelming sense of grief. Four years had passed since Grandma had bravely announced, “You have to move me, my dear, the memory is going. I won’t be a burden to you.” At first I had resisted. “Grandma, I will always take care of you!” “No, my dear… please, give me the pleasure of knowing that you have a life of your own.”
One evening, I arrived at the familiar entrance, a glint of hope in my heart and a large box in my arms. I paused at the door to Grandma’s room; the dusk cast murky shadows through the open curtains where she sat, oblivious to the darkness closing in around her. I strode across the room, lowered the box and switched on the lamp.
“Hello, what a surprise! Haven’t had company in weeks!” I smiled at Grandma’s greeting, kissed her forehead, and began to select ‘building materials’. Soon we had a tower going - Grandma and me. Childlike enthusiasm and camaraderie busied us for hours. Grandma chatted, rambling a chain of confused memories. “My son, found Jesus, just days ago…alcoholic…I’ve been praying for years…wife left him…never heard another word.”
I smiled at the memory of my father, who had gone to be with his saviour twelve years previously. I remembered the broken man, devastated by the bondage of alcohol - then the wonder, as I watched my father being made whole by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus.
“There!” Grandma beamed at our finished masterpiece. “Not just a pile of old junk, now is it?” Grandma’s blue eyes shone like crystal deep into my own. She remembered…didn’t she? Hope erupted into overwhelming joy inside of me. I hung on to the moment not daring to move. Then, in an instant - her eyes clouded over, “Fetch my coat, won’t you…”
I leaned over to kiss Grandma’s cheek, walked to the door and turned to give my farewell, “Goodnight Grandma.” Grandma was gently humming a familiar chorus, her chair rocking to the rhythm of her tranquillity. Revelation dawned within me as I watched her; Grandma’s mind fluttered aimlessly - but her spirit would always be dancing with Jesus.
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