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Friday, June 11, 2010

Constant Change

I'm back home again, after three weeks of well-earned vacation during which I was able to get a good brain-rest. Now I'm trying to catch up on sleep and blogging (not simultaneously!) while listening to a Women of Faith Worship CD that I won. When I've listened to it about 50 times, I'll write a proper blog about it. For tonight, I'm just scribbling, getting back into the groove of writing regularly again, and hoping I won't have any spam comments. Somehow my blog seems to have found its way onto some list of Asian spammers and I'm not too happy about it. Thankfully, I can regulate comments to some extent, but it is frustrating to keep on rejecting comments!

The older I become, the more I realize that nothing is certain except for change. Learning to live with an understanding that can embrace this knowledge is perhaps the biggest challenge of my life. I understand there has to be change, it is part of the process of what we call life, but does it have to be as constant as it has been lately? I'm not exactly sure.

My grandparents are retired and live in a little apartment where they've lived for the past 16 years. They are growing older and some of the things they used to be able to do, they can't do anymore. My Opa used to bike to an apple farm to buy organic apples. Once I rode with him and could barely make it to the farm where I was relieved for a few moments rest before I had to climb back on that bike with a weary seat and jelly legs and attempt the return ride home. My Opa is 58 years older than me and this happened several years ago when I was in my mid-twenties! Now, if he is going for a long walk, he has to take his sturdy walker along to guide his unsteady footsteps over uneven cobbled ground. His body isn't as strong as it used to be. My Oma still has a quick step, but she too now uses a walker to go shopping and help carry the vegetables she buys at the farmer's market on Thursdays.

Life has changed for my grandparents over time, shrinking their world and increasing the time it takes for them to do simple things like prepare a meal or do household tasks. They are more careful now and are grateful for each day they have together. Yet in the midst of the change, which came gradually and did not throw itself like a hurricane across their path like change has shouted in my face, they have continued to enjoy the constancy of life. They still live in the same apartment, use the same placemats at the table, shop in the same health food store, greet the same neighbours, go to the same church, eat the same homemade whole-wheat bread, and check their mailbox once a day. Their son and his family visit every few weeks and their daughter calls every Sunday to chat.

It is this constancy that comforts my soul whenever I come to visit. Unfortunately fate did not smile kindly on me and I grew up without grandparents around to enrich my life. It was one of the sacrifices required of missionaries who got furlough every two years—a summer spent with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents—a summer spent getting to know strangers all over again. I always envied those who had extended family living nearby, maybe grandparents just down the street or an aunt and uncle and cousins in the next town over. We had to make do with family who were not related to us genetically but God always blessed us with very special substitute family.

I've seen my grandparents 4 times in the past 12 years. It makes me sad when I think about it and I wish, now, that I had been able to spend more time with them. As they age and become more frail, I wish I lived nearby so I could help them more. I wish I had learned to speak their language so we wouldn't be separated by yet another barrier. I wish I had grown up close by so we would have shared history that encompassed more than pictures on a CD every two years and pictures sent through the mail so they could share the highlights of our lives. They weren't able to attend high school and college graduations, they missed my brother's baptism, and we were rarely able to share birthdays together. We never spent a Christmas together.

In the midst of the deep sadness of time escaping as it always does, I continue to ponder the thought of consistency. The lack of or need to change. My Oma and Opa haven't changed for as long as I can remember. It is only when I look at pictures that I realize they  have gotten older, for in my mind they still look the same. When I visit, I know we will eat from the china plates with the flowers around the border, with the gray plates saved for when the dishwasher is starting to get full and all the china is dirty. I know we will wash the dishes in a green plastic bucket and that there is a sponge and soap stored inside that bucket under the sink. I know there is a special wooden spoon and cutting board for the onions because they have such a strong scent. I know which path we will walk on Sabbath afternoon as we pass through the park and see the water fountains with the frog design. I know that Opa will press the floor button and then immediately afterwards he'll press the "door close" button in the elevator as soon as everyone is in. I know that we will watch Little House on the Prairie and that the news comes on at 8. I know that when visitors or family come to visit, we will drink grape juice and eat nuts and cookies and other treats. I know Oma will have bought vla (custard) and Tartex from the health food store even before I come because she knows those are my favourite foods.

And me? There are very few knowns in my life right now. Change continues to press urgently and I have no say in the matter. I am invited to accept the change but never welcome to seek consistency. As someone who has spent the past 12 years in a holding pattern, waiting for life to settle down, it is difficult to wait longer.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad the Bella will have her grandparents in her life. She sees them every day when we are home. They love her so much and she brings joy to their life. That was how I grew up too. We are lucky girls :)

    I loved reading about your grandparents. Even if they are getting old, they seem so content in their life.

    Keep me updated on work and life changes, ok?


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