|Grandma and Grandpa|
I went to church with Grandma every Sunday starting from the age of nine. I would watch her get dressed to the nines in her peach, white or black skirt suits, pill box hat, wig and sensible heels; smelling vaguely of Vicks vapor rub, Jergens lotion and knock off perfume. That smell was like heaven to me.
We would walk solemnly into her large, mostly Caribbean, Anglican church. She with her shoulders back, head held high. Me ,fidgeting and antsy, dreading the two hour service and having to sit still in the pew. She would say hello to all her old lady friends. So proud to be in the company of her countrymen and women, worshiping the Lord.
When I think of those days I can see the freshly polished wood pews, shining in the glow of the church lights. Smell the sweet, smoky incense that lingered in the air when the altar boys swung the censer ahead of the priest. Hear my Grandma whispering with her eyes closed, "Yes, Lord." and "Thank You Jesus."
And the music! The choir would do that beautiful call and response to the tune of the organ...
Kyrie eleison (Lord, Have Mercy)
Christe eleison (Christ, Have Mercy)
No one could tell me the angels didn't sound exactly like that.
I would look over at my Grandma and she was just so happy. I didn't, couldn't, understand that kind of joy as a child. There was so much stress and drama going on at home for me then that I only ever felt like a normal little girl with my Grandparents. Away from it all.
When the collection came around Grandma would hand me a crinkled dollar bill to put in the plate...always. Inevitably, if I behaved myself, she would produce a sweet candy from her purse. She probably always carried them but it seemed to me at the time that she only ever had them on Sundays. After church we would retire to the rectory for tiny corn beef sandwiches and Kool Aid. Nothing tasted better to me....then or since.
At home in the evenings, I would watch her read her large Bible for what seemed like hours but was probably 15 minutes at most. Then, right before bed, she would place it face up under her pillow as if the words would seep into her brain by osmosis during the night. And maybe they did.
My Grandma has been gone a few years now but what she gave me was so priceless. She taught me about reverence. Reverence for God that I took with me, tucked somewhere in my soul. When a cab struck me at 12, it was God and Grandma that I cried out for. A few months before she died, I went to visit her in her home in Brooklyn. I was 22 years old, finishing up college and looking forward to whatever was next. I hadn't seen her in a while and she was noticeably weaker. My Grandfather had died of a brain aneurysm a few years before and she lived by herself.
She was just about to take a shower when I stopped by unannounced. I offered to help and she waved me off. A few minutes later I heard her calling for help and rushed to the bathroom. She needed me after all and she wasn't happy about it. I was determined to make the experience all business so she wouldn't feel bad. I got to soaping and washing, trying to make small talk.
Soon she was in tears, "Look how I used to wash you and now you're washing me." I reassured her that I was happy to do it and that I didn't mind. Later, back in my own space, I reflected on the moment and let loose the tears that I held back in her presence. I know the time we spent together that day was a gift from God.
When I discovered God for myself I carried her lessons of faith with me. I'm familiar with that silent place she went to as she sat in the pew. I catch myself whispering, "Yes, Lord" and "Thank You Jesus." I'm pretty sure I'll be placing my Bible face up under my pillow someday soon.
What lessons have your parents/grandparents taught you that still stick with you today?