Grandma’s Gift

Grandmas Afghan

A man doesn’t normally post a picture of himself with his lap covered by a multicolored afghan.  However, this blanket is one which has incalculable worth to me.  My Grandma Tate made each of my siblings and my cousins one of these as a high school graduation gift (with various colors).  At the time, it was in my shortsighted mind, a nice gesture – but a rather common one – because Grandma was always making something with yarn.  However, over the last 26 years, this afghan has been a constant companion.  I used it the gap year living at home after high school.  Then, I had it with me during some months of rebellion, discouragement, and confusion before I started college.  It was on my bed all of the way through college (perhaps some of my roommates remember it?).  I don’t think I took it on our honeymoon, but it has been in our house for the last 20 plus years of marriage.  Sometimes it was used as a throw blanket on the couch or love seat; often it has been on my recliner where I would use it for an occasional nap.  Many nights when our children were young and sick, teething, or just restless, I would rest in the recliner with one of them on my chest and  we were both covered by this blanket.  Over the last several years though, Carol has adopted it and it has migrated to our bedroom and her side of the bed (unless I get it for a Sunday afternoon nap).  When we travel, Carol brings it along, often covering herself in the front seat of the van as I drive (we have different temperature preferences like most other couples).  When we were first married, she didn’t like the color(s) of it – it was just too bright and really didn’t match anything.  Now, for Carol, the color not only doesn’t matter, but actually makes it unique and special.  This afghan also makes Carol feel a connection with my Grandma.  Grandma Tate  She really loves the weight of it and the physical and emotional comfort that it provides.  When I occasionally travel without her, as you can imagine, she has this blanket with her.  When she began sheepishly asking to “borrow” my blanket years ago, I would tease her and say, “well I guess part of my marriage vows were ‘with all my worldly goods I thee endow'”.  I gladly let her use it.

This afghan has been a part of our lives for more than a quarter of a century and while it has been important and its sentimental value was recognized – I’ve thought much more about it this last week and the worth of it has multiplied.  Carol has been quite sick for a couple of weeks and she has had this blanket with her the entire time.  When we left for the emergency room last Saturday evening, Carol was so weak that Joel and I had to walk her arm in arm and side by side all the way to the truck – as we were walking out of the house, Carol said, “someone bring the afghan!”  When we buckled her in the truck, we wrapped it all around her; when we got to the emergency room and the nurse met me with a wheel chair, we covered her with it; the 6 hours in the emergency room observation bed were spent under it; she rode home from the hospital covered with this blanket.  When we returned to the hospital a few days ago, I asked her if she wanted to leave it home, but again she wanted to bring it (probably after 8 baby deliveries she knows you get cold in a hospital bed sometimes).  She has been under this blanket much over the last couple of days. 

Even though we brought it for Carol, she has let me use it at nights while I’m sleeping in the recliner in her hospital room (I’m sitting/sleeping under the air vent and her bed is well supplied with blankets).  As I was sitting here with quite a bit of thinking time, I was simply staring at the afghan across my lap and started thinking of my Grandma’s fingers making this blanket all of those years ago.  When she made it, she was thinking of me, as I use it, I’m thinking of her.  Then as I think of her, I not only think of this handiwork, but of so many other things about her. 

The following thoughts are random and unorganized, but they are flowing from precious memories.  Grandpa and Grandma Tate lived in North Carolina and I grew up in Missouri so we would make a couple of annual trips to visit her and Grandpa; those visits were the highlight of our year.  Grandma always had dessert after a meal (because Grandpa wanted it).  I remember her Moravian Sugar Cake and her Banana Pudding (or Puddin’) as she called it).  I miss the Thanksgiving feasts that she and my mom and aunts would prepare for us.  She used to drink her coffee out of a shallow bowl/saucer after she had made it in an old style percolator.  I remember her walking down to feed her chickens or bustle around the rabbit pens, or pick up the peacock feathers while mimicking their squawk back at them.  I remember seeing her pull a black snake – longer than she was tall – out of her chicken coop.  I watched in awe and terror as she carried it  high in one hand, dragging it to the woods, all the while giving that snake a verbal lashing “You stay of of my eggs! I better not ever catch you in there again!” before giving it a good whip and fling into the woods! (Her verbal lashings contained passion, not curses.)  She and Grandpa introduced us to “The Andy Griffith Show” which they watched religiously every evening just before the local news and weather (as every farmer used to do before smartphones); they were proud of the fact that the fictional “Mayberry” was only about 45 minutes up the road from where they lived.  Grandma would laugh more at that show than about any other thing I can remember.  They had watched all the episodes so many times that, when it came on, she and Grandpa would start a “play-by-play” of the episode and start laughing about what was going to happen before the show had really even started.  I loved to see them laugh and enjoy the memory of it now even more than when I saw it first hand.

I went through a difficult emotional and spiritual time when I was 19 years old.  I lived with Grandpa and Grandma Tate from August through December of 1995.  It was a tremendous time of uncertainty for me, yet Grandpa and Grandma were as stable as ever – they were the same people that I had known my entire life and I needed to be with them (though I didn’t realize it at the time); nothing ever upset the normalcy of who they were.  There was never any pressure on me and the quietness of living with them allowed the Holy Spirit to redirect and calibrate my thinking.  I went to church with them.  I was working two jobs at the time, but I would have lunch with them every day between my jobs.  Grandma would fix my supper to take to the factory where I worked 3-11.  I specifically remember that I would often have a fried pork chop in a microwaveable dish that I could heat up in the break room – I doubt anyone in that factory had a better meal than I did on a regular basis.  On a weekend, if I wasn’t working, they would take me out to some restaurant to eat with several of the older couples that were their close friends – they made me so welcome with those other couples.  (Imagine a 19 year old kid, instead of dating and/or partying, eating out most weekends with 4-6 septuagenarians – but God knew what I needed.)   When out with those other senior couples, Grandpa would usually be the one discussing (or arguing) politics, but it was not uncommon for Grandma to insert some potent and witty comment that either hushed every one or made them laugh.  Her logic was sharp, one particular evidence of Grandma’s wit was revealed shortly after Grandpa had gotten a new tractor.  Grandma’s clothes dryer went bad and she wanted to get a new one.  Grandpa complained that women used to hang the clothes out on the line, to which Grandma retorted “farmers also used to use horses…”  She had her new dryer very soon.  Grandma’s house was full of clocks; and they all seemed to have some kind of chime, bell, or cuckoo every hour (but each clock was a minute or two off from each other) – if a person was going to get any sleep, he had to learn to ignore the clocks.  There were always skeins of various colored yarns as well as needles laying on the back of her couch and if she wasn’t reading her Bible or the newspaper (the funnies or comics included), she was probably knitting or crocheting something.  Her Bible also laid on the back of her couch and it was well used.

So, the afghan across my lap has not only comforted my wife through this trial and kept me warm as I’ve slept fitfully in this hospital room recliner, but it also enlivens the memory of one dear lady who was typical of that age that has become ubiquitously known in our country as “The Greatest Generation.”

The thoughts of this afghan made me think of the N.T. saint, Dorcas, as recorded by Luke in Acts 9:39.  After her death, they brought Peter to her body and “all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.”  The garments that she made were a tangible sign of her love and character.

I think of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:21, “She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.”  Verse 28 of the same chapter states that “her children arise up, and call her blessed.”  I believe her grandchildren will call her blessed too!

Thank you, Grandma for this afghan!  Thank You, Lord, for my heritage – my Grandma!