Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chatting with Grandma

I spent about an hour on the phone with my grandma the other night. I've always loved her (I've been very blessed in the grandma department), but she was someone I never thought of myself as being very similar to when I was child.

Now that I'm old enough to be more self-aware, I laugh occasionally at the similarities I do see: she talks too fast and often laughs before finishing a sentence, so that people sometimes have a hard time understanding what she's saying; she's very independent-minded and terribly stubborn, never taking well to having others tell her what she can or can't do; she has a tendency to oversimplify things she doesn't want to deal with; for all her boldness within the family, she's actually rather shy by nature; she loves kids, especially babies; she's loves photos--taking them, having them, looking through them over and over again.

There is a comfort and ease in talking to her that comes from the fact that, at the end of the day, two things really matter to her: the Gospel and her family. Everything in her life is seen, processed and judged through that perspective, and she has a hard time understanding how anyone can get through life, much less enjoy it, without those two things at the center. There have been times when I've felt like my grandma didn't get enough credit--she's not terribly articulate by nature or training and is as flawed as anybody else, so it seemed that at times perhaps her understanding of certain things was underestimated.

But the last few years, its been hard to take her faith for granted. She had already faced a lot of trials, notable among them a very rocky 38-year marriage that ended in divorce, the death of one of her sons just after birth, and the death of another son when he was a young adult. After a lot of heartache, it seemed like she'd finally found an even keel: she was married for a third time, and this time was sealed. I will never forget the impression it made on me a few years into her marriage to Clark when she said, "He's a companion to me." She had loved my grandfather a great deal, but that was a type of relationship that she'd never had. The peace it brought to her was obvious in her demeanor and temperament. And then she lost a daughter to murder, and felt very much like she'd also lost a grandson, her head spinning in circles trying to understand how he could've done such a thing. And then she had to bury the eternal companion she had waited so long to find. And now she has luekemia.

Through it all, she's been sad, and she's had her moments of grumbling, but she's been calm and generally happy. When I talked to her, she was telling me that she needed to work on her attitude, because it was hard not to be grumpy about being so doggone tired all the time (at the moment, I can certainly relate to that frustration--I'm very grateful there's a timeline on my fatigue and that its much less severe), and she was pretty grumpy about the fact that she was probably going to have to do another bone marrow test, because that big needle in her bone sure hurts. "But I know my disposition makes a lot of difference," she told me, "So I'm going to be positive." She sounded pretty determined. "I've got really good grandkids," she went on. "Christabel was here the other day, and then Gwendolyn stopped by yesterday. They're good company, they're good girls." She went on about how grateful she was that her grandkids and great-grandkids are all healthy and strong and smart and live relatively good lives. She realizes that with the number of descendants she has, the odds are that more should've gone wrong, and it hasn't. Such a positive outlook from a woman who has buried three of her own children--a fact that would be enough to make many women (understandably) morose or pessimistic. She's got a healthy, happy family who love her, and that's all that matters. It really seems her only disappointments are where her kids or grandkids have stepped outside the Church, but even in that she's optimistic. "He's still young. I was stupid sometimes when I was young."

And I guess that's what Grandma always reminds me, whether she intends to or not: a loving family and the Gospel are bound to make one optimistic. The Gospel helps you see the best in your family, and reminds you always that the best thing in life is family. If you stick together and do the right thing, there's a very bright future to look forward to, and a lot of fun to be enjoyed along the way. After all, as President Packer is fond of saying, "Salvation is an individual matter. Exaltation is a family matter." I'm glad to have a Grandma who makes me mindful of that.

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