No good deed goes unpunished.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you Jimmy (not his real name). I’ve spanked you over and over, but you can’t seem to straighten up.” Grandpa looks at Jimmy as if to invite a suggestion from him. After an intentionally uncomfortable silence he continues, “I guess we just keep spanking you until you catch on.”
“Wait.” This was Grandma’s voice. “Don’t spank him. I’ll take his spanking for him.”
You could have knocked Grandpa over with a feather. The man who had an answer for everything was caught without words. His eyes were searching hers for a clue about what she was pulling. No answer there. His next thought was to send Jimmy out in the hallway so he could have a word with his wife, but something in her eyes let him know he was going to have to deal with this one as-is, where-is.
Grandpa was beginning to relate to the uncomfortable silence he had imposed on Jimmy earlier. He knew action was required, but how in the world does he deal with his wife’s offer to stand in for Jimmy and take his spanking? It finally came to him. The answer was simple. Every kid on the place knew that discipline was handed out in private. This was no exception. Grandma would receive Jimmy’s spanking in private. “Well, alright then. Jimmy, you head on home. We’ll stay here and deal with your punishment.”
It was then that Grandpa finally saw the look on Jimmy’s face. He was all-in. He had skipped right past the feelings of relief and straight to the shock and horror of Grandma taking his spanking. He hated spankings, but the pain was temporary. There was something inside him that was not temporary. It was the unexplained drive to cut against the grain. The thought of Grandma bending over Grandpa’s desk and feeling the sting of his paddle was different. It’s not right. He can’t spank her! She’s the sweetest person he had ever met! Jimmy’s eyes filled with tears.
Grandpa had spanked Jimmy several times, but the tough little bugger never once let on that it hurt. He seemed to calculate that the crime would be worth the punishment, but this was different. He could see in Jimmy’s eyes the sting of punishment that had never resulted from any of his many spankings.
That was the last time Jimmy was in Grandpa’s office for discipline. He was a changed kid.
Grandma loved. That was what she did. It was her job. It was her life. She loved. She was good at it too. She seemed to know what someone needed in order to feel loved. Most everyone has heard about the “Love Languages.” Grandma spoke them all.
If you continue reading my blog, you will find stories about her. The common thread in those stories will be her love.
Several years ago she began to struggle with independence. She was taking care of Grandpa as he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but she began to struggle too. When we finally moved them out of their little apartment and in to my parents’ house we found little evidences of her lapses in cognitive ability. As Grandpa deteriorated further they were separated. In her mind, he was on a mission trip to Mexico. She was happy with that. She would pray for him. She would wait to hear about how it was going down there. It worked.
After Grandpa passed, Grandma slipped further. She became unmanageable. As much as my mom hated to do it, she had to place Grandma in a home. She did her homework and found a place that specialized in patients like her, had a sterling reputation for actually caring for their patients, and would take the coverage that Grandma had left. It was 30 minutes away, but the quality care was worth it.
One day I was in the area and stopped in to see her. She was eating supper in the dining room. She was holding a teddy bear. Her look was empty. I talked to her and touched her hoping to see some of my grandma in there. I asked her if she remembered the trip to Alaska. I asked if she remembered all of our foot races across the parking lots to the grocery store entrance. I asked her if she remembered giving me pink panties for Christmas and how that made me cry. Nothing.
She wasn’t there. I felt like I had gone to her home for dinner and knocked on the door of her empty home. That’s the day I said good-bye to Grandma. I gave her a hug and made my way to the door. I got in my work van and cried. I mourned her passing. I howled. I couldn’t stop. That was the day my grandma died in my mind.
I never went back. There was no use. She wasn’t there anyway. Why would I go torture myself when she didn’t even know I was there.
I spent way too much time pitying her. I began to get mad at God. Here was a woman who had spent her life serving Him. She gave love as freely as God did Himself. Why then would he imprison her for the final chapter of her life? What’s right about that? What’s fair about that?
One evening it came to me. I was looking at it all wrong. I had assumed that Grandma was imprisoned in there unable to get out…unable to respond…unable to call for help. But what if I was wrong.
All of the evidence pointed to something different. She was in there alright but not like a person who awakens inside a buried casket. She was a child. She was innocent again. She was playing. That teddy bear wasn’t the pathetic substitution for the family that was no longer gathered in her home eating her home cooked meal. That teddy bear was her teddy bear. God was rewarding her with a second childhood.
Think back to your favorite childhood memories. What were you doing? Probably playing. For me it was outside, usually in a tree, with the sun shining and the wind blowing. I wasn’t worried about lunch. Mom worried about that. I wasn’t worried about the car. Dad worried about that. I just played. It was actual freedom.
That’s where Grandma was. After years of caring for children so they could play and enjoy their childhood it was her turn. It was her turn to play while someone else worried about the grown-up stuff.
This changed everything for me. Instead of pity I had joy.