Just as I'm about to step out the door I hear her chair creak.
"Joanna? Are you two leaving already?"
"Yes Ma'am," I say over my shoulder, hoping she won't get of and trouble herself. "We've got dinner reservations at 7:00. Mark is picking me up in about a minute."
More creaking, only this time it's Grandma Carla's knee. Then I hear the thump of her cane as she comes over to the door of the den.
"Well surely you weren't going to leave without saying goodbye and letting me meet the boy now were you?" Her eyes get large and she wiggles her eyebrows at me.
"Of course not Gramma!" I laugh and hurry over so she won't have to walk anymore and give her a one-armed hug.
"I'll even get Mark to come in and let you see him too, before we go." I smile down at her.
Gramma moved in after she fell down for the third time and didn't call for anyone. The stubborn women thought she was fine, didn't even want to go into the emergency room to get checked. Mom just about worried her eyeballs out of her head over what to do with Gramma. Until she came up with the idea of having Gramma stay here. Or at least for a little while. I love have Gramma here, she was such an inspiration and a supporter of me when I was a kid. But sometimes...she hardly knows anything about cell phones (if it's off you don't have to charge it because the battery isn't being used! Well Google is like...a big dictionary or encyclopedia sort of. You kinda have to see it...) and youtube and most things electronic. She has a TV sure, but not a toaster. She made her toast by sticking it in the oven. Some of her ideas are just a little bit too old fashioned for me now. I help Gramma back to her chair and get her situated. I sit down in the brown recliner next to her and text Mark to come in and visit when he arrives. I met Mark at church event several months ago. This is only our second date, but I really like him. Gramma rambles on about how she wants fish for dinner and I tune her out, checking my phone for a couple things. Then I hear knocking on the door and a "Hello?" I walk over to the doorway of the den and wave.
"In here Mark!"
His head that has poked through the door part ways breaks into a grin. He comes over to me and hugs me.
"Wow you look great!" he says as he squeezes.
"Thanks!" I smile up at him and twirl my skirts. I feel great in this dress. It's a modest black dress that makes me feel like a princess. Or a modern princess.Whatever. I feel like giggling either way.
"Johanna? Is he here?"
I roll my eyes at Mark and tug him into the den.
"Yup this is Mark, Gramma."
Mark smiles one of his charming smiles and bends over to awkwardly hug Gramma.
"Hey Mrs. Craig! I sure hope you start getting better and stronger soon. I've been praying for you."
Gramma pats Mark's back and smiles back. I'm sure she likes him, it seems like everyone does.
"Why thank you Mark! The good Lord's working on me. Though I think that my left ankle is swelling some." She sighs and shakes her finger at her ankle. Then she directs Mark into the chair next to her by patting it.
"Sit down and talk for a while Mark. And please, call me Gramma Carla, everyone does."
Mark sits down on the edge of the seat and nods his head.
"Gramma Carla it is then! I hope you are doing well apart from that ankle though."
"I am, I am. Melissa was kind enough to let me come and stay for a while. She won't let me cook though. Not yet anyway." Gramma sighs. She looks so small next to Mark, he's a runner and although he isn't that tall, he's almost six feet. And Gramma is about a foot shorter than him I'd guess. He and Gramma make small talk and I through in a couple thoughts here and there. But by the time five minutes has passed I can see that we're both ready to leave for dinner. Mark glances at me questioningly and I nod. I'm ready to go.
"Gramma Carla as much as I've enjoyed talking to you Johanna and I need to be going. We don't want to miss our dinner reservations."
I nod and stand with Mark.
"Yes Gramma it's that new Italian place about 10 minutes from here. Hillary said it was a really nice restaurant." Mark takes me hand and I gather my wrap.
"Now you two aren't leaving yet."
We've gotten to the den door when she says it. Gramma seems to want to keep me from opening any doors today. We turn around. There is no question in her voice. Gramma is one of the most stubborn people I know when it comes to some things. Getting her way listed as number one on that list. I give Mark a shrug and try to say sorry with my my wince. She folds her arms and stares at us until we sit back down.
"I don't know why all of you young people are always in such a hurry. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to see and talk to you for a bit before you leave tonight." Gramma settles back into her chair and uncrosses her arms and folds them, instead, neatly on her lap.
"When I was young-don't you sass me Johanna, I see that look in your eyes- when I was young we were careful with our hearts. Careful with our minds too. We didn't waste time using technology and such. We worked hard, we took care of our family and made time to spend with them too. I think it's shameful the way most people are connected to those cell phones now. I don't know if you could survive a day without them. If you could really spend a day with just your family and actually talk to them."
I open my mouth to tell her that though it might seem that way we could live without our cell phones and computer. And that we DO talk to our families but Gramma raises her hand and I close my mouth. I hope Mark will still like me after this. Hopefully we'll still make it to our dinner reservations and can laugh about this whole thing later. I sigh and buckle up for a lecture.
"You young people think that you know everything and that I can't possibly know all that much that will help you. But that's just another place where you're wrong. I usually wouldn't say anything to y'all. I'd just let you live. But I wanted to tell you for your own good. You gotta listen. Listen to each other and listen to your hearts. Listen to God and let your parents offer advice. That's the only way to make any relationship work. You gotta step outside yourself and your own wants and wishes. I learned that the hard way."
Mark looks at me, a bit uncomfortably. I shake my head at him. There is nothing I can do to stop her. She always told good stories when I was a kid. This will be interesting at least.
"When I was a couple months away from twenty I got married to Matthew. He wasn't a Christian but I loved him. He was a good man. But it was hard to leave for church and see him watching me out the window. It was hard taking our two kids to church and know he was going to be waiting at the door when we got home. I never pushed him. I figured he would come around when he was ready. In some ways he did. In some ways he didn't. But not being on the same page when it came to God tore me up. We listened to each other sure. I learned that during the first year of our marriage. That is the most important thing to learn. But I wanted to listen with him to God. I know both of you are Christians and I'm glad of that. Really glad." Sighing she shakes her head.
"I'm not sure exactly what I'm trying to say here. I guess I just want to tell you... Matt was a good man. He loved frogs legs, fishing, electronics...I loved him. When he was in his forties he had a heart attack. It scared him, like it would anybody. When he was recovering in the hospital the Preacher came to visit him. He had been thinking about what he had heard me tell the kids or listen to on the radio. That preacher helped him to find the Lord finally. He was a good man before he met Jesus, but after it he was very different. He was nicer, he changed. I never felt more happy or connected to him. That's how love feels. Like you can read their mind and they can read yours. We were finally able to listen together."
A happy, longing smile touches Gramma's face. But it slowly slides.
"He got to listen with me for five years before he died. He was in the hospital, he had had another heart attack. We thought he was getting better. He was going to come home Sunday. Saturday he had another heart attack. And he didn't make it through that one."
The pain on her face shows how well she an remember that day. I sniff and a tear trickles down my cheek.
Then Gramma sniffs. And Mark clears his throat.
"I know where he's at, I'm just sad I wasn't able to listen with him longer. I'm gonna go listen with him someday soon y'all. I want you to remember to listen. And to live. Don't spend all your time looking at a screen. Remember what I've said and spend some time in person, face to face. Listening. It'll do you wonders." Gramma reaches over and pats my hand.
I hold onto them for a moment before getting up and giving her a big hug.
"I love you Gramma."
"I know you do beautiful girl...I love you too."
More sniffing from the both of us. I hadn't heard that story before. She'll tell you things if you ask, but she's usually pretty private about the past.
"Thank you for telling us Gramma Carla. We will definitely remember your story." Mark's hand closes around mine and I feel safer somehow. I smile at him and he smiles back.
"Are you gonna let us go to dinner now Gramma?" I ask.
"Oh of course! You go on now and have a fun night! I think Melissa is making fish tonight. That was a favorite of Matt's. I think she's got it almost ready so you go on cause I got eat!" She shoos at us and we leave after telling her good bye. We get into the car and drive away. Mark drives with one hand, holding my hand still. We need a minute to think I guess. Then I say what I never thought I would.
"I guess sometimes the old fashioned way is the best way huh?"
We share a smile and then turn into the parking lot.
~ ~ ~
This story was inspired by my lovely Great-Grandmother. Though I'm not old enough to date etc. and she would never talk to me the way Gramma Carla did I based parts of this story from my Grandma's story. She was married to a non believer (at the time) Mac who didn't become a christian until after a heart attack in his 40s. I haven't heard this story from my grandma but was able to get some information from my mom. She remembers the day her dad got the call that Pop (as the grandkids called him) had died. He was supposed to come home on a Sunday and he died on Saturday. She said she remembers her mother running into the bedroom and crying. She remembers (her first remember prayer) praying to God to help mommy feel better. And how she didn't understand why she was crying. After all Pop was in Heaven! She was six at the time. She also remembers winning a Bible just like the one the preacher gave to Pop when he became a Christian and being so proud of it. I don't know how good this story is, but it comes from the heart. I love my Grandma and she is the sweetest person ever. And I am happy that I can sorta honor her and her story by this guest post. Thanks so much to Emalee for letting me guest post!!!