In Search of Strength

Sometimes it sinks me, how I miss it when it’s right in front of my face. I trade task for person again and again and service goes unseen because it misses the person where they need most.

I am 16 again at my grandparents table. Seeing, for the first time, the love that misses behind the veil that is their daily exchange.

“We need some butter here,” my grandfather says.

Grandma rises half out of her seat to fill the need but he yells at her, as he always does, “Sit down Netty, let someone else get it for a change. You sit down and enjoy your dinner. You worked hard making it, you shouldn’t be on your feet all day…”

I love you. I want you near me. I’m trying to show my care for you, how thankful I am for the work you do, by demanding that you relax.

He never moves to get it.  Not once, in all my life, have I seen that man rise from the table to get what he wants after saying that.

“I’ll get it mom.” An aunt hastily rises, rushing to smooth things over between them.

Lips tightening grandma sits again in her chair, face set, silent in spite of all the things she could say.

I love you, you silly man. That’s why I do things for you. When you reject my service you reject me. Now I feel rejected and frustrated that you are yelling at me for loving you. 

They are driving past a farm on the way into town. “Oh look, he’s put in some more trees near the road. I wonder if we could use some.”

When you do things for me I feel loved.

“You want to work me to my grave don’t you?” Grandpa explodes. “I’ve worked hard all my life. I’ve given you way more than your sisters ever got, taken you more places. I deserve to rest now. I’ve earned the right.”

I’m afraid I’m not enough for you, still. I just want to be loved for who I am, not what I do.

I am my grandmother.

“Mama, will you read to me?”

I want YOU mama.

“Not now sweetie, I’m paying the bills.”

I love you. I’m taking care of your needs.

“Mama, will you read to me now?”

I want YOU mama.

“In a little while honey. I have to make your lunch right now.”

I love you. I’m taking care of your needs.

“Mama, can we read?”

I want YOU mama.

“After quiet time sweetheart. You need to rest and mommy needs to work.”

I love you. I’m taking care of your needs.

At close of day, as I brush a stray hair back from her sleeping face, I see that book, tucked hopefully beside her pillow, still unread, and then I sink. I feel bent over with the weight of loss, so weary with serving and yet so far still from where I’m trying to go. I’m so busy attending to needs I have missed a yet greater one, crowded it out with what is more urgent.

My focus narrows and I lose sight of the ones I love I’m so intent on the tasks themselves, the ones I do to care for the ones I love.

Love falls short, and misses where I most want it to be felt.

I wonder if grandma ever sank into a chair at the end of the day and tried to press tears from eyes that would leak, whether she would or no, undone by her own weariness, and the apparent futility of her efforts, the invisibility of her sacrifice.

Did she ever review, yet again, her daily routine to try and figure out how to squeeze yet another second out of it to find that most precious of commodities, time?

Did she juggle so many balls that it always seemed as though at least a few were on the ground?

Did she ever cry herself to sleep so full of failure and so tired of the fight?

What I wonder most was how did she, how does she, find the strength to rise again the next day and try all over again?

If I am like her, and I am, I most want to be like her in that, and rise tomorrow to try again.

all content © Carrien Blue

6 thoughts on “In Search of Strength

  1. I found this very moving and it made me cry….it touched something my husband and I and my children are going through right now. I feel so squeezed by life, and I'm missing it. He's missing it. I hope I can find the time to think about this post a bit more.

  2. Wow! This post gave me whole-body goosebumps! That's ME you are talking about! Missing the person in the task ….

    Wow. Thanks for the insight.

    Rachel in Idaho

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