Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: REFUGE (08/29/19)
- TITLE: Grandma's Legacy
By Janet Richey
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What I saw at the top of the stairs was in stark contrast to the happy memories I imagined it once held for the original owners of this house; a rabbi and his family who lived there seventy or eighty years prior. I took note of the mismatched paint and nail holes on the right side of the doorway where a Mezuzah had once been. Smaller than a cigarette, it served as a blessing, containing passages written on parchment from the book of Deuteronomy, commanding the Hebrews to love God, to wear it like clothing, and impress it upon their children. No one in that predominately Jewish neighborhood could possibly predict that an evangelical pastor and his family would one day take residence there.
Among the empty computer boxes and broken furniture, this former bedroom held the dark walnut chest of drawers that contained my grandmaâ€™s sewing notions. Knowing I couldnâ€™t possibly cram it into the back of my SUV, I had to be satisfied with taking these precious artifacts outside their tomb.
Among the notions were pieces of fabric, finished nine-patch quilt squares, and buttons arranged by color in glass baby food jars. They were items meant for an anticipated project, that took on a much deeper meaning unfinished. My grandmother had been gone for twenty years, but holding the squares close to my chest, she was right there with me. I never fully recovered from that moment, and whatever else my brother and I had agreed to accomplish that day in getting the house ready for sale, heâ€™d have to do on his own.
Having grown up with deaf parents, and having been born 12 and 5 years after my older siblings, I was a bit of an outsider in my own family. Grandma stood in the gap, simply by spending time with me. I was a hard kid to love, and largely misunderstood. Her sewing room was my refuge. As she concentrated on making tiny stitches on a quilt attached to frame held together by C clamps, I would chatter endlessly, jumping from one subject to another, sometimes crawling under the frame like it was a tent. Sheâ€™d try to coach me from time to time, but mostly, she just listened. I would never fully grasp the value of that, until I had kids of my own.
Like any self-important teenager worth their weight, my childlike love of Grandma turned to annoyance for unjust reasons. The last conversation I had with her was when I was twenty-one. She came into my room in the middle of the night and told me she thought she was having a stroke. I sat with her in a hospital room, alone, waiting for what? I canâ€™t remember. She talked, as if to herself, mentioning names I didnâ€™t recognize, and it struck me even then, that I knew so little about her.
At 91 years old, Grandma died of a heart attack.
These are the type of regrets that you carry with you for the rest of your life, though I decided, as I got older, that I would not let it be in vain. God gave me the opportunity to live that out in the lives of my children and surviving family members by being a more empathetic, intentional listener.
Today those unfinished nine-patch squares and buttons-in-baby-food-jars adorn the shelves of my own sewing room and refuge. They are tangible objects of someone who loved me, and a visual reminder of Godâ€™s sovereignty in my life. And like the passages of Deuteronomy tucked in a Mezuzah, I strive impress the need to love God and others on the hearts of my children. To do anything else, would be a waste.
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