“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
When I was a little girl, around nine or so, granny was really sick. She had one tumultuous and unhappy stomach. A tumor, hernia, and ulcer all took up residence in there. She often rolled around on the floor in pain.
“Ohhhhhhh Lordie have mercy on my soul,” she’d say over and over as she rubbed her stomach. She didn’t want me to see her that way.
“J, do you promise to be a good girl?” she’d ask me.
“Yes.” I’d answer, thinking God, I promise to be good if you make my granny alright.
“OK. Why don’t you go watch TV.”
Granny usually did not allow me to watch television until I had finished my homework. But, I guess she thought Hill Street Blues would be a better distraction than fractions and decimal points.
What could I do or say to make her feel better? I would open the Bible to the 23rd Psalms or the Our Father Prayer, lay it on her stomach, rub her body with olive oil, and pray. She would drift off to sleep.
I remember the first time I saw granny cry. It was also the first time I heard the word “foreclosure.” Granny had fallen behind in her mortgage payments and had received a letter from the bank saying it was going to foreclose on our home. The home granny brought me to when I was just 31 days old. The home I had lived in all my life. Where would we go? Were we going to be homeless? Granny prayed for relief in between her tears. A church in Florida took up an offering and sent the money to my granny. Years later, we’re still going strong in our home.
Every New Year’s Eve, granny and I used to write two letters to God – one thanking Him for all the blessings He had bestowed upon us and the other detailing our requests for the upcoming year. I thanked God and prayed for all types of things: granny’s health, a boyfriend, new clothes, good grades, the coveted spot of class valedictorian, admission to the high school or college of my choice, a million bucks, friends, relief from bullies and their impending torture at the hands of Satan . . . .
Dear God, I thank you for letting my mother live to see another year. God, please keep her safe and make her stop using drugs, I’d write every year. She’s still alive, and currently drug-free. We’re still working on her “Just Say No to Illicit Activities” campaign, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
After my marathon laundry session on Saturday, I found granny standing at the dining room table cutting cabbage, and peeling and slicing sweet potatoes for her candied yams.
“Ahhh sookie sookie. Granny poo is in a good mood tonight! Look at you cooking. You go girl!” I said to her.
Granny was certainly having a good night. She couldn’t figure out how to put her dentures in, but the cooking part of her brain was working just fine.
“J, I forgot how to put my teeth in. I do it everyday, but I just forgot.” she told me while probing at them in her hand as if they were a science experiment. I know as much about dentures as I do about driving space shuttles. Together, we examined the partial, matching up parts of it to spaces in her lower gums. With her teeth securely in place, granny moved on to the larger task of cooking. She moved swiftly between the kitchen and dining room. I followed closely behind her, watching to see exactly how she made her cabbage and candied yams. On most nights, granny says to me, “J, what are we gonna have for dinner?” which is granny talk for “J, I’m hungry. What are you making for dinner?” When she has her “moments,” she often forgets to eat, doesn’t have an appetite, or gets side tracked by conversations and prayer meetings with the invisible people. I found out the hard way that the key to convincing her to eat is to cook her food the way she would make it. Otherwise, she’ll take one bite and just let it sit there – even if your feelings are hurt and her stomach is howling.
While granny kept busy, I surveyed the table and walked into the kitchen to make sure everything was normal. Everything appeared intact. No strange mixtures, no unidentified floating objects in pans. Granny’s macaroni and cheese fiasco a couple of months ago still had me on edge.
“J, the food’s ready!” she yelled up the stairs to me.
My mouth watered and I was ready for some of granny’s mac and cheese.
Upon seeing it, however, I was immediately wary of the soupy, salmon colored, boiled and unbaked macaroni concoction sitting on the table. I didn’t even see any cheese in the pan. Granny had begun eating, just as satisfied and content as she could be. I ate a spoonful, frowned up my face and spit it into a napkin.
“Granny, did you put Thousand Island dressing and relish in the macaroni?”
With her fork in mid-air, she looked at the pan, and said “How do you know?”
Her response was typical of the guilty. Don’t deny or proclaim your innocence. Just see what incriminating evidence exists before incriminating yourself. My suspicion was rising by the second.
“Cus’ the macaroni looks and tastes like a bowl of salad dressing!” I said and laughed.
“Chile, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m sorry. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it. I’ll eat it. ”
I don’t know what she was thinking either. It was just hilarious that she had set the pan on the table, as if it were edible and ready to be served. I ended up throwing it away. I couldn’t let granny eat that. That would have been a textbook case of elder abuse.
I made some chicken and rice to go along with granny’s cabbage and candied yams. A good meal was had by all – her, our invisible tenants, and me!
Granny and I are going to Alaska! Granny’s friend has a son who now lives in there, so we’re going to visit him, his wife and infant son. Alaska, watch out for the granny patrol!
Granny has always been obsessed with the idea of going there.
“Wow, can you imagine it being dark twenty-four hours a day? Lord, I’d love to see that!” she always says.
But, sometimes her memory gets the best of her.
“Ooh chile, I’m going to . . .” she bragged to her friend on the telephone one night. “Where are we going again?” granny asked me in mid-sentence.
“Now look missy, you can’t go somewhere and not even remember where you’re going!” I said with a laugh. “We’re going to Alaska!”
We’re going to have a lay over in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Granny, maybe we’ll find us a husband in Utah. Maybe you, me and Clara can share the same husband and we’ll be sister wives!” I jokingly told her.
“Ohhhh, wouldn’t that be sumthin? I go to Alaska and get married!” Granny, I was just joking. Slow ya roll lil’ lady! I think I had better watch granny very closely!
Although it’s only December, granny has already gone into preparation mode.
“Thomas said we betta wait till we get there to buy our clothes, cus Alaska’s winters are not like our winters.”
Thomas has never even been to Alaska, so I don’t know why granny would listen to his traveling advice.
“Granny, why would you want to spend your vacation shopping for clothes to wear on your vacation? And we don’t have anyone to chauffeur us around. Chris has to work.”
“Well, his wife will be there.”
“So? What makes you think she wants to schlep us around all day? Besides, it won’t be that cold when we get there.”
Granny has now caught the travel bug, and is planning future trips to all sorts of random and not-so-random places.
“The Lord said I was gonna travel and that my older days would be better than my younger days!” she told Clara. “I’m gonna go to Rome and Japan too!” Granny, let’s just get to Alaska first. She’s always had an affinity for Japan, because my brother was stationed there while in the military. However, I don’t how she came up with Rome? Was it mentioned in the Bible or something?
My biggest fear is that granny won’t even know where or who she is eight months from now. But, that’s a chance I’m willing to take if this trip makes her happy and gives her something to look forward to.
At the end of the movie The Preacher’s Wife, a little boy tries to convince his father that an angel named Dudley (played by Denzel Washington) exists and once lived in their home. However, the dad does not believe him.
The son responds to his father, saying “Just because you can’t see the air doesn’t keep you from breathing. And just because you can’t see God doesn’t keep you from believing.”
His father replied, “Son, that’s what we call faith.”