Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 265 - 100 Days to Go

Dear friends,

My Grammie Champagne (later Maziarz) was one of a kind. Raised during the depression, by parents who didn’t express much in the way of affection, she was a pretty tough character on the outside. She married 4 times, all to alcoholics who abused her. (Grandpa Champagne later quit drinking and was a dear, kind soul). Her last husband, Mickey, was the nicest guy when he wasn’t drunk. My grandmother was very good to me, and I loved her greatly. She lived in a trailer park and I lived with her for a short time. She had the best vegetable garden ever in the tiniest space you could imagine. Mickey made Polish goulash from the peppers, tomatoes and garlic in that pipsqueak plot. ( I’ve never been able to duplicate that delicious stew. I think he had some kind of Polish magic he threw in there to make it taste the way it did.) My grandmother taught herself how to knit, crochet, tat, embroider, sew and play piano. She was no nonsense, and when I asked her how I looked she would always reply “you’ll pass with a push”. She was forever trying to get me to wear panty hose (dreadful things, I hate them to this day), and she was frustrated that I was a tomboy. She yelled at me for leaving lights on, and said someday I would understand when I had to pay my own electric bill. (Now I yell at my kids for leaving lights on.)

Grammie told me about how her family lived on baking soda biscuits for a while when things were really bad. She believed John Kennedy was alive under the rotunda, and consulted the National Inquirer for her news stories. She loved candle pin bowling on TV on Saturday afternoons, and won many championships in her younger years as a ballroom dancer. But by the end of her life, my grandmother was beaten down, tired of living and worn out. She loved me heartily, and words can’t express how much I loved her. She had an impossibly painful, difficult life. But what really cut the legs out from under her was bitterness. I don’t say this in any judgmental way, because without the saving grace of Jesus Christ, I know my propensity to be far worse than she ever was, with less reason. Still, I must take a lesson from my grandmother’s book – both positive and negative. When her feelings were hurt, Grammie would be offended. I watched as 2 of her good friendships died because she could not, would not, forgive. She struggled with prejudice too, as did many folks from that era, and often mistrusted people she didn’t know. Before she died I saw a softer part of her emerge, as will sometimes happen in children who have been crying hysterically and then hit the point of exhaustion, leaving them more pliable and consolable. I prayed often that the Great One would visit my grandmother’s hurting heart and that she would be willing to let go of her offense. This I do know: God went to the ends of the earth to bring her to Himself. He loves the broken hearted, and he saw the wreck of a life she had to contend with.

Once again, C.S. Lewis puts it perfectly:

“But if you are a poor creature – poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels – saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion – nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends – do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap heap and give you a new one. And then you will astonish us all – not least yourself; for you have learned your driving in the hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last).”

I love that quote, because it reminds me to be very careful how I treat a hard soul. It makes me recall that though my “vehicle” (that compilation of my upbringing, bents, relationships and health) may not be the finest, there are those saddled with far, far more “wretched machines” than I. Only God knows the real story of anyone’s life. And only He can judge rightly.

Quickly on another subject, I had to drop off a death certificate in the SICU at Albany Med tonite. It was my first time in that locked unit since Smitty was there almost 9 months ago. Positively surreal. More on that tomorrow…

Go love someone who's driving through life in a crummy machine. (It may even be you…) And if you still have her, go love your Grammie. I’d give my right arm to share some Polish stew with mine just one more time.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,



MTB Man said...

Wonderful post. Judge not lest ye be judged. How true.
Great C.S. Lewis quote. Where is it from? I am also a C.S. Lewis afficionado but I've never read that one.

johandav said...

Hi Gary,

I think it's from "Mere Christianity" but I got it from a compilation book I'm reading by Lewis called "The Joyful Christian". Glad as always to hear from you, my fit friend!