G1 - Gratitude
GRATITUDE: A crone feels gratitude. I’ve always been quick to list my many blessings.
However, for some reason lately I’ve begun to feel intense gratitude. Really feeling the gratitude has made a huge difference in my outlook. Sometimes while I am out on my walk, I lift my arms and say, “Eternal Spirit, Mother, Father, God, Thank you.” Then I call out those things that fill my soul with thanksgiving. I mostly do this when there is no one about to hear, but if I am overheard, it won’t matter. It is hard to embarrass a crone.
Today I am grateful for my ears.
I am an auditory learner, one who relies on hearing and speaking as the main way of learning. Needing to talk out ideas, I often don’t know what I think until I hear myself say those thoughts aloud, and I learn best by hearing, except in the case of directions.
There are countless lines, snippets of dialog, stuck in my head, some from early childhood, some said to me directly, some overheard bits of conversation. One or two are not pleasant, but I don’t dwell on those. A few continue to fill me with awe, and I am still seeking to fully comprehend them. In this post I want to reflect on some remembered words.
I must have been about five, playing on my grandmother’s porch, when I caught what gave me a big boost. My two older sisters had lovely, thick brown hair and matching dark eyes. They looked alike, and I wanted to look like them, but, alas, I was fair, my blond hair wispy and my eyes green. My grownup cousin, Edmond, who had been reared by my grandparents and who was home from the army, was talking inside the house. He said that my mother’s daughters were all pretty, “but that littlest one is a pure-dee beauty.” Beautiful is not an adjective I claim to have heard often during the years to come, but, hey, sometimes once is enough, especially when uttered by my handsome cousin, whose picture is at the top of this post. I want credit for having kept that comment to myself for many years, not telling my sisters until we were senior citizens.
Another uplifting bit comes to mind, one I captured when I was about ten, sitting near the classroom entrance, reading aloud. My teacher must have been beckoned to the open doorway by another adult. I don’t believe I saw that second person’s face, but the voice said, “Was that a Hoover reading? You’re always impressed when you hear one.” I was a Hoover. Although I’ve been a Myers now for over 44 years and am sometimes a Calvin, I am still a Hoover, and I try to read like one.
Now let me share one of the comments that I still ponder. I was eight years old when my mother’s brother died. His name was Earl Howard Eaton, and he died at thirty. The youngest of nine children, a couple of years older than my cousin Edmond with whom he grew up, he was the darling of the family. I adored him, and his death, the first I had ever experienced, made a big impression on me, starting with the terrible morning we received the phone call. I remember the long drive to Grandma’s, remember the dazed feeling I had upon seeing the most important adults in my life in abject grief. My grandmother sat in a wooden rocker, moving very slowly. Edmond was on the floor, his head in her lap, sobbing. Each time she rocked, she silently stroked his hair. I remember every song sung at the funeral, but the memorable statement was made by my cousin who was named for Earl. The adults were too broken to pay much attention to us kids. During the funeral, I sat on a church pew, undoubtedly with my older sisters. Howard Eaton, a tow-headed cousin of about five, sat just down from me surely with his older siblings. Howard, a very quiet child, and I were not especially close. In fact, there were lots and lots of us cousins, and I doubt I had ever heard Howard say anything until that day. However, when the casket moved down the aisle, Howard must have felt compelled to speak. He slid closer to me and whispered, “Uncle Earl is in that box,” words that I used in a novel many years later and words that express much about the mystery that is death.
There are many others from childhood, but I will move on to my college days. Those years were spent totally embedded in the Baptist Student Union. I wouldn’t trade that time, still treasure much of what I gleaned and the friends who are forever an important part of my life. However, during my senior year, I began to feel changes inside me, lots of doubts as to what I did and did not believe. Dr. Whit Marks, a physics professor, was our faculty advisor. I loved and respected Dr. Marks,did not want to shock him or leave him worried about me, but honesty is one of my weaknesses or strengths. I felt obligated to tell him I had lost my faith, and I expected to see pain on his face. Instead he smiled and shrugged. “I’m not afraid for you to doubt,” he said. “Doubt it all, if you want to. You will come around.” I spent a lot of time saying I didn’t know what I believed, don’t know that I ever decided. In fact, a couple of years ago at a dinner where I received an award, my good friend, Helen Newton, sang a song about questions. I requested the Susan Boyle song because the lyrics state that questions brought her to who she was meant to be. At some point, I made peace with the questions. I have Whit Marks to thank for that. No, my views never went back to be as traditional as they were earlier, but had he reacted differently on that long ago day, I might not have the strength and peace I find daily in prayer.
I could go on for a long time about remembered words, but I am reminded of one of my father’s sayings. If I keep writing, I won’t “have a snowball’s chance in hell” of cleaning my office before the party I am planning for the weekend.