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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanks a latte, Grandma and Grandpa

The last two months have been incredibly eye opening in regards to my grandparents.  And when you learn more about your grandparents, you better understand your heritage, and ultimately, yourself.

Since their car accident in October (the month of Herb being sick and tons of blogging), my 91 year old grandpa has been in the hospital, then the nursing home, then again in the hospital, and ultimately back in a nursing home.  Previous to the accident, he's been in ridiculously good health for being 91 years old - so annoying/ironic that a car accident of all things ruined his clean bill of health.  

About once every two weeks, I pick up grandma and we go visit grandpa in the home.  His eyes light up when we come in.  "Do you think I'll be going home this week?" He asks.  He tells us about the terrible coffee, the other residents who "aren't quite all there," and his frustrations with physical therapy.  Then he apologizes for complaining, he knows he could have it worse.  

Seeing their despair over their temporary separation and his fire to regain health has truly been a blessing.  I'd never seen them show affection to each other (or anyone, really) before.  In fact, in the last ten years, I've been trying to say "I love you," and hug when I leave.  It's usually received with a side hug and a "Yep, you too." It's so awkward, yet heart felt.  Now he throws his arms up for a hug and a kiss (on the cheek of course) when she leaves.

Both grandparents are Mennonite, but they go to different churches. They have functioned this way for 64 years! Grandma is old order Mennonite (horse and buggy, no electric - well for the other congregants) and Grandpa is just "normal Mennonite"  (Mennonite USA if that's helpful).  Her hair is twisted in a bun and a white bonnet that covers ears is tied in a neat bow under her chin.  He has a driver's license and a television.  They were both brought up in The Church, but neither joined before they got married.  In fact, she spent a few years working at a general store/ gas station and had a driver's license at one time.  When they married they did not join The Church, until six months later, my grandma did.  She gave up driving and modern dress in favor of cape dresses and a simpler way of life.  

I've been thinking a lot about their way of life.  Their passion for reusing and conserving.  Their self control and doing without.  I've heard the joke that Mennonites are the original "green" people, but they did it for finances, not environment.  If you ask my grandma for a bag (like a grocery bag), you might get a bread bag.  She saves the salvage edge of fabric from the bolt to use to tie up newspapers and gifts.

Today I realized when Grandma, caught between two different worlds, was raising four young children she was always stuck at home.  She didn't drive herself (Church rules), but of course wouldn't have owned a horse and buggy like other church members because her husband had a car, so why bother?  Can you EVEN imagine being at home with FOUR kids, NO internet, NO babysitter/distraction  television, NO car, NO play dates, NO connection to other mothers.  

How much of the differences in their lives and mine are generational and how much are due to religious simplicity?  

For example, today I called Grandma on my way to pick her up and told her I was stopping for coffee, and asked if she would she like a cup.

"Oh, you mean coffee that's already made, not grounds?"  She asked.
"Yeah, like hot coffee."  I replied.  The Starbucks coupon I had was burning a hole in my pocket.
"I had a cup already this morning, I think I'm good."
"Even if it's a fancy one like a cappuccino or latte?"  I was trying to convince her.
"Well, I've never had one of those, so that does sound good!"  She sounded very excited.

You've got to be kidding me!!  87 years old and never having had a latte!!!  That really put things in perspective - and again I ask - is this "doing without" generational or more to do with religion?

They are truly a unique couple and I am so thankful to still have them in my life.  I have had so many thought provoking moments as a result of their presence.  

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