Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Was a Stranger and She Took Me In

Garneta Gee.  Rhymes with Juanita--her mom's name!  So, there I was.  Monday, April 7 with no place to sleep that night or the next.  Not exactly homeless.  My soon to be for sale house in Boise still had a comfortable bed waiting for me on weekends.  But alas, my job in Hansen was a 2 hour commute.  Okay for a weekly drive, but not daily!

I had been living in a comfortable basement bedroom in Twin Falls with an elderly woman for the school year.  I thought all was well until her daughter told me it wasn't.  No need for details, but I'm sure my 4 days there 3 days gone schedule was difficult for a lovely but declining in health and memory 90 year old.  Her daughter told me one Thursday night I had to be gone by June 1 (the original plan) but today would be even better. (My own daughter will be equally blunt if she ever thinks someone else's needs are impinging on my well-being.) So I packed up my belongings, loaded my car and headed to Kaysville, Provo, and Salt Lake for conference, R & R with the Smith's and grandchildren holding, not necessarily in that order.  Monday morning at 4 am, I left Utah wondering where I was going to sleep that night.  Some wonderful co-workers at school had been scouting around and knew that Garneta had a basement bedroom.  But Garneta is shy, they said, and certainly would not want a boarder.  They called her anyway, and she agreed to talk to me that afternoon.

I walked up the stairs to the front door of a 100 year old house and into a living room reminiscent of my grandparents' home.  Garneta's three little guard dogs barked for 3 seconds and let me in, wagging their whole bodies as they wagged their tails.  They seemed to like me.

Garneta was gracious, not unfriendly, but definitely cautious.  We chatted for a while.  She said she didn't cook.  I said neither did I.  She said she had a funny sleep schedule; I promised I wouldn't interfere with it.  Pretty soon, she said she didn't know why, but she was willing to let me stay there.  I said I knew why.  I had been praying all day that she would.  She looked at me and replied that it had been some time since she had been the answer to someone's prayers.

At that point, Garneta didn't even realize I would actually pay her (not very much) for staying there.  She just answered the promptings of the Spirit.  We grew rather quickly to love each other.  We had much in common in our viewpoints.  She is a talented artist, a loving mother and one of the most naturally beautiful woman I have met.  I should look as lovely as she does in 20 years when I am her age.  We attended the Temple several times together, each time a sweet, sacred experience. We watched TV together, but mostly talked.  We both cried a little when I left.

If I go back to my teaching job in Hansen, I will live with her again, but I don't know that I will be going back.  If not, I will miss you Garneta.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"She never complained," said nobody about me ever.

I have heard so many people say it about loved ones.  "He never complained even though his pain was horrible."  "She had such a hard life, but she never complained."

I knew early on that it was no use.  I'm pretty certain I started whining as a young indulged child, so I was not going to be one of those lauded for suffering in silence.  Oh, sure, I've held some things in along the way--some fairly significant, even traumatic, things.   The trouble was that those trials I kept to myself only got worse, while the problems I shared with friends got better.  Eventually, I was a convert.  Sharing pain helped.  And I had plenty of pain for awhile.

I've had a few health problems.  Nothing awful like cancer, but when the nurse asks you for the number on the pain scale, being brave and lying just prolongs the pain.  Better to tell the truth.

I've had a few losses.  When your dad dies when you're 22, it's okay to cry.  When your mom dies before you're 70 and she's 100, it's okay to cry.  Friends understand.  People send you cards and bring food.

I've had a few unmet expectations.  Only the most cynical people in the world get married expecting divorce.  I'm an optimist.  I expected marriage to last for eternity.  Mine lasted 17 long years and the scars reopen from time to time.  Sharing that pain is not always appreciated.  It gets old and there are very few people who understand.  I sense that it's something I should have gotten over.

I have also had a few of what I like to call first world problems.  That's what I have now.  There's a great You Tube video about these kinds of problems.  A young man kneels by the open trunk of his nice car moaning about "too many groceries to carry. I'll have to make two trips." 

Poor me.  I'm selling my house--it's too big.  I have to give away some of my clothes--I have too many.  I have to sell some of my furniture--it won't all fit into my next house.  I have to say goodbye to my rose bushes, my pets, my neighborhood.  First world problems all.  I keep abreast of current events.  I try to be aware of how people throughout the world live.  I know there are millions of people who will never have a home, children who don't own shoes, and neighborhoods where bullets are fired and bombs explode.

Still, while my problems are not monumental, they do exist.  I don't complain to God; I don't see Him as the deliverer of problems; I see Him as the deliverer of comfort and strength.  I've been told hundreds of times from the pulpit that if I serve others, I will lose myself and feel better, but I have to admit that I've never liked the idea of service being self-serving as it were.

I had a few miscarriages among my four successful pregnancies.  That was during my hold-things-in stage.  I didn't complain; I didn't even really allow myself to be sad.  After all, a miscarriage is the way the body deals with a pregnancy that wasn't meant to be.  It wasn't like a still birth or, even worse, a child dying after being born.  And I had other children and the promise of more.  They were just miscarriages.  I didn't complain or whine or ask for help or support.  I just moved on.

I may be more needy now when I go through painful experiences, but I think I like the me who can lean on someone and accept love and support more than the me who held everything in.  I think I am more compassionate toward others in their needs.  I think that it's good to be self-sufficient, but it's better to be part of a community who cares about each other.

I'm moving away from that community right now.  I'm leaving my Church family and my neighborhood and I'm feeling alone.  I'll try not to complain too much, but I'm not going to lie--I'm about a 7 on the old 1 to 10 pain scale.