My grandmother is getting old. The type of old where it’s noticeable. Her hearing is going, (although so is my father’s…so maybe it’s just a family trait. Man, I hope not…). She has a little trouble remembering things. At the lovely age of 87, she finally decided her teeth needed to be replaced. Not that she really needed it, she just thought it was time for a change, I suppose.
It’s strange to me. My grandmother is one of the few people who I know will die sometime in the next five to ten years, while at the same time I’m convinced she will outlive us all. How could a woman who asks for a table saw for her 75th birthday ever die?
My grandmother is an excellent judge of character. She assumes the worst of people and expects the best. An odd way of looking at people in the world – one I find myself emulating at times. She knows everyone has a bad side, the Bible says so, but she expects those who know better to stay out of trouble.
This summer, she has been obsessed with getting her will in order. Being the only computer literate grandchild without a job, I was nominated to type up the final copy for her so she could take it down to the court building and have it “officialized” as she called it. That was one wretched task. Not because it depressed me, but because of all the huge words I had to double check my spelling on, the extent of the will’s detail, and the degree of perfection it was required to reach. Perfection to the point of taking it to the local printer’s three times simply because she didn’t like the darkness/lightness of the printing. But it gave me more insight to who my grandmother really is than ever before.
She isn’t afraid to die. Sometimes I think she’s even a bit excited about it – she talks about heaven everyday. But I think it’ll almost be a relief to her to have it over and done with. I can just picture her dusting her hands off thinking “that’s that” as she walks through the pearly gates. Right now, her biggest fear is that her children and grandchildren will make an absolute fiasco of the dispensing of her will. She has listed the history of most of the items in her house and fears no one will appreciate them, but that we’ll fight over them simply because it’s “stuff.” She wants us to lay claim now, and when we do, she writes our name on a post-it note and sticks it to the back of whatever we’ve asked for. If she had her way, everything she owned would be dibbed out before she went on to Glory.
The real reason for the box room was revealed to me this summer. To hold boxes. To hold things. So when she dies, her belongings can be easly packed up and taken off the house property to places yet undetermined. So they will be protected and organized as they make their way to a new home. Of course, she occasionally uses boxes from the box room to ship birthday presents off to grandkids in distant cities, but the main reason has become to store her life once it’s over.It’s so strange to me that she thinks this is actually possible. Once she dies, everythying of the woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, pilot, nurse, choir director, musician, carpenter, calligraphist, cook, world traveler, photographer will be packed up into boxes to be assimilated into someone else’s life. I understand the logistics of it but knowing my grandmother I can’t comprehend how she could have that part of herself somewhere in there – to plan for decades for her own death by saving up boxes. Maybe it was just to remind herself of her own mortality – to have a tangible reminder that one day her status on earth would be relegated to cardboard cubes. That’s such a depressing thought – someday, that’ll be all of us. Of course we’ll be having a better time than ever in heaven, but if you lean towards the pessimistic side it’s depressing.
Every moment spent with her is a testimony that someone’s life could never be completely contained in boxes. Memories don’t fit in a box. Lessons don’t fit in a box. Laughter doesn’t fit in a box. She’s taught me so much about life it’s almost stereotypical. Don’t smoke, it’ll give you cancer someday. Always use cold water to clean melted cheese off of dishes. It’s okay to be mad at people, just express your anger properly; in other words, write them a scathing letter you never send but look back on months later and laugh at. Even though Oprah is a celebrity she still has great things to say. So does Dr. Phil. You have to let your children make mistakes, but it’s alright to be upset about those mistakes. Read your Bible everyday. Everyone has some kind of talent – look for it and encourage it. Take care of your feet. Update your checkbook often – more often than weekly. Respect God. Get to know your neighbors. It’s okay to listen to a police scanner, it doesn’t mean you’re a busybody. Travel whenever you can, even if it means you have to take five kids and a dog in a beat up old station wagon. Give gifts even though you know they’ll probably be returned or misused. Look at where you want to be and your hands and feet will follow. Keep the end in mind, it puts the present in perspective. Always be ready for heaven.