Old Ladies Aren’t Strangers or Kidnappers (Apparently)

Dead Trees?  Easy to spot.  Adults with bad intentions?  Not so much...
Dead Trees? Easy to spot.   Adults with bad intentions? Not so much…

Last week, my eight-year old crashed on his bike. He plays drama to the hilt, so even a stubbed toe comes across as I’m-about-to-die, with a pain level of 85 on a scale of 1 to 10. I always check for broken bones and send him on his way- lingering will just encourage him to cry longer.

He’d just lost the scabs on his face from a skateboard crash a couple weeks prior, so I wasn’t surprised when he came hobbling in the house with my older son right behind him. Doubled over, my younger son announced he fell on his bike. He lifted up his shirt, and sure enough, there was a scrape. (With the way he screamed, I expected his intestines to be hanging out of the wound or something equally horrifying.) After I sent him to rest on the couch, I caught sight of a car outside.

“Um, why is there a red car in our driveway?” I asked.

“An old lady gave him a ride home,” my older son said.

My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “What? You know you’re not supposed to get in the car with strangers!”

“She’s an old grandma,” my younger said through whimpers.

So I went outside to meet this supposed not-a-creepy-kidnapper-killer-grandma. She didn’t look familiar and I’ve not seen her around. It turns out, she dog-sits for a woman who lives down the street. She thought it was funny that after my son got inside the car, he turned to her and asked, “You’re not going to kidnap me, are you?”

It’s sweet that he had the innocence to think a kidnapper would say, “Why yes, kid, you’re never going home. I’m going to take you, do horrible things to you and leave you in the desert.” I love his innocence, but it’s a dangerous thing. After the woman left, I had a chat with the kids.

To my younger son:

Me: “You seriously asked if she was going to kidnap you- AFTER you got inside the car?”

Son: “She said she wouldn’t.”

Me: “You think a kidnapper is going to tell you the truth?”

To my older son:

Me: “And you let him get in the car?”

Son: “I didn’t want to be rude.”

Me: “You don’t have a problem with rude any other time. This morning, you told me I looked fat.”

It’s alarming to discover they didn’t get the message we thought we’d conveyed. From a kid’s point of view, I can see the confusion. We teach them to respect adults and be polite, but then if one gets too close, we expect them to push away- even if it’s rude. Reading social cues is hard. I know adults who haven’t mastered it.

Yes, we have more work to do.

Now, I’m off to make sure they understand that if someone pulls up in a car offering candy in exchange for help finding a lost a dog, they shouldn’t approach the window and ask, “What kind of candy?”

Strangers Among Us

I suspect that everyone has secrets.  Not the I-once-killed-a-man-and-buried-him-in-my-neighbor’s-backyard variety, but simply pieces of their identity that are tucked away in the recesses of their being, like valleys in a rumpled blanket.  These bits of our loved ones rest in the shadows not suspected or detected by even those closest to them.

For several weeks, my spare time has been spent helping my family clear out my grandparents’ house.  It’s now been over a year since my grandma passed away, but the lagging real estate market served as the perfect excuse to procrastinate “let it be.”

Other circumstances changed, forcing the inevitable:  dismantling the earthly remains of two beautiful lives (who liked to keep stuff…lots, and lots of stuff.)  It feels odd pawing through their personal belongings, separating “trash” from “sell”, but I’ve largely been able to detach myself from the task at hand.  And I have a deeper appreciation for the minimalist lifestyle 🙂

I’ve discovered that what I knew of my grandparents was only the surface of who they were.  Through the remnants of their lives, I feel like I’m being introduced to strangers.

I’ve written about my grandpa and how he liked his sweet Nestea.  I found out just how much when I discovered five unopened 10-pound bags of sugar in his bedroom.  I knew him to be thrifty, but had no idea he purchased clothing on sale – even if it wasn’t his size – and stored them in boxes in his closet, while he wore thread-bare shirts with holes in them.  Yesterday, I found out the secret to his always perfectly knotted ties on Sundays:  clip on ties.  Grandpa was a private person who did not leave clues as to his hopes or dreams, so I can only wonder.

On the other hand, my grandma left us a few surprises.  A manila folder held pages of old poetry.  A yellowed sheet of music with hand written musical notes and words revealed a song she had written as a young woman.  We found evidence that she continued sketching after taking an art class in the 1990s.

Artwork entitled 'He Is Risen'

I had no idea she possessed this artistic side.  It does explain her interest in a poem I had published in a college magazine many years ago.  I never thought to ask if she wrote poetry, too and she never mentioned it.

Thankfully, the Grandma I always loved was evident in what she left behind.  The boxes of greeting cards she received throughout the years, crossword puzzle books, eclectic music CD collection, and at least forty cookbooks (with nearly as many dieting books).  Most striking, though were the eight remaining bookcases in the office that showed her love of God and devotion to learning His word.  She never went to college, but she studied inches-thick books that analyzed every book of the Bible.

One shelf, with about 31 friends
More books, without a bookshelf home

I tend to keep my vulnerabilities to myself.  I’m probably more open here than I am in person.  In fact, my family (except hubby) doesn’t even know about this blog (and hubby’s never read.)  In his defense, I told him if he read it, I’d have to kill him 😉  It does make me wonder how much I don’t know about my family and friends.

I hope God blesses us all with the ability to ask the right questions and listen to what is said (or not said) when talking to friends and family.  Those we love should not be strangers, and we should not be strangers to them.