Monday, November 17, 2008

A tribute to ordinary

My grandma is still with us but we're already planning her funeral...with her. It feels a little weird, a little special, and very hard.

My mom asked me if I would start preparing to share some memories. I don't really have specific story-like memories of Grandma because all our times together were so ordinary. My women's group encouraged me to just start writing the ordinary. So here we go.

I remember:

- Sitting at Grandma's kitchen island in Brandon on Boxing Day in my new shiny, yet itchy nightgown and watching her prepare breakfast.

- Walking through canola fields in Boissevain with Grandma helping her pull wild oats from the seed crop, the way she half disappeared in the yellow flowers, how she looked in her old straw hat.

- Riding overnight in the backseat with Grandma on the way to visit my aunts in Calgary. She folded my blanket under and wrapped it around my neck because she said that's how her own children had wanted to be tucked in. I still sleep that way.

- Grandma taking me to a one room cabin with no plumbing and me complaining the whole time about how people on my dad's side took me to bigger, nicer cabins. I must have hurt her feelings but she didn't say anything.

- Sitting in front of her bookshelf and reading her old books for hours. One was about a girl who went to university and said no to the pressure of drugs and alcohol. That book shaped my view of drinking and drugs (in a good way-I avoided them)...and university (not so good-I never went).

- Talking for hours with Grandma the times she stayed over while my parents went on holidays. When I was a boy-crazy teenager and my parents were the ones afraid to be seen in public with me, Grandma listened patiently to my stories about the boys at school, and instead of telling me I was too young for boys, shared with me about her love for Grandpa.

- Staying at Grandma's when I was very young, I think after one of my brother's was born. Playing playdough with her at the diningroom table and building block pyramids in Grandpa's study when they were pastoring in Manitou.

- Climbing around and pretending I was the pastor in the old church on their farmyard in Boissevain, by then converted into a storage area, until they told me it wasn't safe. Carrying cats up the 4 foot high stacks of grainsacks in the big shed and sitting up there for hours daydreaming. The church is gone but that shed and the little office inside it still look and smell like they did when Grandpa was working and whistling inside.

- Sitting with Grandma in the front pew of their church listening to Grandpa preach, loving the sound of his voice and wishing I would always remember what he said, but knowing I wouldn't.

- Celebrating my tenth birthday at their farm and having everyone making a big deal of it. Going to the beach.

- The feeling I got walking into her kitchen on the farm at Christmas. Playing under her ornate wood dining table. Being afraid of falling down the laundry chute. Peeking through the hole in the office wall made for the phone.

- Going to the ice cream shop at the end of the dirt road. Never knowing which flavour to get. Driving her crazy with my indecisiveness.

- The way she stubbornly won't believe K. had a disability. The way she looks at him and calls him her special boy and always believes through love and prayer he'll turn out just fine.

For better or worse, I've inherited Margaret Froese's sense of humour, work ethic, anxious spirit, love of books, stubbornness, and servant's heart. I may not have long, unique, or fascinating stories to tell about her, but I have moments. And feelings.

And the beauty of the ordinary.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I've been preparing for winter lately. In more than one way.

There's the obvious - pulling up carrots, raking, packing away my lawn furniture (between my freezer and washing machine since I don't have a garage). We've been lucky this year with a long, warm fall. I don't know how many conversations I've had on the schoolyard that start, "This may be our last nice day..." And every nice day is filled with one more rake or one more mow or one more hour of sitting outside thinking this may be my last hour outside without windburn.

I'm still not ready; there's work left to do. There are more annuals to pull out (but they're still blooming!) and I'm told my lawnmower needs to be drained. (Oh goody, I get to smell like gasoline one more time.) And I'm not ready to let go. To trade the crunch of leaves for the crunch of snow. The colours of flowers and maple leaves, for grey, sanded streets and yellow snow. The warm sun for the biting blizzards. To watch nature around me die and be buried.

Another way I've been preparing for winter is by spending time with biblical dudes like Jonah and Hosea. That's because I'm going to be teaching Bible college again in January. The march toward winter for me means less and less time for late night Starbucks runs and House reruns, and more and more time for writing lectures, creating Powerpoints, and printing handouts. Letting go of my relaxing, balanced, organized life (and home!) and being stretched yet again. I'm not ready.

I wish it was only my free time and flowers that are dying. In September, when I blogged about explaining Terry Fox's cancer to my frightened daughter, I couldn't have known that my Grandma, who had recently fallen ill, would be diagnosed with terminal cancer one month later. Every time we visit she seems a little smaller, a little weaker, a little more medicated. Every time I leave I think, this may be our last time together. That's stretching me in ways I'm not ready to be stretched.

It's hard to watch the colours fade and something of beauty slip away. I see it every year in Manitoba. But never like this one.