Joy in Odd Places

2:55 PM

I'm just gonna fess up here and admit that I rarely look forward to traveling, unless it's for vacations. It's just too much of a hassle to pile the kids in with all their gear and wait for the inevitable moment when one starts wailing and needs to be held or fed or changed or comforted. And it's usually Kyle. Just kidding. But it is always something. Not to mention schedules getting off track. And I'm not as schedule-bound as many people. But still, a nap is a necessity.

So, today, Kyle and I planned to drive about an hour south and visit his Grandmother. I dearly love this lady - 88 years old and not on a single medication. Unbelievable. She is sharp as a tack and feisty to boot. She remembers the name of every single relative she's ever had and can pretty much tell you to the minute what they are doing or have done. She is wonderful at keeping in touch. And she loved her husband, Chris, so much that it still hurts my heart to see her without him.

He died when Kyle and I were in college. In fact, I had just met him for the first time. Kyle and I had been dating for awhile, and he and I both knew it was pretty much the real deal. And I had gone to lunch after church with his family since his grandparents were in town. Chris Floyd was a big, tall man with a wise face and a ready, gentle smile. I don't think there' s a single, solitary negative thing to say about that man. And for me, nervous enough as it was to be eating lunch with Kyle's parents, he had a way about him that calmed my soul. I really knew I would like him.

As everyone filed out of the restaurant to their respective cars, we exchanged hugs with Grandma Alice and her husband, Chris. As he leaned down to hug me, he whispered in my ear, "I think you're real pretty." And not in a creepy way, but in an incredibly sweet, encouraging way. I felt like I'd received a seal of approval from him and it meant more to me than I can say.

Not long after I met Chris, Kyle received the sudden, shocking news that his grandfather had suffered a heart attack and was dead. It was devastating. I felt so blessed to have met him and mourned his loss after just that one meeting.

It wasn't until after Kyle and I got married that I really got to know his Grandma Alice, as she calls herself. I would ask her question after question about herself, her upbringing, her relationship with Chris, how they met, how she dealt with living alone when he went off to war (WW2), how she felt when their eldest son was killed in a car accident, how she coped, how she loved her husband, their trips across the country with their good friends...she is a geneologist's dream! We would sit side by side on her couch and flip through her photo albums as she identified without hesitation every person she saw, giving an account of everyone's background. It was fascinating!

One of my favorite things to do is get her talking about her husband. It's a telling thing. She speaks of him in such glowing terms, still very much in love with the man who will have been dead 13 years this fall. She had been married to him for 52 years when he died, and this woman loved her husband. Deeply. I noticed something early on when she would speak of him: she always called him Chris. Which, first of all, is an un-grandfatherly name, if you think about it. My own grandfathers were Fred and Bud. Well, Bud was really a nickname, but still. And manyt grandparents stop referring to their spouses by their first name and at some point start referring to them the way theirchildren do: as Daddy or Momma or Mother... It said something to me that she always referred to him by his first name. That's how she saw him: as her Chris. First and foremost her Chris, then a daddy to her sons. It moves me to think of such passion lasting for so long. So, before long, hearing so many stories told by Grandma Alice, I began to think of Kyle's grandfather as Chris.

Over the years, she and I began to exchange letters. I supply her with stacks of books as reading material, she calls to check on her great-grandbabies and not often enough, we visit her. And today was one such day. And I was not looking forward to it because this is a crazy week for me and I just saw my big to do list not getting done. I know, a bad attitude. I confess.

And as usual, God moves in mysterious ways and by the end of the visit, softened my heart like a ripe banana. When we walked in her door, seeing her face light up when Brooklyn ran to give her a hug and August, well, August drooled on her, that made it all worth any missed to do list items.

As I was changing August's diaper, I noticed a skinny little vacuum propped against the wall. I had heard about how hard it was getting for her to vacuum her little house, so I thought I'd try to do it for her. Turns out that her little vacuum isn't working right, so I had to pull out the old mamma jamma. A hefty piece of construction that almost put MY back out shoving it across the carpet. I think it loosened up after a few minutes, but boy - it was like pushing a tank across frozen tundra at first!

So I vacuumed her house while she and Kyle and the kids played on her living room rug. And I found my heart being filled with joy. I never mind vacuuming, but it was the act of being able to serve this precious lady in a way that really meant something to her. I know she loves a clean house and it bugs her to feel like she can't keep it up. So then I dusted all her baseboards, and got kind of carried away and started dusting EVERYTHING! And wiping down walls...and at some point, Kyle put on a CD with old gospel music and I found myself singing along to hymns that I surprisingly remembered. And August fell asleep laying on Grandma's lap. And Brooklyn played quietly with her toys on the floor. And inside that little house, for a few hours, all was well. I truly enjoyed getting down on my hand and knees and finding dirt to clean. It was an honest act of love and it did my heart good. Joy. It finds you in odd places. Sometimes on your hands and knees, scrubbing baseboards.

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  1. That is so cool, Ash. For real. My heart just leapt a little while reading this.

  2. I just love you Ashley. You have such a gift in writing!! Whenever I read your blog, I feel like I am reading a good book. You always inspire me in some way. Loved reading about your visit with Kyle's grandmother. You are such a wise woman at such a young age. I wish I could spend more time with you...hopefully this summer around the pool!! Lisa

  3. P.S. I need Lisa's email address when you get a chance. I love that woman!

  4. Your writing never lets me down. Sounds like a great visit.