Tag Archiv: grandmother

Walking towards grace

Millet__the_Walk_to_Work

The Walk to Work, by Jean-François Millet. 1851

 

The black flies always drive me out of the woods by June. This is usually the end of my quiet walks for a few months. Not expecting much, but missing the walking time, I tried a route along the road this year. It was different than the woods, but to my surprise, I really liked it. On lucky days the litter and the cars are fewer, but regardless, the sky is always bigger.

My mom was a walker. Often by herself, but almost everywhere we lived, I remember places that we walked together. She probably got it from her parents, who walked twice a day, often for a good two miles, well into their eighties. When I picture my mother or grandmother, I picture them drinking tea or taking a walk.

People who meet us together often consider my husband the quiet one. Depending on the situation, he can be happy to let me do the talking. But when it’s just the two of us, I can be lucky to get a word in edgewise. Without intending to this summer, we’ve made a habit of an after dinner walk together. It’s nice on lots of counts, but the biggest is how much easier it is to feel connected to each other.

There is something about walking that is hard to put your finger on. Cars, dogs, and people intersect our time without intruding on our space together. Curiously, the circle of togetherness feels both small and big. Walking with my husband, I feel connected to my mom, my grandparents . . .  and it probably sounds crazy, but people in general. I walk, listening intently of course, to recaps of NPR, ESPN, etc. Meanwhile pictures of people walking amble through my head. Not just my heroes, the pioneers, but escaping people, exploring people, refugees. Mothers with babies on their backs, teenagers holding hands, tired people, laughing people, amazed people. All kinds of people go through my head. I think again of the man beside me. How much he drives me completely out of my mind. What a gift it is to be an us. The mystery of imperfect love. The kindness of slow time. How much simpler, easier it is to listen here on the side of the road.

Humans, I learned, walk about 3 miles an hour. A friend recently walked from Ottawa to Montreal, which took twelve days. Afterwards she was struck by the speed of car rides. She said all she could think sitting there was, “Why would anyone want to go this fast? You can hardly see anything like this.”

She’s right. You see things when you walk. You hear things. Walking alone, there are windows to wholeness and peace that pass my understanding. (Alone walking is where I bring my disordered fragments for realignment.) Walking together, a doorway opens between the separateness of souls. We walk, like breathing, without thinking about it. Unhurried space that is both ordinary and intimate. Gallons of water, misunderstood, assumed, taken for granted, criticized, and frustrated, have gone under the bridge (along with a few cats, some kids, missing tax receipts and a broken lawn mower) by the time we walk each day. It doesn’t all get said but it all gets sorted out. Because baptized in the shared humanity of 3 mph, we hear and see each other as friends.

Telling Time

file3781234627947I haven’t had much use for watches in recent years. Having nothing on my wrist has been preferable to having something. I balk at the stranglehold that seconds and minutes seem to have on us. Arbitrary designations to which we’ve given the power to judge the value of people.

A little more than a year ago, my paternal grandmother died. Set aside for me was a Bulova watch, a gift given to her by my grandfather. The watch was pretty but simple, not too big, and it didn’t have a clasp to scratch at my wrist. I liked it. It sat in my top drawer declaring the wrong time for a year, while I vacillated between mild interest and pining.

I know what I want for Christmas, I said to my husband finally. Take that watch to town and see if they still make batteries to fit it. Christmas morning, I unwrapped the watch. No battery required, you wind it, the jeweler had explained. My heart leapt the way it does when something that is old moves into my life. The love affair was official now. I began to wear a watch.

My grandmother was a woman who tried very hard. People who loved her have mixed feelings about her and usually a lot of them. Some of what people admired about her was about how hard she tried. To love God, to be a good person. I don’t know if she succeeded in these worthy goals. It isn’t mine to judge. The impact of the hurt and anger that she carried has echoed loudly through the generations. I look at my wrist and consider the painful parts of legacy. Why I wonder, am I wearing her watch?

Am I ignoring the emotional swaths cut into those she loved? Does it matter, I ask myself, how much you love Jesus, if your self-imposed burden to get everyone else to love him too, and the fear that you might fail makes you cruel and unkind?

Grandma’s flaws I do not deny. Despite my generous rending of their mention, few who knew her would approve my noting them at all. But I loved her. I still do.

I am not unlike my grandmother. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think I am turning into her (sadly minus the ample bosom). The watch on my wrist is a gift of lessons. My flesh and blood, so in need of the mercy she was unable to offer, wore this watch. I will wear it, and people that I love will fail. They will fail themselves, and they will fail me too. My first reactions one through twenty will be a defense of offense. Choose mercy, my watch says.  Stop keeping tallies. Be the woman who forgets what she can and forgives the rest.