This month I am living in an old familiar way: two pre-teen girls in the house and up to 7 neighbor kids whirling around at any given time - meaning constant cleaning, negotiating, laughing, cooking and handing out freezies. But while all this is going on I am aware it is temporary, (thank God!) and even in the middle of the chaos I feel like I am watching from the edges, from the outside.
Sandwiched between ten year old problems and squeals of joy I stand on the porch and listen to the reserved voice of Joe, husband to Nancy, my first adult woman friend. She lies beside him, sedated with morphine, unable to speak for herself, so Joe and I speak for her. He reads me a letter her 35 year old son penned to her, to hold her soul until he can arrive by her bed to speak for himself. We both cry.
I am past growing and now aging, with my generation. Like the plants in my garden I am acutely aware that old plants give way to young new growth. We who are aging are not essential as far as the future of humanity is concerned. Or are we?
As a gramma who is almost able to order off the 'seniors menu' I am coming to understand my role as something like a ballast. My chance now is to live in such as way as to stabilize and calm the way for those who are rowing like mad to keep the ship going. This means, among many other things, it is not a time for me to be unstable. My issues mustn't drive every conversation and encounter. Somewhere along the way I had to grow up or I cannot be a calming, gentle presence.
Recently I received this picture from my dear daughter in law, Kari, wife of Ben. Take note of the yellow log-cabin quilt covering the girl on the left.
This quilt was stitched by the hands of a large comfortable farmer's wife named Elizabeth Gitzel. Made from natural fabric and sewn with care, it was a gift to cover our son Jordan when he was born. The quilt has travelled across provinces, been slept on and walked on and wrapped around more than a few babies. Now it is covering my precious grandkids who are sleeping in Bandung, Indonesia.
I am thinking as I absorb this picture that Elizabeth was one of the old women who calmed my soul, whose presence in the margins of my life made it possible for me to believe my life could be done. She was not the only woman who gave me this kind of gift. And the quilt was not the only gift she gave me. Nothing of what she gave was intrusive or demanding. None of it had to do with her, really.
So when I see this quilt wrapped around my beautiful baby girl I feel a sense of satisfaction - that maybe I am passing on gifts that make the future slightly surer for them. The challenges my adult kids face are impossible for me to comprehend. But I will keep standing in the margins, taking care of my own issues, and sending them signs of hope and calm.
This week I am doing that by loving my granddaughters while Rae and Curtis take a rest. I am not 'mom'. Steve is not 'dad'. But Mimi and Papa can be pretty good stand-ins for a while. It's another way of sewing a quilt.