October 17, 2008


You will go out in joy
And be led forth in peace
The mountains and hills
Will burst into song before you,
And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands.

--Isaiah 55:12

I don't know if cherishment is actually a word, but I like the sound of it. It's like love with a bit of merriment thrown in.

I'm in a peculiar situation with my grandmother. She turns 103 tomorrow (18th Tenth Month), and for the past year or more, as her dementia has worsened, so has our relationship.

Granted, I freely acknowledge that I've never really liked my grandmother. She's been miserable for most of her 100+ years and she likes to share her misery freely with others. And of course, those of us closest to her--geographically and geneologically--get the biggest dose of her misery, which in turn often tempts us to steer clear, avoid, don't call, don't visit.

But at my mother's request, I and my brothers began calling Grandma weekly sometime in 2007 or earlier in 2008, to ease the burden my mother had been carrying at the time when she herself couldn't handle her own mother's complaints. Somewhere during that time, my grandmother began telling me she wouldn't talk to me anymore, "after what I had said."

My mother eventually learned what it was that Grandma meant: it seems Grandma had attributed to me a cutting remark that my mother actually had made, and no insistence on the truth of that displaced accusation would move Grandma to forgive me.

It's been about three or four months since I last called my grandmother.

Instead, I started holding the situation lightly in my heart and occasionally I would hold it up to God and say, "Here. I don't know what to do with it. Help Grandma open to your Love, however it is that she might understand that..."

In that time, over the weeks and months, I have felt my own heart soften. It's easier for me to feel warmth to a woman like my grandmother when I don't have to force myself upon her, or her upon me.

And now, because of a suggestion my mother made to honor my grandmother's birthday at a time when she herself doesn't wish to acknowledge me, I am looking into "planting a tree" in Israel.

Though I no longer practice the Judaism in which my mother and grandmother were raised, I understand at a deep level the importance of finding a symbolic act that also is meaningful to everyone involved.

But even more important than the symbol or the meaningful gesture is the sense of cherishment for my grandmother in these very late years that has been blooming quietly, miraculously, in my own heart.



Anonymous said...

Ah, the complexity of family. I very much appreciated this post. Thanks, Liz.

Chris M. said...

What a touching story. Thank you. And I do love that passage from Isaiah, it always makes me think of singing the song based on it at Pacific Yearly Meeting.

Liz Opp said...

Hi, Jenny and Chris -

Nice to hear from you.

This particular story is an odd way to talk about "cherishment," but it's the Way that was open to me at the time.