It is a funny thing, this passage of time. Stepping back and hovering above small memories, I look down and see myself: five or six years old, and hiding behind my grandfather’s legs.
“Stop it, Joe! Your are scaring the child!” That was my Grandpa, and he was speaking to his father-in-law, my great-grandfather, who only laughed.
I might have been young, but I was a noticing child; sensitive and a reader of people. I did not prefer great-grandfather. He was short and square of face; small eyes always poking fun of others. He had lost half of one index finger, somehow, and would pretend that he had bitten the finger off. I was frightened and repulsed and at that tender age measuring my safety in the situation.
Another memory: I am, again, five or six, and spending the afternoon playing with my best friend, Melinda, at her house. We are outside, maybe swinging, or jumping rope? Her mother fairly flies outside and ushers us into the old station wagon. She is quiet, and I am aware of her eyebrows raised in urgency. I scoot quickly into the backseat, my sweaty legs sticking to the vinyl seats. As an adult, I try but cannot remember that journey to the hospital. Nothing is explained to me as we race to the second floor and I am told “wait here.” It is not hard for me to be still and wait. I can push panic down and obey. The door swings open, and a frail girl, my age, is lying so still in a bed and is hooked up to bunches of tubes and wires. Melinda starts crying; her dear friend is being removed from life-support.
These are old things, and I try to examine the memories with fresher and wiser eyes. Glances of grace. Maybe my great-grandfather was growing senile; or maybe his poor and difficult childhood led him to his coarse humor. Perhaps he saw a shy and serious little girl that needed to laugh more; or maybe he had poor social skills.
Why was I allowed to see a child my age being plugged from life support? Did my mother need to run errands and Mrs. Jones chose to take me along? There were no cell phones in those days, after all. Perhaps the late 70’s were not a time of explaining much of anything to children? I do not know. I do remember unsteadiness and fear. Nightmares followed, but I stifled those.
These old things have passed and cannot be changed. But I remember, still.
Decades later, I still hold the ability to push panic low while feeling fear. Ultimately, it is wrestling with the truth that other persons’ choices are not under my control. Pain and hurt happen. The Lord is kind and patient, and teaching me, through storms, to lessen my grip. It is better to trust in Him for security.
Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.