Have you noticed how parents, especially mothers, don’t recognize real danger? They’re good at making you look both ways before crossing the street, cautioning you to run from men in dirty trench coats who call you “girly,” and warning you Mr. Tooth Decay is lurking in your candy bar. I once saw my mother (who my father calls his “ample armful”) sprint from the kitchen into the powder room- a good twenty feet - and snatch my little sister from the jaws of the cat box, into which she’d flung her ball. As Ellie yelled, my mother alternated a disgusted “Nasty! Nasty!” with shushing sounds. In her mind germs probably topped the list of dangerous things because they often meant colds and flu, doctor’s bills and long, sleepless nights.
That’s why it was so hard for me to understand her inability to spot the craziness in our next door neighbor, Miss Delorian. In my nine year old eyes, Miss D was way past old, being about 50 or 60. According to my parent’s whispered conversations, she had been “disappointed” early in life and now lived alone, cranky and unfit for company; mine anyway. I realized this when my mother first poked me across our yard and into hers, carrying a “least of these” cake.
My mother had been so struck by a Sunday sermon on giving that she immediately starting baking for anyone she thought was “least.” Not selfish about sharing her expected blessing, she insisted I join her by becoming the delivery elf. I didn’t mind, because most recipients invited me in to share the goodies. Not Miss Delorian. From the first day when my mother stood ten feet away, urging my reluctant feet up the steps with little shooing motions, I got nothing but strange looks and even stranger questions from Miss D.
That initial time, after my mumbled “ThisisforyouGodblessyou,” speech, she took my offering, clutched it in both hands and stared at me intently, with eyes the same smoky gray as her frizzy hair.
“Hey Missy,” (She knows my name is Grace) “what part of a pig can’t you eat?” I pretended to think about it.
“Gee, Miss Delorian, I don’t know.”
“When you find out, tell me.” And she slammed the door in my face. My mother said she’s shy. This pleasant pattern of interaction continued, even as we both grew older.
“Hey Missy, do roosters crow if it’s raining in the morning?” The nearest rooster was probably five hundred miles to the west.
“Uh, I’m not sure Miss Delorian.”
“Find out and tell me.” Slam.
Then my parents learned that Miss D had fallen and really messed up her leg. Even after it healed, she limped badly, using a cane and listing to one side. My duties now included emptying her garbage, walking her ugly pug, Peaceable, and taking her the Sunday comics after I read them. Miss D insisted the funnies were the only section of the newspaper worth reading. All this helping meant now I entered her house on a regular basis. Yay.
“I hate the news!” she always stated vehemently, as I handed her the comics; “all lies, indecencies and imbecilities!” I assumed this meant she hated to read it because her television was usually on, tuned to CNN. Sometimes she insisted I sit down and listen to some of those “lies, indecencies and imbecilities.” If nothing else, my social studies grades improved.
One day, as I was returning misnamed Peaceable to her, she grabbed my arm. “Hey Missy, which television channel will be first to tell us Jesus has returned?” That stopped me. At thirteen, I was no bible scholar so I knew that question required some thought. Surely, for something so important, all the channels would broadcast it at the same time. Hmmm.
“I’ll think about it, Miss Delorian.”
“Do that.” Slam.
I’m ashamed to say it took me a full day to realize it was a trick question. I had accepted Christ when I was eleven and knew the hope all Christians have. Ha! Finally, an answer!
I couldn’t wait to see Miss D the following day. Running up her steps, I rapped on the door impatiently. When finally she opened it, she stared at my excited face.
“No channel!” I said triumphantly. “Christians will already know!”
Gray eyes twinkled as she nodded, smiled – yes, smiled - then gently closed the door.
“Alright!” I shouted and pumped my fist in the air.
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