Grandma Schaal wore floral print house-dresses and took care of my Grandpa’s every need. After raising his twelve kids, she still cooked his meals, washed his clothes and listened to him play his pump organ at night. Several times she traveled with him all the way from the foot hills of the Ozark Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico where we lived on the beach.
“Salt water is good for you,” Grandpa Schaal said after he marched us to the ocean and lined us up waist deep in the chilly surf, “heals sores on the skin.”
Even if he had been wrong, no one dared to correct him. Grandpa was that kind of guy. It was a good thing he had Grandma around. She listened patiently and went along with his ideas most of the time.
Then, Grandpa died. For the first time since Grandma was a teenage girl, she was all alone.
Eventually, our family drove to the Ozarks to bring her home. After packing Grandma’s possessions, Dad maneuvered a small moving truck out through the rolling hills toward Texas. Mom followed in the family car. I rode with Grandma in her sedan.
For most of the eight hour drive I had nothing to say. What did I know about shapeless house-dresses or giving birth twelve times? When we eased into Houston traffic, the sky turned black. It was as dark as the inside of oil drum in the middle of the night.
“Get off the freeway,” I said quickly, “Drive away from the storm.”
Before I had a chance to explain Houston’s hail spitting, flash flooding thunderstorms, Grandma changed lanes. Then, she changed lanes again and turned onto an exit ramp without even slowing down.
After leaving the freeway, we drove down side streets and winding roads. We drove so far into the night it seemed that Grandma and I were the only people left in the world. In that moment, we bonded. Two pale faces looking for home.
“We’re on the shoulder,” I yelled as the tires spun on gravel, “get back on the road.”
Grandma gripped the steering wheel and stared ahead. When the shoulder ended with a concrete barrier she swung back onto the smooth pavement. Minutes later we turned onto our street.
“That’s our driveway,” I pointed out. Too late. Grandma missed the drive and steered into the ditch. We left the sedan facing nose down in the mud and went into the house.
After that night, I respected Grandma a lot more. But, I still despised her spindly legs, stooped shoulders and floral print house-dresses. I didn’t understand what kept her strong, what got her up in the morning when she should have just given up and stayed in bed. To me she was just old. Something I never intended to be.
Decades later, I see age spots when I look in the mirror. My body sags with the passage of time. There are not enough anti-aging formulas or exercise routines to bring it back to its former glory.
Then, why do I feel so young on the inside? In Second Corinthians 4:16, the apostle Paul did what I have been always afraid to do. He faced old age square in the eye. We waste away on the outside, he admitted freely. But, we are renewed in our spirit. Every day.
It’s the spirit that flourishes when our bodies fail. That’s what kept my Grandma going, the part of her that lives forever