The love of family

17 Jun

Tonight, I finished the book I was reading called The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. It was a very good novel about a little girl who goes missing and the ensuing panicked search for her. The book was a little slow moving in the drama at times but it was nonetheless very insight and interesting. It said a lot about the nature of memories and human desire to preserve moments that are, by definition, passing by.

Which led me to look through old picture albums – first, the one with pictures of Travis’ and my engagement, wedding and honeymoon. Then, my study abroad trip in Venezuela. And finally, pictures of my childhood.

And it was in looking at pictures of my childhood that I realized what a blessed childhood I had. I was surrounded by loving adults – my parents, of course but also aunts, uncles, grandparents. I didn’t realize how good I had it – of course, children never do.

My mom’s mom is who I get my middle name from – Ruth. Grandma Ruth. She lived in Hendrum with my Grandpa Ralph, in a small house on the corner. I can remember exactly what the house looked like inside – you entered into a small mud room, where you could either go down into the cellar (which I never did) or into the main part of the house. Through that door, you came into the kitchen. Straight across the kitchen, there was a cold, mysterious room. The door was always shut because that the kids were not allowed in. Once, we went in and discovered the entrance to the attic but were so nervous about getting caught that we ventured no further.

To the left of the kitchen was the dining room. The right hand wall was lined with windows and the wall to the right of that was lined with cabinets. In the middle of the floor stood a giant table – so big that it took up most of the room. On the left wall, there was first the door to a small bathroom. Then there was an armoire that took up what little wall space there was. Then, the door leading out to a landing that led to the next floor.

Straight ahead through the dining room was the living room. In my memories, the furniture was never quite arranged the same when I came over. But I do remember a TV, a couch, some lamps, a bed perhaps (for when my cousins slept over) and a card sorting machine that my Grandpa liked to use when playing cards.

On the way to the upstairs, you passed by another room, one step down from the stair landing. That was the den – I’m not sure I ever went in that room. It was Grandpa’s room.

There were two flights of stairs – halfway up the second, there was this opening in the wall. It had a door and a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. I think we called it the Fort. It was big enough for 3 of us kids to fit in there at the same time, 4 if you really squeezed. Whenever we went over to Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Ralph’s house, we would race each other to that little room. There was a latch on the inside, so you could allow others to enter (or not allow) at your own discretion.

At the top of the stairs, there were 2 bedrooms – 1 had several beds in it and the other just 1. The room with just 1 bed was Grandpa’s room. We hardly ever went in there either. The other room was fun because there was a hole in the floor that looked down into the living room below. It was entertaining to listen to the adults down there, talking, when all the kids were upstairs.

But I digress. All these memories came flooding back into my head as I looked through my photo album tonight. My Grandma Ruth died when I was only 12 or 13 – I was old enough to understand what had happened but not old enough to really understand. Growing up, I had thought of her as a little bit weird – she had a back condition that made her slightly hunched over. The pictures in my album don’t disclose any animosity toward her but I can’t help but think… how did I act toward her? Did I love her? Did I thank her for the gifts she gave me, as they were sacrifices on her behalf? Or did I act like a stupid child, ungrateful, only focused on superficial details?

These thoughts so overwhelmed me as I looked at those pictures tonight that I started crying. I wish I had known her. I wish I could have told her that her love and generosity mean the world. I wish I could’ve gotten past the outward appearance and seen her for the amazing person I hear she was. Even if I had been older, if I had known her better and been more mature, I don’t know if I could have put into words that kind of emotion.

The same kind of emotion that I feel for my mom. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by how much I love her that I can’t bear the thought of this world existing without her in it. How does one go on without your beloved parent? And I know that I fail to express how much I love her, that I fail to show her how much she means to me. I don’t call her all that often, I don’t say in words how much she means. And I realize that I’m losing precious moments – they’re floating away on the winds of time – but I get too engrossed in the minute details of life to remember these truths. WHY?!?!?

The same goes for when I’m looking at pictures of my dad and me growing up – all the memories we created together. That man has a heart of gold. I know that I am precious to him and that he loves me more than words. Knowing that makes me love him even more. How do I communicate that kind of love back to him? How are words adequate for that kind of love?  The truth is, they just aren’t. And they never will be.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to communicate those feelings and that is where, I fear, I fall very short. I have found myself looking at gifts lately and wondering, “Did I thank that person for this?” Remembering that Travis’ parents paid for the groom’s dinner, I wondered “Did I ever tell them what a huge blessing that was?” I think I did, but I can’t remember. And what if I didn’t? I can barely stand that thought!

Every time I feel like this, so overwhelmed at how much I love my parents, I wonder why I live so far away from them. Why did I choose to move, so that I only see them 2-3 times a year? But I have to remind myself that Travis and I chose to follow the Lord and no matter how much human love consumes one’s heart, devotion to and love for the Lord always have to come first. He is ultimately the one Person who matters. And I have to entrust my heart, and all the love therein, to Him.

But I do pray that it is in the Lord’s will to let Travis and I move back to Minnesota to be near our parents when we start having kids (in a couple of years). I want my kids to know their grandparents, because they are the coolest people ever.

I love you Mom and Dad!

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