Saturday, November 26, 2011

Voices in Our Hearts

As Thanksgiving drew near and the numbers coming for dinner kept increasing, my sister-in-law told me she was planning to use paper plates, even though her mother never approved of using paper plates for special dinners.  I laughed as I heard this, because I, too, hear my mother-in-law's voice in my heart whenever I prepare for a family dinner.  As I set the table, I still think of how much she loved a beautiful table.  She has been gone now for a year, but her voice lives on in all of our hearts. 

It is like this with all the loved ones who have been an important part of our lives.  I am the only one left of my original family of six, yet I carry them in my heart every day of my life, and their voices are part of me.  I hear my grandfather teasing my cousin and me and making us laugh.  My grandmother's rules of "ladylike" behavior still linger with me.  My father's strong voice reassured me through thunder storms and the various fears of childhood.  My mother's gentle voice has guided me through my own years of mothering.  And, I will always hear my sister's laughter as we helped each other through tough times with humor and caring.  There are so many times when I want to call her up to share something funny, and then sadly realize that she is gone.

At lunch yesterday with an old school chum, I listened as he talked about the loving influences of his father and grandfather.   In perfect German, he repeated a phrase his grandfather had often used as they sat at the dinner table -- this phrase lives on in his heart.

While I am fortunate that most of the voices I hear are encouraging and loving, there are some who are not so fortunate.  The voices they hear may be critical or cruel --  these "not-so-good" voices also linger with us.  It is important to remember as we go through life that our words carry tremendous power over our loved ones.  We should strive to be sure the voices our children and grandchildren hear will be uplifting and loving.

I have a strong faith that assures me I will one day be reunited with those I have loved and lost, but in the meantime, these voices in my heart keep them close, perhaps even more so during the holidays when we miss them so much.  As we gathered around the table on Thanksgiving I could hear my mother-in-law's laughter echoing through our conversations.  I could picture her sitting there making sure everything was passed around the table promptly and making sure everyone had second helpings.  And, even as I missed her, I felt her spirit with us on this special day.  I only wish we could have had her delicious stuffing -- no one will ever make stuffing as good as Mom's.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Am I Doing This????

I stand at the kitchen sink at my son's house, gazing out at the sunny November afternoon.  It has been a crazy morning -- driving Alivia and Luke to preschool and back, with each of them responsible for bringing snack this week for their respective classes required extra trips into the building with bags of snacks and bottled water, while carrying my robust, seven-month old Emma.  Finally, as morning drew to a close, we arrived back home, and I prepared our usual lunch of macaroni & cheese and carrot sticks with dip.  Now, after washing three little faces, changing a very dirty diaper, and settling three little ones into bed for nap, I am cleaning up the kitchen and scrubbing stuck-on cheese from plates and spoons.  

I feel a bit of deja vu -- I have been here before; I am sixty years old, and I spent twenty-seven years raising my own three children.  Why am I doing this again?

I do this so these precious grandchildren will know the constancy of loving arms and the value of their own uniqueness.  Our days are filled with conversations and questions -- I want the answers they hear to reflect our family values and beliefs.  I want them to enter the larger world with an unshakeable sense of their self-worth.  I want them to realize their gifts and also their vulnerabilities, and know that their actions affect others.  

We live in a culture where children are bullied in school and online, and they often do not tell their parents.  I want my grandchildren to know that they can tell us anything, and that we will help them through anything.  I want to instill a deep sense of family bonds.  I listen to their many questions -- and some of them are difficult to articulate so listening requires patience -- but often their questions are deep and require thoughtful answers.  I want these answers to be mine -- not a babysitter's or a day care worker's.  

On the way to school today we had a discussion about Heaven -- were our dog and cat who recently died playing together in Heaven?  And, what would happen if they were playing with other dogs and cats who didn't like them?  And, then, Alivia asked me if, when she grows up and has babies, her own mother will take care of them while Alivia works, because she will be a grandma then.  The questions go on and on -- both Luke and Alivia are deep thinkers.  

I barely finish the lunch dishes, and I hear Luke coming slowly down the stairs -- he hasn't been able to fall asleep -- so, I sit down on the stair, put my arm around him and tell him he has to be really quiet so he doesn't wake Alivia and Emma.  Then I snuggle him in my arms in a cozy chair and read to him as we wait for the others to wake up.      

Most of the time I am bone-tired by evening.  Since the closing of our business and resulting bankruptcy, I don't even have the money to order pizza when I come home exhausted.  People ask why I don't get a real job.  But, I don't think there is anything I could be doing that would be more worthwhile than what I do now.  Each time I look into the eyes of these children, I know I have made the right decision.  Whatever life holds in store for them -- both the good and the bad -- they will have known the love and security of a grandmother's care.  And my words will linger in their hearts forever.