Thursday, January 7, 2016

Breaking Back-- Or Making Lemonade

       What does it mean when your back hurts to the extent that you have to cancel your chiropractor appointment? 

       It means more tea, more Downton Abbey reruns, and "making lemonade from lemons." My lemonade is having the time to write. 

       I texted my practitioner that the Bible says "laughter strengthens the bones." She knows that scientific studies have supported this, but I asked her if she thought that such strength extended to ligaments and pinched discs. I got the "LOL" reply, and then she texted that she believed it certainly did.
       We've all been taught to try to look at negative things with a positive light. Sometimes it is easier than others. I am a member of a Facebook group whose sole purpose is to support each other through arthritis. If it were not for our mutual "misfortune," we would not have found each other. We would not be able to connect across oceans and countries. We have created a virtual community of support. There is something pretty miraculous about that.  Would we prefer to be cured? Sure, but life is not perfect. And so, God's grace has an opportunity to the most delicious lemonade.

Chapter 8
Ernesto stepped off the back porch, his attention drawn upward by the masses of Snow Geese flying in disjointed V patterns. Continuing the migration north, he thought, although they were actually flying west. Maybe toward some great unseen lake. His thought was interrupted by one more strain of a two-cylinder engine struggling to start.
Ernesto continued walking toward the sound, and just around the shed he saw his grandmother smacking at the steering wheel in frustration. She jumped down from the green 1955 John Deere B, much more athletic than most septuagenarians. She straightened and saw Ernesto approaching.
“Ernie!” she called, sounding more like a relieved rescue plea than an address. Sandy was indeed younger looking than her 72 years. Her long gray hair was pulled back in a hasty bun. Her plaid shirt was partially pulled out from the jeans she’d tucked it into earlier, the jeans partially tucked into weathered, turquoise and brown cowboy boots.
“Ernie” crossed the remaining distance in a couple of strides and embraced her in an energetic hug. The force of it caused Sandy to laugh. “Hey, you’ll break this old woman, careful!” Her blue eyes narrowed, her face lined as she smiled; a pleasant pattern evoking thoughts of one’s favorite quilt.
“I somehow think that would be difficult to do, Granny.”
Sandy smiled with the flattering and loving comment. “I can’t get the B started. I’ve given it rests; I don’t think I flooded it.”
“I’ll take a look, Gran, but you’re the one who taught me about tractors. You’ve probably done everything I could.” Ernie walked over to the side of the tall, antique tractor and reached into the yellow toolbox affixed to it. As he examined and tinkered with the fuel line, he continued talking. “Gorgeous day, huh?”
Sandy leaned onto a nearby riding mower (John Deere, also) and agreed. She looked about as the breeze caught the silver wisps at her collar. Off to the right a screen door slammed shut. She looked over, then smiled. Her husband was on the porch putting some dog food into bowls. Their two collies rushed over the moment they heard him. Bruce lovingly ruffed up their coats as he spoke to them. He looked up, smiled and waved at Sandy and Ernie. “Hey, Babe! Hey, Ernie! You figuring that thing out?”
Ernie looked up, his brow now sweaty, “Trying!”
Bruce smiled, a bit embarrassed; he was not mechanically inclined. “I’ll sew up your horse’s cut, or float his teeth, but I can’t help your Granny with those things.” He motioned toward the row of tractors.
Ernie called out as he was tightening a clamp, “I actually do need some help with my transport!”
“Oh, ho—not that mechanical thing with an identity crisis--?!”
Ernie laughed, knowing full well that Bruce hated El Caminos, “No—Diego! He seemed lame again when I was riding the fence yesterday. I meant to tell you.”
“Sure, I’ll take a look at him tonight,” Bruce called, as he turned to head back into the house. He stopped as Ernie called out:
“Oh, Bruce—Mom told me to tell you she made stew and you and Granny are invited!”
As the screen door shut he heard Bruce’s enthusiastic acceptance of the offer, as long as it was okay with Sandy. 
Ernie climbed up to try the engine again. His head nodded subconsciously to the familiar putt-putt, which slowly gave way to a faster, more rhythmic chugging. A loud Pop burst from the top of the smoke stack and the engine was running again.
Sandy straightened and laughed, triumphant. Once again she thought that there was nothing like the sound of a two-cylinder.
Ernie hopped down, taught just that same maneuver by the smiling woman before him. “I’d let it run a bit, Granny.”
“Thanks, Sweetie,” she smiled, “I was just going to hook up the brush hog…but there’s that stew. I’ll get cleaned up in a bit and we’ll head over.” She and Ernie walked toward the implement. Sandy grabbed a lithium grease gun and lowered herself beside the bed to reach the fittings. “I’ll just get it ready first.” She grunted just a tiny bit as she reached further back.
“Granny, I can do that for you,” Ernie lowered himself beside her.
“Nonsense.” She gave him a quick frown and returned to the task. “It’s weird, I know, but I love this smell.” She continued, the squeaky click of the gun continuing until she saw just a bit of ooze show from around the base of the next fitting. “Tell me about your building. A parking garage?”
“Yeah,” he smiled. “It's going smoothly." He paused. "Gran. I’m working with a lady you’d really like.”
Sandy straightened up a little too fast. “Really!” She smiled, then tried to recover her enthusiasm so as not to offend him. “Well, I hope you’ll bring her by.” She turned to the final fitting.
“Mmm. Well, it may take some time. She might be interested in more, mmm…the suit and tie type.” His lips pursed in possible resignation.
Finished with her task, Sandy looked Ernie straight in the eye. “Not all women are like that last one. Her loss. She didn’t seem right from the start. Fussy. Sorry. Be discerning, but don’t judge them all by her.”
Ernie chuckled. He loved his Granny like his mother. In truth, both had raised him. “Yes, Gran. Well, I know you’ll like her. She reminds me of you.”
Sandy thought mistakenly that he was flattering her. She kissed him on the head as she raised up, using his shoulders for support. He stood up then, too. “You’re right about a lot, Granny. I love you.”
Her hand rubbed at her lower back. She admitted, “Some things are good about getting old.”
“I want what you have with Bruce someday, Gran.” They began to walk to Sandy’s porch. “You knew he was a great guy and how perfect you were together. Why’d you hesitate so long?”
Sandy looked at Ernie hard, thinking. “You know, the easy answer is to say that I loved your grandfather so much that I couldn’t imagine life with anyone else. I guess it was true at first, but I’ve never been a believer in the one soulmate thing.” She drew in a deep breath, thinking. “I don’t even think a soulmate is necessarily a husband. I had a very deep connection to my father that I feel to this day. Wow. It’s been forty years and I can imagine him standing here like it was yesterday.”
Ernie saw once again how his grandmother’s blue eyes, in deep thought, were mirrors to her soul, as though one could almost see the movie of her thoughts projected onto them.
She continued, “The point is, we have the capacity for so much love. Of course, it’d be confusing if Jim were still alive. I feel as much love for him as ever. But that doesn’t lessen what I feel for Bruce. Not one bit. In fact, I think it makes my love for Bruce deeper.” She paused in thought, “No, I wanted to be sure for Bruce’s sake. I always knew he had a crush on me when we were younger. For goodness sake, I babysat him.”
Ernie laughed, “What? I never heard that part!”
“Yeah,” she continued. “No diapers, though.” They both laughed. “I was sixteen and he was six. God, he was cute. I really did love him then. Differently, of course. But he always loved me like a princess or something. He’ll tell you about it if you asked him over a Scotch.” She smiled.  “Bruce was widowed before I was, but when we saw each other at the 4H shows, and he showed interest, I just didn’t want some kind of rebound thing for either of us. And I was starting to feel older. Why would he want to be saddled with an old mare when the successful, popular vet in the county could get any young filly?”
“Nice allegory, Gran, but you two are very similar. I don’t think anyone would know the age difference now.”
“I wanted to be sure he knew what the future could hold. I’ve been lucky with my health, though.”
Ernie smiled and reached his arm around her shoulders. They’d reached the porch steps. “He adores you, Gran. Anyone could see that. And that’s what I want when I’m pushing seventy. Heck, I'd like it now. You’ve had it twice.”
Sandy smiled, and started up the steps. “Maybe it comes when you least expect it. When you’re not trying so hard. When you trust God despite the impatience of the waiting.” She pulled off her work gloves and slapped them on her thigh. “And with that bit of wisdom, I’m going in for a shower.” She stopped at the door. “You’ll do fine, Ernie. I have no doubts.”
With great love he watched as she walked into the house.

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