If These Walls Could Talk

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

If These Walls Could Talk

Coffee Pots, Baby Gates… and Grandparents

You know those coffee pots that have a timer you can set the night before? We have one and it brings me such joy. I make the coffee each night before I go to bed and set a timer for it to brew at 6:30 every morning. It’s as if I have a little gift greeting me each morning, smelling lovely in its carafe fullness, saying, “Good morning, Liz. I hope you slept well. Here, I made this for you. Pour yourself a cup and let’s do this thing.” I don’t realize how much I love it until it’s broken, or I fail to set the timer and wake up to an empty pot. I know, I know… first world problems. Something else I take for granted is a good night’s sleep. All three of our children have slept through the night since they were eight weeks old and all it took was the first few minutes of The Brothers figuring out how to crawl out of their cribs to change my perspective. I was ready to trade all our money for a good night’s sleep not spent on the floor of their bedroom, making sure two two-year-olds weren’t roaming the house while the rest of us slept. But there is one blessing in our lives we will never, ever, EVER take for granted… grandparents!

My husband and I were lucky to grow up close to at least one set of our grandparents, and unbeknownst to us, we learned the treasure it is for our children to be raised close to theirs. We were both raised with strong, southern grandfathers and with graceful and humble (but possibly even stronger) grandmothers. My maternal grandfather was born with a heart condition and passed away when Momma was 19 years old. He is always my answer to the common question, “If you could meet anyone past or present, who would it be?” I hear my mom is very much like her daddy was, so I can only imagine the party we’d have together. My fraternal grandfather, Papa, retired from a lifelong career in insurance and was the boss of all bosses. What he said went, no matter what. There was no doubt he loved his wife, my Nana, and his family, but he certainly had the respect he deserved. From the time I was a child, I remember Papa slipping rolled up money in my pockets and when I would try to return it or give thanks, he would wink at me with his dimpled smile and act as if nothing happened. My husband’s maternal grandfather, Pawpaw, was much the same. Pawpaw was the funeral director in their small hometown, and he deserves credit for my husband’s charming sense of humor, preference for freshly ironed clothes and complete dedication to his family. Our grandfathers’ presence alone demanded a well-earned respect, but they were God-fearing men who loved their wives and families above all, and privately were the most soft-hearted emotional grandfathers you ever saw. Pawpaw and Papa died within two months of each other, during the time we were struggling and impatiently waiting to become pregnant with our first child. I can’t help but giggle at the idea of them scheming together and with a wink and that familiar dimpled smile, slipping some money in God’s pocket saying, “please give them twins.”

Now listen, I was born and raised in the south and it is no secret that much of the time, mommas discretely hold the cards. The saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” didn’t just come out of the blue. Our grandmothers may have humored their tough shelled husbands and gotten them tea when they shook an empty glass of ice, but we all know they were, and still are, the glue that holds the family together. My maternal grandmother, who we simply call “Grandmother,” came straight out of an Emily Post etiquette book with a side of grit for fishing and playing bridge. That woman raised five children, two of whom were labeled “meddlesome twins,” in Southeast Arkansas and lived each day with incredible class and kindness until she passed away two years ago. Grandmother moved to Texarkana when I was young, and I don’t remember many memories without her - from big events like dance recitals and proms to weeknight dinners and contemplating decisions like cutting my long hair short like Julia Stiles’ on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. To that, she advised, “Please don’t. You’ll hate yourself.” Guess what! I didn’t cut it. For some time, Grandmother had a beautiful rose garden with each rose bush named for one of her children or grandchildren. When she watered a rosebush, she prayed for that person. After I found out I was pregnant with twins, I was gifted an enlarged and framed, handwritten note from her that says, “The difference between having one child and twins is just doing the same things twice!” So simple and true. My husband’s maternal grandmother, Deedee, passed away just a year or two into our dating relationship and I can’t help but imagine she would have been the best of friends with Grandmother. The Fruits of the Spirit seeped out of their pores and their love of family, especially their grandchildren, was clear to all who knew them.

My fraternal grandmother, Nana, is my only living grandparent. My goodness, what a gift! It shocks any of our friends who meet Nana to discover her age, and many are quick to comment, “I hope you got her genes. She looks like she’s 40!” Nana not only has the energy I wish I had now, but her wisdom and goodness are admirable. What a treasure it is to see my daughter get to go out with her great-grandmother to have fingernails painted and lunch dates like I did when I was her age. It wouldn’t be a birthday without her phone call to sing the entire birthday song, even if it is on a voicemail, and she calls my husband regularly to tell him how proud she is of him even though he isn’t hers by blood.

As I look back on my upbringing, I know the role my grandparents played and how blessed I was to have had their extra guidance and love given to me every single day. If my parents were gone, my grandparents were there. They were second parents in the very best of ways. What a blessing! It is an even greater joy to see my own children have the same relationship with their grandparents. My in-laws live just down the road in Cass County and never skip a beat for weeknight dinners, dance recitals, or school programs. My daughter can sit in “big church” with us on Sundays and gets to see my Daddy sing in the choir. Momma, who my kids call “Love,” gave up her life to become the center of ours and has kept our children when I went back to work until it was time to go to school. Did you hear me? Gave. Up. Her. Life. Every day she came, and still comes, to my house to keep her grandchildren while we go to work. My parents and in-laws are regulars in our daily lives. They are emergency contacts. They’re the most fun babysitters. They happily sweat at t-ball games by choice and buy incredibly overpriced gifts (like a surprise twelve-pack of Trolls Pez dispensers on Amazon just hoping to get their granddaughter’s favorite three). They were known to FaceTime for an hour while we were quarantined to play Barbies and read books. They stayed up late to individually wrap baby puffs for the twins’ first Easter eggs since they can’t eat chocolate yet and will travel to multiple grocery stores to find a certain toy from a cereal box. Just the other morning I caught one of The Brothers whisper, “Love, I want ice cream,” and I smiled knowing it happens when I’m not around because that’s what happened with my grandparents when my parents weren’t around.

September 12 is grandparent’s day, and this is a month designated for celebrating grandparents, but I challenge you to celebrate yours every day if you’re able. Tell stories about those who have passed away and turn your favorite memories into new traditions with your people. Grandparents are the unsung heroes. They don’t sweat the small stuff because they know the joy that comes when your perspective is right. Thank you, Jesus, for all the blessings - especially good coffee pots, baby gates, and most of all, grandparents.


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