Today I have a deep sadness. It’s not the kind of sadness that makes you cry. It’s the kind of bittersweet sadness that touches your heart, and turns your face towards God.
We’re here in Florida to care for Grandma Scribbler. We arrived safely, and Little Scribbler did great on the plane– thank you all for your prayers in this regard.
We arrived in the Tampa airport and were greeted by my father, who LS raced up to hug, and my grandmother– looking the frailest I’ve ever seen her. It is 70 degrees outside, yet she wears a quilted winter coat. She’s been cutting her own hair at home and it is ragged. She weighs only 108 pounds, and I’m pretty sure that I could pick her up unassisted if I needed to. Her clothes are hanging off her frame like they would on a coathanger– some how too straight, and yet, not quite angled correctly. She stands up to greet Little Scribbler (whom she absolutely adores)…and it takes almost 30 seconds for her to accomplish it.
Before we reach the baggage carousel, my father has to commandeer a wheelchair. We make quite a spectacle as we slowly make our way through the terminal– him pushing a wheelchair, me pushing a stroller–Four generations of Rodgers, and only 2 able to make the half mile walk between gate and parking lot. Little Scribbler looks to her left and sees “Gramma” sitting beside her, and is delighted. She wants to race. But we can’t.
This evening my father went to greet some friends of his who missed their plane and arrived late (they are all vacationing together next week). After putting Little Scribbler to bed, I sat with my Grandmother in the livingroom. We spoke for two hours– she shivered under a lap blanket the entire time. She had a lot of things she needed to say, and doesnt feel like anyone will listen. So I listened. I listened to my grandmother tell me that she is afraid to die. That the people in the house and on the roof (a hallucination of hers) are always taunting her, telling her how she’s going to die, and singing crude songs about her. She doesnt like it. But she can’t make them stop.
She tells me about a little boy, whose parents leave him with her all day long, to babysit. She doenst think they are very good parents to leave so little a boy with an old lady unitl 10 o clock at night. When she was younger, parents didnt leave their children with strangers until all hours of the night. But the father always tells her how good she is with him, and she likes that he thinks she’s good with children. None of these people actually exist.
She tells me about her children. My aunt Elvira was killed in a car accident several years ago. She remembers this, and tells me there is nothing worse than losing a child. I remind her that she will be with her daughter again, in heaven. She says she agrees, but doesnt seem so sure. She is overcome with sadness for a few moments, and I let her be alone with her memories for a few moments. Her expression changes.
“What are you thinking about Grandma?” I ask.
“I’m trying to hear the music– they’re singing Silent Night. I dont know why they’re singing it, because it isn’t Christmas”.
No one is singing. No radio is playing. No television is on. We sit alone in silence for a few more minutes.
“Do you think your dad is coming home tonight?” she asks me.
“No, I dont.” I reply. “I believe he’s going to stay over at his friend’s house”. (Grandma rarely sleeps. My father needs a break and a solid eight hours. He needs this night away.)
“Oh. He ususally gives me my pills, and he makes the coffee so that it’s ready at six am. I like to have my coffee at six am. Sometimes I’m awake before then, but I always stay in bed until the coffee is ready.” (Sometimes she doesnt even fall asleep until six am– but she seems not to remember this).
“I have your pills. I’ll help you. And I can make the coffee too” I reply. I can’t make the coffee. I have no idea how to make the coffee. I have to get ahold of my father before he falls asleep so that I can figure out how to make the coffee and set the timer for six am. The coffee is apparently extremely important.
The time passes. It’s time for her to go to bed. She goes into the bathroom and starts to get ready. In a few minutes she comes out in her nightgown. I could blow hard and knock her over she is so thin.
“I’m ready whenever you are!” she says cheerfully. I follow her down the hallway to her bedroom. She tries to climb into bed, but she’s got so many covers and blankets that she cant pull them up– theyre too heavy. She has fleece sheets on her bed. It’s 70 degrees.
She climbs into bed and I pull the covers up for her. She has a cup of water on the nightstand and I hand her the pills. I have to make sure she’s swallowed every single one– especially the one that helps her to sleep.
“Shut the door, but leave it open 1 inch. Then turn the hall light off, but leave the livingroom light on. It has to be 1 inch. Yes, that’s good.”
“Ok. Goodnight Grandma. See you in the morning.”
“Yes. Goodnight.” I hear her start to whisper prayers. She can still pray in German.
I wonder what she prays for. I am overcome with sadness…I pray that God eases her fear of death, which seems to be approaching. I wonder about God bringing us back to the feebleness we experienced when we entered the world, as we leave it. I have to believe in His will…and I do. But that doesn’t make it easy.