Cutting Our Trip Short: Sometimes There Are Reasons to Go Home

I remember climbing up on to the roof of Grandma’s house back in the mid-80s. I was eight or nine years old (the age of my oldest son now), and my teenage cousins reached down over the edge of the sandpaper-like asphalt shingles and pulled me up, scraping the skin off my stomach. I remember the giddy feeling of being so high, of looking down on the corn that usually looked down on me.

There was something raw and wild about being on a roof, and as the sun set we lay there on the shallow slope, our hands behind our heads, our feet braced to keep us from sliding off. Then, when all was dark, the fireworks launched into the night sky, their explosions thudding against my small rib cage like a defibrillator.

I was too young to wonder how my Grandma was feeling during those years after my Grandfather had died. Almost thirty years ago. I wonder if she cried herself to sleep, missing him, or lay awake at night worrying about how she would pay the mortgage. I wonder if she heard those fireworks exploding and wished he was back for one last Fourth of July, sitting out on their small deck, smelling the cut hay and watching the fireflies.

* * * * *

My Grandma, my father’s mother, has always loved us with a tough and indefatigable love. Her kisses are direct and non-negotiable, always followed by a few firm slaps on the cheek or a vice-grip pinch on that fatty area under your chin. She has been sort of bony for most of the years that I remember her, but not frail. Anything but frail.

Ironic then that this tough love has always been accompanied by a soft voice, kind eyes, and a clearly communicated message: your presence means the world to her. Her love, after one of those signature greetings, came in the form of iced tea or a hot dinner. When I walked into her house (or, in recent years, her room), her reaction was always the same.

“Well!” she said, as if you were presenting her, not with just your presence, but with a check for $1 million. “Shawn, Shawn, Shawn. Look who it is. How are you? How are you?” Her voice came out in a sing-song kind of cadence, perhaps from all of those years of singing in church or with her children.

* * * * *

The text I got from my parents last night was a wake up call. When they walked into her room, there was no overwhelming welcome. She sat, and when she spoke it was with a quiet, weak voice. But she is 92, and her body has endured much, and her mind struggles to make all of the connections.

When I heard that, I knew it was time to head home.

To be sure, she has pushed on through overwhelming odds before: heart surgery, multiple strokes, a recent bout of pneumonia. But she is 92, and she seems to be fading, and I want to be home with her and with my family. So we’re cutting our trip short by a week or so and heading home this Friday night: a 12-hour drive, and we should get home by Saturday night.

111 days down. Three to go. I hope we make it in time.

26 Replies to “Cutting Our Trip Short: Sometimes There Are Reasons to Go Home”

  1. Dear Shawn,

    So sorry to hear about your grandmother. Wow, 92! I hope you make it home in time. We just put my Mom in a home. She suffered a stroke back in March. I try to go in to visit her, at least for a little, everyday. It doesn’t always happen, but I try. I just feel I need to be there, see her, spend time with her because I don’t know how much time is left to do that. Plus, she is still working on battling back from the stroke and I want to encourage her to continue the fight. She’s 81.

    Get that bus a-rollin’! I’m sure your grandmother will appreciate the visit, no matter what her condition may be, or yours.

    Safe travels on the home stretch!

  2. I never really understood the term “God-speed” when someone was traveling, but this seems like an instance where that might be an applicable phrase.

    Praying for quick, safe travel.

  3. Safe travels back to Grandma Smucker! Even though she probably can’t express it like she used to, it’s still seems obvious that being around her family is everything to her. God bless!

  4. Dear Shawn,
    I visited Anne and Jonas on Monday and had the opportunity to go to Garden Spot Retirement Center to visit Amanda. Even though she didn’t know me, her warmth and glow filled the space we were in, insisting that I sit down on the sofa so very close to her and talking to me non stop. She was convinced that I hauled Amish! It was precious timing and I pray that you will have precious time with her……love and prayers.

  5. What a poignant post. I pray you make it home quickly and safely, and that there are still sweet memories to be made with your grandmother.

  6. Praying for you guys. I’m tearing up here, thinking of the final weeks we spent with my grandma before she died. She was as spry as all get-out until she had a stroke, and passed away just shy of her 91st birthday. She was quite the woman. And your post reminded me of how I still miss her.

  7. What a blessing your grandma has been to you, and by extension to others through the influence she had in helping mold you to be the blessing you are to others.

    Blessings to you guys, and add ours to the prayers that you’ll get home in time to visit with her before her ‘road trip’ begins.

  8. I am inspired to start greeting people like your Grandma. How wonderful that she conveyed her pleasure in your presence each and every time!

    I’ll be praying for you and your family these next few days. Praying you make it home in time, praying for comfort and peace no matter what happens next.

  9. Oh, Shawn! I pray our God will keep you and your family safe as you travel toward home. I pray that if He is ready to have her in His presence, He’ll wait just a few more days. And I pray that He guards your heart and your mind with His peace and joy.

    And I don’t know why, but I feel I should tell you this: My mom just sent me the following text as I was writing this comment: “Dad led a 92-year-old woman to the Lord today”.

  10. That was beautiful..ur parents were my landlord for 5 yrs they r wonderful praying for u and your family..may you all be blessed and feel Gods love amd presence..thinking of you all

  11. Many thoughts and prayers are with you all! We are so thankful for the precious time we spent with all of you last weekend, and pray for safe travels the rest of the way home.

    Much Love,
    The Bushre’s


  13. I love your description of your Grandma’s kisses. Praying you make it there at the right time!

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