Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I have a vivid memory from when I was six years old.  It's a happy memory.  

My grandfather lived down a long mud lane.  He drove a twelve-year-old Chevy truck built in the early 1950s with those bouncy-jouncy shocks that allowed passage over a dirt road but were pretty hard on the occupants.  He smelled like pipe tobacco and all the outdoors.  I loved him with everything I knew how to love with.  He never spoke a harsh word to me.  He was a short man - spry - and generous.  

This memory I have is brief.  It was of a day when my mother and I had been visiting him and Grammie at their house for the morning. I'd spent the morning exploring the property, going down to the edge of the lake, heading back up to the barn, visiting with the cows, hearing the grunts from the pigsty, trying to spy the kittens in the loft. And of course, sitting in Grammie's kitchen listening to her talk about the memories she had of my dad growing up, of adventures he had.  

Grampa offered to drive us back home after lunch, well over a mile if we were to walk, and the footing would have been difficult on that lane.  

We accepted.  

And here starts that memory so vivid I can almost smell the dust off the dashboard, mixed with the other smells I'll describe here. It's one of my earliest memories, so it's full of images, feelings.  Very potent.

Source (via Google Images):
He got behind the wheel, and I sat in the middle between him and my mother.  

I loved riding in his truck.  It was so much fun!  Up and down, over the ruts and rills we would go, dangerously close to the edge on both sides of the lane. The ditch went down about fifteen feet on a sharp grade on both sides, so it was important to stay away from the edge.  Yet strangely, I was never afraid of him straying too close to the edge.  I only knew I was with Grampa, and he was driving us home, and that's where we'd end up. I felt safe when I was with him. It wasn't something I was consciously aware of, it just WAS.

Bounce, bounce, bounce...  He navigated the quarter-mile-long lane with calmness and aplomb, confidence and quietness.  I was enjoying the ride, being jounced around almost like a rag doll as we headed toward the main road.  And then I said what I always said, "Here we go again, bumpity-bump in Grampa's truck!"  And he laughed - but not in a shaming way.  His laughter said, "I'm enjoying my granddaughter SO much!"  He knew how to make me feel so important.  He knew neat things like that.  He knew lots of things my other relatives didn't seem to care about.  Like how to feed cows and pigs. That was cool.   

I don't remember getting back home, I just remember that little snippet of bouncing and enjoying the ride over that mud lane with all its ruts and rocks.

A little over a year later, Grampa would die in hospital of internal injuries, after his tractor wheel slipped off the edge of that narrow lane and rolled over and over on its way to the bottom of the ditch.  It truly was a dangerous passageway.  At seven years old, dragged to the scene in a panic by my mother after she received a phone call, I struggled to understand how come the ambulance was there, what had happened to Grampa, why they wouldn't let us near, how come he wasn't climbing up the side of the ditch by himself.  It all seemed so surreal, and totally disconnected from that care-free memory from over a year previous.  

I found myself just recently thinking about that ride with Grampa in his truck, how safe and protected I felt - and pondering in my adult mind how that at any moment we could all have plummeted to injury or death down into that same ditch.  

I guess it's because I'm covering some pretty rough territory lately and it feels rather scary.  And I suppose that it's God's way of telling me, "Trust Me.  I've got the wheel and I know the way.  It's going to be bumpy, too. But that's okay, I'm here.  And I'll NEVER leave you.  I will get you safely home."

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