Every day at 3 p.m., my grandparents Minnie and Elmer had a date. They slid into chairs at their Formica table and quietly ate vanilla cream with homemade chocolate syrup that Minnie had prepared.
After all those years of marriage, they still upheld that precious ritual, still swayed in rhythm with each other.
That table had scratches, and memories, etched into it. If you slid your hands slowly enough across the surface, you could almost feel where casserole dishes had warmed the table at holidays, where soft-as-skin cards had been shuffled and dealt at too many to count card games, where grandkids had (messily) stirred chocolate chip cookie dough and ate kettle popcorn.
Elmer and Minnie were dedicated Bible readers, regular church-goers, and prayed avidly. They were humble beyond belief, hard workers, and didn’t complain. My grandpa’s notorious response to “How are you?” was always “Good enough!”
They had this deep, abiding love for each other. The love they shared was a simple extension of their abundant and faithful love for their Father.
That same love was a vibrant umbrella that covered the heads of their three kids, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. They absolutely adored family.
At get-togethers, the cards shuffled and ready, my grandparents would wait for company to arrive and shake the dirt off their shoes onto the freshly vacuumed rug. Minnie was a meticulous cleaner and caretaker, almost to a fault.
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When we walked across the threshold, Elmer and Minnie’s faces lit up with joy at every hug. Their spirits buoyed at every “I love you” spoken. We hugged twice. Once upon arrival and once before leaving.
Minnie was the consummate caretaker. She would care for others her entire life.
When we were children, she stayed at our house sometimes in the winters, getting us grandkids washed up and ready for school while my mom worked two jobs. We grew exasperated by her need to mother. Even though school was only half a block away, Minnie made us dress in full winter gear—including snow pants and boots—much to our eternal embarrassment.
She cooked and baked, cleaned, and made a home for her and Elmer at my uncle’s house after their house was ravaged by a fire.
She nursed Elmer back to relative health after he contracted the West Nile virus. She helped him to the bathroom and with his personal care needs. She washed his sheets. She cooked him meals and brought them to him in bed. She never left his side, often sleeping on the couch near his bed in the living room.
Later she would also take care of Elmer’s brother when he was fraught with illness and old age. She cared for him with the same loving attention to detail, the same compassion and gentleness she bestowed upon everyone she loved.
My grandparents were special.
I have a memory that will never leave me. As a child, after a visit lavish with my grandma’s hamburger and potato hot dish, a sultry spread of bars and cookies, rowdy games of 500, drawn-out grown-up conversations with the low rumble of a box fan in the background, and several rounds of hugs and goodbyes, we headed down the driveway.
As mosquitoes buzzed the windows and violet twilight hung over our heads, my grandparents stood in the doorway, arms up waving until our station wagon was just a smudge on the horizon.
For me they will always be there, in that doorway, forever fixed in that moment of my childhood, waving goodbye, even as I turn my head to face the road ahead.
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Eight years ago, in the early morning hours, on the anniversary of Elmer and Minnie’s first date, my grandpa slipped away in his sleep and strode into the snug swaddle of Jesus’ arms.
As tears cut rivers down our cheeks, Elmer was staring, mesmerized, into the radiant eyes of his Savior, cloaked in the glory of his brand-new body.
Minnie would meet up with Elmer again seven years later, just shy of their first date anniversary, to pull up a chair and resume their ice cream date.
And this time, Jesus would join them.