I slice the bread in half, scooping up a heaping serving of tuna salad. I pull out one of the new plastic plates, recently purchased for potential foster kids to use instead of the heavy ceramic ones we got on our wedding day.
I mix the macaroni and cheese, and ladle a spoonful on the 1/4 segment of the pre-separated plate.
As a last minute addition, I add a small portion of reheated leftover veggie pasta to add a tiny bit of greens to her meal.
Suddenly, my mind is catapulted back in time.
I am 5. My cousin, Wendy, is almost 6. She is my very best friend. It is summer and life is filled with sunsuits, one foot "baby" pools, and fighting over Barbie dolls. My granny dishes out chicken noodle soup or maybe it was Chef Boyardee into our waiting bowls as we sit at the table hungry from our morning of play.
Back in this moment, my granny sits on my couch, sleep holding her captive more and more each day with the necessity of medications to function in the world around her.
I sigh and smile all at the same time.
I am the grown up.
She is the child.
I am the one now worried about what she will eat and happy that I have crustless sandwich rounds because she always cut off the crust when we were kids and now will eat it no other way.
I place the potluck variety on a tray and pour out half a glass of milk and carry it to where she snoozes, touching her arm to wake her to eat this simple fare that she is really not hungry for anyway.
She smiles at me with thanks and contentment and slowly makes her way through the various presentations on the plate.
For all of the obvious reasons.
The ones that are a part of the harsh reality of the circle of life.
But harder still for a different reason.
I do not see my grandmother often.
She lives in my town.
In fact, all four of my biological grandparents still do.
And only when my parents are home from Haiti do I truly spend consistent time with them.
I often feel guilty about that.
Some people my age have never even met their grandparents or lost them as children or teenagers.
My husband is one of them.
I grew up away from my extended family most of the year, spending 3 months in the summer and 3 weeks at Christmas with those who share bloodlines and last names. The reality of my world was not truly on their radar. And as a child and teenager, I made it work. I loved to come to my USA home, and I did not really want to think about being the missionary kid during my "vacation" away, so I entered the world before me easily, with open arms.
When I turned 18, I went to college in Oklahoma.
The first in both sides of my family to attend in more than twenty-five years.
And there I changed even more.
My ways of thinking were challenged. My life-long mindsets were shattered.
My horizons were broadened, and my world view was blown wide open.
So, when I moved back full-time, year-round to the place of my parents' birth, where I had always dreamed of living, I really did not fit in that well. Even with my family.
Oh I was loved.
Please do not get me wrong.
But to a girl who values being understood above almost every other thing, a sad reality replaced my optimistic youth.
Things would never be the same again.
I learned through missteps and over-sharing that calculating my thoughts and viewpoints was kinder and safer in the long run. And eventually a semi-ordinary routine came into existence.
Seven years later, I went to live in Africa for 3 years....and came home feeling even more like a foreigner inside of my own skin than ever before, unable to even remember who I used to be in their eyes yet certain I would never be that girl again.
These days, I teeter totter back and forth between connection and isolation, conformity and independence, embracing and pushing away.
I wish it was different.
I wish I could be the one they need me to be.
I wish I was not so altered by life and circumstances and living away.
I wish I knew how to bridge the ever-widening gap.
I wish I felt connected to them.
I wish they had let their guards down years ago to let me know them.
I wish I could set it all aside and just love them like Jesus.
So for today, I love the only way I know how.
From my own brokenness.
Reaching through the insecurities and generational resistance
And offer my hard-fought gift of grace.
Because I need it too.
Because I do not have the answers.
Because He loves better than I can.
So I smile at my Granny and tell her that she ate so well as I clean off the plate where those leftover vegetables still remain.
And when she leaves my house today, she tells me three times, "I had such a nice time with you today."
With a hug and a shake of my head, I say, "Me too,"
as I thank God
for that merciful blessing
sent back to me
a few more fragments
inside my wanting soul.
Joining in community with.....